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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.

  • Attachment styles develop in early childhood and affect behaviour, communication and expectations in relationships
  • Reflecting on attachment style can help individuals improve work relationships and career success
  • Each attachment style has a “super power” and something to work on

The concept of attachment styles comes from attachment theory, which was created by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby.

The theory looks at how our primary caregivers responded to our needs as infants, and how that affects our relationships as adults.

“Attachment styles are essentially different ways of interacting and behaving within relationships. It’s our subconscious set of rules that we have for love, intimacy, connection and being vulnerable with others,” says Megan Rafuse, a psychotherapist and chief executive officer of therapy practice Shift Collab.

Ms. Rafuse says the impact of attachment styles go beyond romantic relationships and affect us at work as well.

How attachment styles play out at work

There are four main attachment styles: secure (typically don’t have many interpersonal struggles tied to their style), anxious (may need a lot of validation in relationships, stereotypically seen as clingy), avoidant (typically dismissive of others, can be known as lone wolves) and disorganized (a mix of anxious and avoidant, can be seen as hot and cold).

“It’s really important to understand attachment styles, especially in the workplace, because it impacts the way we show up with our coworkers and the way we get work done,” Ms. Rafuse says.

For example, if you’re anxiously attached, you might notice that you rely too heavily on the validation and praise you receive at work to determine your sense of self worth. So when you don’t do so well on a project, you revert to what Ms. Rafuse calls the “limiting belief” that you are not good enough as a person.

Your attachment style doesn’t just inform how you feel about yourself, but can also sway how others see you.

Another example is, if you’re avoidantly attached, coworkers may believe you don’t enjoy the company of people at the office and don’t work as well in a team environment. The reality may be that you’re acting in an avoidant manner because that is how you learned to keep yourself safe and avoid pain in your earliest years.

“I’m not saying that one attachment style is better than another. They were all formed for adaptive reasons when we were children, and they’ve served us throughout our lives – some better than others,” she says.

Your ‘super power’ and what to work on

While we had no control over our early childhood experiences, Ms. Rafuse says there are actions we can take to shift our style, bettering our working relationships and our careers.

Here is her insight, by attachment style:


  • Superpower: You can build great relationships and trust other people
  • Work on: Understanding other peoples’ attachment styles
  • Take action: Recognize when you are not being supportive of others at work and consider how attachment styles may play a role


  • Superpower: Your hypervigilance allows you to trust your gut to pick up on risks within the business
  • Work on: Constantly seeking reassurance or trying to please everyone
  • Take action: Start saving the positive feedback you receive so you don’t have to rely on others as much to remind you that you are good at your job, and are enough


  • Superpower: You’re quick to act and a problem solver
  • Work on: Becoming more approachable and building stronger relationships at work
  • Take action: Start building trust with coworkers (for example, asking for help) so you can feel more comfortable in your relationships


  • Superpower: You can handle workplace chaos and are adaptable
  • Work on: Acting hot and cold toward coworkers
  • Take action: Stop yourself when you notice you’re self sabotaging relationships

Beyond helping us understand ourselves and becoming better coworkers, Ms. Rafuse says that understanding other peoples’ attachment styles can help us build empathy and give people grace when they are showing up in ways that are confusing or triggering for us.

“When we know better, we can do better,” she says.

What I’m reading around the web

  • Recently, laws were passed in Australia that gave workers the legal right to ignore messages from their bosses outside of working hours. Now, the Fair Work Commission is seeking to also make remote work a legal entitlement.
  • One company is paying its employees to socialize in what they call a “3-3-3″ program and it’s boosting business, as reported by Business Insider. It will pay for any three employees (up to $30 per person) to get together after 3 p.m.
  • In this TED Talk, cognitive scientist Shari Liu shares some interesting insights into how babies perceive and respond to danger, and what that tells us about our developmental psychology as humans.

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