When we think about co-dependency, we often think about it in terms of family or social relationship dynamics. But you may be surprised to hear that workplace
co-dependency is in fact a huge concern and a major topic of Human Capital Management studies for a few decades. Interestingly, there is research in support of the fact that in leader-follower relationships, without intentional calculation, we tend to detect, assess, and pick or eliminate leadership based on none co-dependent tendencies. In this three-part series blog, we will discuss the various myriads of co-dependency as a dysfunction in the work-place, taking a deep dive into the forms it manifests itself in the workforce, and also discuss and analyze how co-dependency could in fact exist in the leadership role.
The Real Cost of Codependency in the workplace
Variables such as absenteeism, turnover, presenteeism (present but not productive), as well as conflict and medical related costs while at work are huge costs, eating at the bottom-line of organizations, and yet, they are not so easily uncovered. This is because a majority of organizations, measure employee engagement as a way of measuring employee productivity and in truth, a codependent employee is in fact one of the most engaged employees. The trouble is, what we would consider as healthy engagement, where the employee is task driven and objective in this case translates to an employee who is most relationship oriented and very subjective in communication and their assessment of threats. The Codependent employee works very hard, but unfortunately lacks the emotion regulation to work smart. They are always the first to arrive at work and the last to depart, but they will most likely be on a hamster wheel because the balancing of emotions will highly determine their level of attention and self-efficacy.
Also, depending on which type of codependent we are referring to, the dynamic of the dysfunction will be different, as we will be discussed in our next blog of this series.
What is Co-dependency
In discussing the topic in more detail or better, helping you navigate through it whether you are a leader, business owner, or an employee, I would like to start by first giving you an overview of what co-dependency, this loosely utilized term actually means. The American Psychological Association (APA), the governing body of psychological practice within the U.S. and as well as the Diagnostic Statistical Manual DSM IV do not consider codependence to be an actual psychological disorder and hence offer a very limited definition. However, professionals such as Karen Horney a pioneer Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst of Social Theory, whom have worked many years with this population believe it to be a real condition, with very real symptoms and resulting outcomes, which impact daily living. According to Karen Horney’s definition, “the codependent person is fixated on another person for approval, sustenance, and so on.” Other scholars and researchers have defined the dynamics as “the disease of a lost self (Whitfield, Charles 1987) and (Lancer, Darlene 2012) Codependent relationships are marked by intimacy problems, dependency, control (including caretaking) denial, dysfunctional communication and difficulties with setting boundaries, low self emotional awareness and regulation, obsessivity and/or compulsivity as well as high reactivity to the actions of others.
Marked Characteristics of a Co-Dependent in the Workplace
- Constant approval seeking
- Low self-esteem
- Dependency on the supervisor or co-worker(s) for value affirmation
- Oversensitivity to feedback
- Excessive ownership or responsibility for workload and at risk for burnout
- Difficulties with separation of personal vs. work related issues
- Excessive feelings of guilt for not meeting the expectations of others
- Oversensitivity and obsession with other’s comments resulting in time management , and conflict-resolution difficulties and fragile co-worker relationships
- Heightened levels of stress than other co-workers
- More likely to quit (Voluntary Turnover)
- Magnified feelings of fear, anger, anxiety, and shame due to work-related stress
- Overall less productive in the workplace
- More prone to illness
The Real Challenges in the Workplace
The difficulty with co-dependency is that although the behaviors in and of themselves could be considered “harmless” Unresolved patterns of codependency can lead to more serious problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, sex addition, psychosomatic illnesses, and other self-sabotaging behaviors. People with codependency are also more likely to attract abuse from aggressive individuals, more likely to stay in stressful jobs or relationships, less likely to seek medical attention when needed and are also less likely to receive promotions. In fact, they tend to earn less money than those without codependency patterns.
As you can see, co-dependency is way more complex than one might imagine. And especially in the work place, due to the socio-political work environment, the dysfunctional aspects of co-dependency are definitely a minefield. The positive news however is that unlike some personality and mental disorders, co-dependency is a learned behavior and with the right mix of awareness of root causes, motivational acceptance and a well designed specific cognitive-behavioral plan, the road to recovery is definitely a paved and in fact enjoyable process.
For more on this topic, including hands on practical approaches to implement in the mean time, you may visit us at http://www.centerforworklife.com/blogs