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Did my upbringing affect the way I behave at my work?

Karen R Koenig
Psychology

So why can’t you help saying yes at work or shake behavior that consistently gets you into trouble by ramping up your stress level? The answer is simple: Work is not only a microcosm of how you interact in the larger world but also a loose replica of that old template established by growing up in your family of origin within a hierarchical social structure. Remember, a template lays down patterns that quickly turn into habitual behavior and automatic responses. Working in any group setting - small office, large corporation, hospital, school, civil service, etc. - it’s natural to react unconsciously as you did in your formative years. The family is your very first social group; every formal and informal association of people ever after has the ability to evoke the original template - for good or bad.

Here’s an example. Say your father was a rageful son of a gun who brooked no challenges, and the way you learned to survive in family boot camp was to remain invisible and zip your lip. You either stayed in your room or out of the house, spent a great deal of time in your head, and tried to keep under Dad’s radar as much as possible. Fast-forward a few decades and here you are working for a Cruella De Vil who always has to have the last word and rips apart anyone who dares confront her. What feelings might she evoke in you? How do you think you’ll react when the two of you have a difference of opinion and your boss pitches a fit? My money’s on you freezing, slithering away with a stunned look on your face, or maybe retreating to your office to lose yourself in gleeful fantasies of revenge while rooting through your desk drawers to find that package of M&M’s you stashed away last August.

The fact is that unless someone has had substantial therapy and worked her butt off doing a personality makeover, she’s going to respond on the job the same way she acted in her family. And if that behavior involved

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.