Connecting the Dots: From Family Wounds and Workplace Woes to Professional Success

Summary: Many top leadership experts now acknowledge how family patterns appear at work. Here is what some respected educators are saying to help you see the connection from the past to the present.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

I want to bring you and your team into our company for leadership training as part of our mental wellness initiative.

I’m meeting lots of resistance.

There is fear that it will be too much like old-fashioned therapy.

I was previously in an organization with the execs participating in your Total Leadership Connections Program, which made many positive changes.

Leadership training and mental health go hand in hand.

I want to do a program that gives us more than “the flavor of the month” superficial training.

The big boss here is resistant to having anyone talk about family patterns. He says, and I quote, “There needs to be a separation between church and state.”

Can you help me help him see things differently?


Eager to learn

Dear Eager,

Thanks for reaching out. And I understand your dilemma.

For decades, we have been helping executives and teams connect the dots between family behavior and work reactions.

The holistic view of how work and home connect leads to positive outcomes.

Most importantly, it takes time to make those connections. Initially, almost everyone is like your boss, who sees the need to separate the personal from the professional.

As a result, we need patience and determination to show how everything connects.

Luckily, the tide is turning, and many well-respected leaders and educators are joining to help their staffs grow and learn holistically.

I have included them here.

Family dynamics play a significant role in shaping our beliefs, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships.

However, unresolved family patterns can lead to many challenges and setbacks when they enter the workplace.

Let’s take a moment to explore the profound impact of family wounds on professional success and provide insights from top leadership experts to shed light on this complex issue.

This is what leadership expert John Maxwell says:

“If you are a parent, you have probably already realized that your children are always watching what you do. And just as children watch their parents and emulate their behavior, so do those watching their bosses.”

Pattern repetition happens at home and work.

He also mentions that the wounds we carry from our family dynamics can shape our professional journey more than we realize.

Understanding and addressing these patterns is crucial to break free from their grip and thrive in the workplace.

Unresolved family patterns can manifest in various ways, affecting our work performance, relationships with colleagues, and overall job satisfaction. These patterns may stem from communication styles, conflict resolution approaches, or ingrained beliefs about success and failure.

Unreasonable rules for children cause grief to fearful adults.

Take Corinne, for example. She grew up in a home where her father ruled the house. Her mother was a quiet, stay-at-home mom who was both a caretaker and a pleaser.

As a teen, when Corinne took a strong stand for herself and disagreed with her dad, her mother would drag her daughter into another room and say,” Don’t make waves. It’s terrible for you, me, your sister, and your brother.”

Then the mom would shake her head and meekly say, “When your father says “Black is white,” well, then, black is white. And if he says, green is orange; you agree that green is orange!”

Corinne, a very strong-willed woman at work, was the female version of her father.

Every time she had a creative idea or disagreed with her boss, often things that could make a positive difference, she saw her mother in the “mind’s eye” and heard her saying with sadness,

“Don’t argue. Remember when your boss says, “Black is white,” agree, and be quiet.”

It took ten years of going from job to job for Corinne to get the coaching to help her see how stuck she was in old ingrained ways of thinking.

More stories like this in “Don’t Bring It To Work.

Bold letter statements told as you were growing up impact how you communicate now.

In addition, author and renowned speaker Brene Brown states:

“Our family dynamics become templates for navigating the professional world. Unresolved patterns can limit our potential and hinder our ability to lead and collaborate effectively.”      

The impact on workplace relationships includes everyone. Family wounds can profoundly impact our ability to build healthy relationships with coworkers, leading to workplace woes. Trust issues, delegation difficulty, or unresolved family conflicts can hinder teamwork and collaboration.

For example, David was always in competition with his younger brother. Only eighteen months apart, they were raised like twins.

The younger brother was bigger, stronger, and more vocal about his wants and needs. David felt he could never compete and learned to back down and say, “Whatever, we’ll do it your way,” to keep the wrestling matches to a minimum.

At work, he was seen as bland. He was the last to be picked to head a team and many promotions passed him by

His boss encouraged him to find a holistic career coach to help him see that he was stuck and afraid of never being good enough to compete.

David has moved from a victim to an explorer of new ideas. And a promotion is on the horizon.

Family Patterns impact work productivity.

Motivational speaker Simon Sinek addresses family patterns and work productivity.

“When family wounds are left unaddressed, they tend to resurface in the workplace, creating unnecessary tension and hindering productivity. Recognizing and healing these wounds is essential for fostering a positive work environment.”

The impact on career advancement is often connected with unresolved family patterns. This can also impede professional growth and progress. Limiting beliefs, self-sabotaging behaviors, or fear of failure rooted in past family dynamics can keep individuals from taking risks and pursuing new opportunities.

Unaddressed family wounds are like viruses that can spread from person to person.

For example, a large corporate organization has a group of “naysayers” who love to meet for “Happy Hour” weekly. What do they talk about? The “ineffective” and “pushy” ideas from top leadership “will never fly.”

This group of seven feeds on each other’s fear of failure. They are noted as “non-riskers” by others.

Morale is low, and the CEO has had enough. It’s either we “fix ’em or fire ’em,” he said to me recently. Group coaching will begin next week.

Here is what renowned businesswoman and philanthropist Melinda French Gates comments:

“Unresolved family wounds can create self-imposed glass ceilings in our careers. It’s vital to break free from these patterns, challenge our beliefs, and embrace growth to reach our full potential.”

Break free and thrive by acknowledging and addressing family wounds.

This is a holistic and healthy way for continued personal and professional growth. Seek support through therapy, coaching, or self-reflection to heal and develop strategies to overcome ingrained patterns that hinder success.

The role of women at work has changed dramatically, and Melinda French Gates is a vocal advocate for equality at work. She addresses the cultural aspect of unresolved patterns that have kept many women locked into patterns as pleasers, martyrs, and rescuers.

Relationships flow, and creative energy abounds when there is equality at work.

As French Gates eloquently says, “Empowered women create empowered societies.”

Finally, Organizational psychologist Adam Grant comments:

“By exploring and healing our family wounds, we can transform our workplace woes into opportunities for growth, resilience, and authentic leadership.”

Companies profit when offered holistic approaches, and individuals learn new ways to respond and lead.

In conclusion, unresolved family patterns significantly impact our professional lives, contributing to workplace woes and hindering career success. However, by recognizing these patterns, seeking support, and taking proactive steps toward healing, we can break free from their influence and create a positive and thriving work environment.

Remember, addressing family wounds is not a sign of weakness but a courageous act of self-awareness and personal growth that paves the way for a more fulfilling and successful professional journey.

Here’s to your success,

Sylvia Lafair

PS. Our online Total Leadership Connections Program is successful for individuals and teams to learn more effective ways of communicating, handling conflict, and, most importantly, being accountable.

We have completed over 65 on-site retreats and are now offering the program globally as an online program with coaching support.

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Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options