Marketing & Biz

Understanding Employee ‘Attachment Styles’ Helps Managers Build More Cohesive Teams

By Nellie Akalp

The concept of attachment theory has been around for a long time. British psychologist John Bowlby, credited with introducing the theory, defined attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.”

Initially, attachment theory research was focused on infants and young children and the development of attachment styles early in life. But there has since been attention to how adult individuals’ attachment styles influence their behaviors and relationships—personally and professionally.

Traits of all four adult attachment styles can exist within a person:

  • Anxious (preoccupied)
  • Avoidant (dismissive)
  • Disorganized (fearful-avoidant, unresolved)
  • Secure (autonomous)

However, in many people, one style may dominate. 

In this article, I will give an overview of the four attachments styles, and I’ll offer suggestions for how business leaders can develop the most beneficial attachment style in themselves and their team members. Before we get started, consider taking this test or a similar one to find out which attachment style you embody.

Characteristics of the four adult attachment styles

 1. Anxious (Preoccupied)

People with this style worry about rejection and tend to need ongoing reassurance that everything is okay. They’re very tuned in to others’ moods and may take others’ behaviors or words too personally. Highly emotional, these individuals may have trouble adhering to personal boundaries. They may exhibit a tendency to create or capitalize on conflict to facilitate connections with others.

2. Avoidant (Dismissive)

Signs of this style in people include emotional detachment and a preference to work alone. Avoidant individuals do not like to talk about feelings, and they keep others at arm’s length to avoid intimacy and conflict. Exuding a cool, calm, and collected demeanor, people with a strong avoidant attachment style may be highly effective in crisis situations.  

3. Disorganized (Fearful-Avoidant, Unresolved)

An unresolved mindset stemming from trauma or past dysfunctional relationships may drive these individuals to exhibit a lack of empathy and disregard for rules. To avoid pain, they may disassociate themselves from others. Unable to accept emotional closeness, they may be argumentative and have difficulty controlling their emotions. 

4. Secure (Autonomous)

Secure individuals display empathy, trust, tolerance of differences, and a willingness to collaborate and compromise. They manage their emotions well and react reasonably in conflicts and adverse situations. A strong secure attachment style feels comfortable with getting close to others without worrying about rejection or abandonment. 

If there were a menu that would allow us to select our preferred attachment style, “secure” would be the clear choice, don’t you think?

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Strengthen the secure attachment style in your employees

While we might not be able to completely eradicate our ingrained attachment style formed early in our lives (nor the attachment style of others), we can be more conscious of how our predominant style affects our relationships and business interactions. By being more aware, we can also intentionally check our thoughts and reactions before we let the less desirable styles take over how we behave. That can give us pause to engage in a “secure” way and help draw out elements of the secure attachment style in others.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone. But here are some of my personal tips for bringing the secure attachment style to the forefront. 

1. Build your self-confidence

Engage in positive self-talk and affirm your own talents and strengths. As your self-confidence builds, you will be better able to control how you interact with and react to others. 

2. Keep an open-door policy

Make sure your team members know they can come to you with problems without fearing judgment or apathy. This might be especially beneficial when working with people with a high degree of anxious attachment style. 

3. Offer positive feedback and encouragement

This helps build self-confidence in team members and facilitates trust. Realize that this is important when individuals excel at what they do and when they have room for improvement. Focusing on the positive can help alleviate a knee-jerk emotional reaction to constructive criticism.

4. Consider people’s interpersonal comfort zones

What types of settings and activities allow people to feel at ease? Ask for input about these things. It will enable you to plan company events and staff development opportunities that provide an environment where everyone can participate and feel comfortable. 

5. “Take five” when you feel frustrated

When you feel frustrated with a problem or person, rather than let your emotions get the best of you, ask for a moment to process the situation. By taking a few minutes to gather your thoughts and measure your feelings, you’ll likely be better able to react calmly and collaborate on a resolution.

Beyond employee attachment styles, focus on TLC

Personal connections in business, just like those at home, need our TLC so that they thrive and produce mutual benefits.

It’s impossible to lead a team successfully without learning how to interact with each individual on that team. Recognizing the different employee attachment styles within your team and finding ways to bring out more of the secure attachment style in everyone can help create and maintain a cohesive, communicative, and collaborative company culture.

About the Author

Nellie Akalp is Founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, a trusted resource and service provider for business incorporation, LLC filings, and corporate compliance services in all 50 states. See Nellie’s articles and full bio at AllBusiness.com.

RELATED: Foster a Culture of Forgiveness in the Workplace, and Watch Employees Grow and Thrive

This article was originally published on AllBusiness.com.


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