Your Relationship Skills & Your Success At Work


Doing relationships well and success at work go hand in hand!

Let’s be honest – having excellent relationship skills is a plus even if you don’t work at all! But how you interact with others is especially important if you are a leader. I’m not the first to recognize this!

→ Relationships are the foundation of leadership. – John C. Maxwell

→ Almost everything in leadership comes back to relationships. -Mike Kryzewski

→ Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Theodore Roosevelt

→ About 80% of what it takes to lead transformationally is relational. -Jim Louwsma

→ The relational leader operates not by being known by everyone, but by authentically creating positive relationships with people around her. -Scott K. Edinger

Yes! Being able to navigate relationships successfully is necessary for managers and business owners too.

And as an individual contributor, how you relate to those around you either contributes to your success or it’s holding you back.

Back to the Beginning!

Humans are hardwired by God to desire relationship – to attach to and connect with other people. We learn whether or not people are trustworthy and dependable based on how caregivers responded to our attachment-seeking behaviors withing the first 18 months of life.

When caregivers are responsive – loving and attentive, it builds trust and provides security. A child brought up in this kind of environment learns to connect with others in healthy ways and with ease. This is secure attachment.

However, when caregivers are unresponsive, it creates a lack of trust and insecurity. A child raised in this kind of environment often learns that people are undependable and inconsistent, causing them to connect in less healthy ways and they often find it more difficult to connect or enjoy intimate relationships. This is the opposite of secure attachment and may play out in a variety of ways, including being a vacillator, avoider, pleaser, or chaotic – a controller or a victim. This is insecure attachment.

Secure attachment and insecure attachment are two extremes on the attachment continuum. As humans, we don’t fit neatly into either of those two categories. There may times you respond from a secure place and other times, especially when triggered, that your response is more from an insecure place.

I also want to make it clear that it’s possible, despite your childhood experience, to grow and change and learn to connect in healthy ways. And some, despite a loving and responsive upbringing, will struggle to connect in healthy ways.

Secure Attachment

When caregivers respond in a consistent and loving way to the needs of an infant, they form a secure attachment. If they cry, they are comforted. Their smiles, coos, and giggles are reflected back to them. As a result, they learn that people are trustworthy and safe.

As An Adult, Secure Connectors are able to…

  • Ask for help or for what they need
  • Give and receive
  • Communicate their emotions and needs
  • Appreciate their strengths and recognize their weaknesses
  • Seek comfort and help from others when they are upset rather than turning to a thing.
  • Resolve conflict – it was modeled for them
  • Set and maintain boundaries
  • Say no
  • Delay gratification
  • Take risks
  • Face new situations with confidence
  • Okay with not being perfect
  • Apologize when they are wrong
  • Both lead and follow
  • Compliment others, give credit where it is due, and celebrate the success of others
  • Operate from a positive outlook
  • Believe failure is a great teacher – not something to be feared.
  • Tune into their own emotions and understand and tolerate the emotions of others too
  • Work hard and play hard – practice self-care and invest in their relationships
  • Manage time well and meet deadlines rather than procrastinating
  • Work cooperatively and collaboratively
  • Operate from the belief that people are trustworthy and deserve to be loved, accepted, and belong
  • Work without fear rejection from peers or those above them


If the world was filled with Secure Connectors, it would make your workplace an incredible place, right?

The traits of a secure connector are the very same traits that positively contribute to your success at work!

Sadly, many of our childhood experiences were less than ideal and have caused us to respond in less secure ways. Add stress to the mix and it becomes even less likely that you will respond in a secure way.

Do you recognize yourself in any of the following attachment styles?

The Vacillator

Because the needs of the Vacillator were met inconsistently, they are left in a state of wanting and waiting. They conclude that their needs aren’t important and may feel abandoned. They crave consistent love.

As An Adult, Vacillators tend to…

  • Feel like no one understands what they need, but also don’t ask for what they need
  • Believe they are flawed in some way – unworthy of the attention of others
  • Experience a high level of internal conflict and emotional stress in relationships
  • Sometimes pick a fight and don’t even know why
  • Make assumptions
  • Have high expectations and be easily angered
  • Keep score and have trouble forgiving
  • Be very passionate and feel things deeply
  • Have a keen awareness when others pull away
  • Dive all-in to relationships and want more, only to be disappointed and feel let down
  • Believe their relationships are deeper than they actually are
  • Rely on reading body language, the moods of others, and how others act to determine if they are liked or not

The Avoider

For the Avoider, the neglect and having their needs met inconsistently was painful. They grew up with little affection and feelings were rarely discussed. Comfort was not offered.

As An Adult, Avoiders tend to…

  • Be self-reliant and independent
  • Seem disengaged or emotionally distant
  • Avoid feeling pain making it difficult to feel positive feelings as well
  • Enjoy being alone
  • Feel uncomfortable when others are emotional or have emotional needs
  • Experience anxiety, deny their feelings, and ignore their needs.
  • Not have many close relationships
  • Rarely express their emotions
  • Escape – Working too much, alcohol, TV, drugs, etc.
  • Say they are “fine” and get over things quickly
  • Be disconnected from their feelings
  • Not communicate or include others in decisions, planning, or developing those they lead
  • Self-focused and unaware of the support those around them may need
  • Be quick to blame and not take responsibility
  • Resist change

It’s important for Avoiders to learn to recognize their feelings, ask for what they need, and take the time to connect with others.

The Pleaser

Because the Pleaser grew up with an overly critical or overly protective parent, and as a result they strive to keep everyone happy. Rather than receiving the comfort they needed, as children they offered care and comfort to the rest of the family. Channeling so much of their energy into others ultimately making them resentful.

As An Adult, Pleaser tends to…

  • Experience great anxiety, although they are often unaware
  • Have difficulty making decisions or saying no because others might not like them
  • Dislike to being alone
  • Get mad, but hide it
  • Try harder when people pull away
  • Cautious – not a risk taker
  • Interpret anxiety as stress
  • Be hyper sensitive to the moods of the people around them
  • Have difficulty expressing their emotions – especially the negative ones
  • Attempt to connect by meeting other people’s needs and dodging rejection
  • Have difficulty confronting and might not be fully honest

Recognizing when anxiety is present is important for the Pleaser. When others are angry with you, learn to stay present. Practice being alone. Stay connected to your feelings and learn to receive. Try to communicate more directly.

Chaotic – The Controller

In order to protect themselves from the painful and vulnerable feelings they had as a child, they strive to be in control. Typically, they experienced anger, threats, and intimidation growing up that left them feeling unprotected. Comfort was not a part of their experience.

As An Adult, Controllers tend to…

  • Deal with anger, addiction, and have trouble keeping a job
  • Be physically aggressive – people don’t want to mess with them!
  • Feel like chaos and stress are normal or familiar
  • Not ask for help – it rarely comes to mind
  • Need to be in control
  • Get angry if things aren’t done a certain way
  • Be intimidating – often loses their temper
  • Have few emotions outside of anger

For the Controller, recognizing how traumatic their childhood was and the ways it has impacted them is critical to them making positive changes. Counseling may also be in order.

Chaotic – The Victim

Unlike the Controller, the Victim’s response to a neglectful, chaotic home was and is to escape, hide, appease, and to put up with the craziness: to be compliant. They experienced a great deal of anger and stress from their parents and were rarely comforted.

As An Adult, Victims tend to…

  • Believe everything is their own fault
  • Expect bad things to happen
  • Feel anxious when things are going well
  • Keep their opinions and thoughts to themselves
  • Feel tired and lack energy
  • Marry a controller to recreate the environment they had growing up
  • Feel like then need to keep trying harder
  • Be loyal even when people are exploiting them
  • Go through the motions because they often feel worthless, anxious, and depressed
  • Be detached, disengaged. or feel emotionally flat
  • Retreat to imaginary worlds

For the Victim, it’s important for them to face their fears and work through their past with the help of a counselor.

It’s Essential!

Connecting with others in healthy and meaningful ways is essential in your personal relationships, but it also impacts how you show up at work. The goal is to be a secure connector more consistently. That takes time and intentional work! I promise it’s worth it and will serve you well both personally and professionally!

Maybe you’ve seen a glimpse of yourself in one of these less secure attachment styles. Take a look at the list of characteristics for the style that resonates with you the most from a work perspective. What new insights about your work issues come to light? Learning to respond in more secure ways is possible and becoming aware of your attachment style is the first step!

What’s your Attachment Style? How is it helping or hurting you at work?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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