Beyond the Personal to the Professional: Codependency in the Workplace - Ashland County MHRB

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Beyond the Personal to the Professional: Codependency in the Workplace

Beyond the Personal to the Professional: Codependency in the Workplace
February 25, 2020

We’ve all heard the term “codependency,” but do you know what it really means? The word has become something of a catchall for all kinds of relationship issues, but as defined by Jonathan Becker, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, codependency really means:

any relationship in which two people become so invested in each other that they can’t function independently anymore. Your mood, happiness, and identity are defined by the other person. In a codependent relationship, there is usually one person who is more passive and can’t make decisions for themselves, and a more dominant personality who gets some reward and satisfaction from controlling the other person and making decisions about how they will live.

The Stats

The US National Library of Medicine estimates that codependency affects 40 million Americans and seems to be most common among people who have experienced “early life trauma, are in a close relationship with someone with a substance use disorder or have certain personality traits that make them susceptible to codependency, such as scoring high for anxiety, need for approval from others or self-defeating thoughts.” Gender differences may also have some effect on it, as well as having grown up in a stressful family situation. 

In the Workplace

We often hear codependency spoken of in terms of romantic relationships, but it can also manifest in relationships between co-workers or employees/employers in the workplace. In the workplace, codependency often appears in the form of a dominant boss or co-worker who controls a more submissive employee. This is a dysfunctional workplace dynamic, but there are ways to dispel it. Training in codependency awareness is the best place to start. Once employees know the signs of workplace codependency they can take action, such as reporting the behavior to management or HR, or even just lending a sympathetic ear to the person involved. These signs may include constantly seeking approval, having low-esteem, and lowering of productivity or experiencing burnout because of the stress the employee feels due to the situation. 

Codependent employees may fear speaking up about an abusive or domineering boss or co-worker, but pointing it out can be a good way to get a resolution for the problem at hand—though changing your own behavior is the key to preventing this kind of relationship from happening again.

Be Informed

If you, yourself struggle with codependency in the workplace, again, the first step is awareness: to see the signs of it within yourself, then to confront the problematic behaviors in yourself. Work to create new behaviors that will give you positive self-esteem and a feeling of having more control over your life. Oftentimes this can best be accomplished through a codependency training program or an individual therapist. 

Since training can help, consider scheduling a training session with ACCADA’s program, “Codependency: When Helping Hurts.” This program is beneficial for workplace codependency issues, as attendees will learn how to help people who struggle with an addiction, as well as the difference between helping and enabling. They will also develop a better understanding of available local resources and strengthen their own coping skills. Consider learning more about the topic or request a training.

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