Your parents are to blame for your relationship with your boss.

If you are having problems with your boss, your parents could share the blame, according to a new study.

It all begins in the early years with your attachment to your mother. (Lucky for me, I have a wonderful mum — and a fabulous boss. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Your cheque is in the mail, Rach.])

University of Alabama researchers looked at attachment theory to try and better understand relationships in the workplace.

“It seems cliché, but, once again, we end up blaming mum for everything in life,” researcher Dr Peter Harms told UA News.

“It really is about both parents, but because mothers are typically the primary caregivers of the children, they usually have more influence on their children.”

Researchers looked at two dysfunctional attachment styles (anxious and avoidant attachment), to study how they relate to leader-follower relationships.

“Anxiously attached people genuinely want to be loved, but they are nervous that the important people in their lives won’t return their affection,” said Dr Harms.

“So, they overreact anytime they think their relationships are threatened. They use guilt and extreme emotional displays so that others will stay near and reassure them. They get really upset and can’t turn it off.  On the other hand, avoidant people feel, ‘I don’t want to love you, and you don’t need to love me. So just leave me alone.’ You won’t find these people weeping over broken relationships,” he said.

Avoidant attachment employees had lower levels of stress and didn’t help co-workers as much as other employees. They really didn’t care as much.


Anxious attachment employees suffered from higher stress levels when teamed with an unsupportive leader but they did OK with supportive leaders.

“This notion of attachment and secure attachment is very important but you have to build it,” Professor Judith McLean told Mamamia.

She believes in daredevil parenting — allowing children their own successes and letting them connect with rich experiences.

“Being a daredevil parent means letting your child run ahead of you. Letting your child leave you and explore,” she said.

The researchers found the relationship between a manager and their subordinates similar to a parent-child relationship.

“You can provide attention and support early, but the sign of a mature relationship is that you trust one another to the point where managers can trust their subordinates to let them be autonomous, and subordinates can act without seeking permission. In other words, you graduate and move out of the house,” said Dr Harms.

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