Will Salyards
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Will Salyards, PhD Blog

Life, Career, Leadership

Dependency In the Workplace

Childhood and parent relationships can be reflected within the workplace. A way this can occur is by our exhibiting signs of dependency. Dependency in this sense simply means we are, at some level, dependent upon a person or understanding that we consider superior to us. Harry Levinson in his book titled "Executive: The Guide to Responsive Management," said four aspects of this issue are especially relevant to good organizational fit. What follows are quotations from that work.

First, some people are simply more interested in relationships with people than in asserting leadership and exercising power. Some cultures emphasize kinship ties and cooperative skills more than independence or competitive skills. People with such interests will probably not want to become leaders, but they will work well in teams.

Second, a high degree of dependency can be situational. When people operate for a long time under authoritarian leadership in a rigid structure, they grow use. Many people think they are failures because their bosses organizations do not use them fully. These people frequently experience their work lives as a series of frustrated opportunities. They want to move up, but they have such strong dependency needs that they wait for others to create opportunities for them. They need permission as well as encouragement to assert themselves.

The third kind of dependency relates to individual character. Because of difficult experiences in early childhood, some people are unable to take independent action. They will never make leaders, but they often do well working closely with someone more powerful than they who can always be ready to assume responsibility.

Finally, some try to deny the need to depend on others by over-asserting an independent stance. Such people may make vigorous leaders, but they are likely to develop ulcers in response to their underlying, unresolved conflict also, they believe behind a trail of unhappy and underdeveloped subordinates.

If you see yourself, your managers, or employees in any of these descriptions, coaching is an excellent way to move beyond dependency. I coach leaders: How can I help you move forward? Just click here.