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Anxious Attachment Style

Insecure attachment has three main types: Anxious / Preoccupied, Avoidant / Dismissive and Disorganized.

The anxious (or preoccupied) type tends to worry extensively about relationships. People with this attachment style tend to be insecure about themselves, have low self-esteem, and have the need to be in relationships and rely on others. Such individuals are often clingy and needy, they analyze and overthink the meaning behind what others say and do, and they are usually anxious and stressed about how they are perceived.

The avoidant (or dismissive) type is independent, confident, and self-sufficient – at least that’s how they appear to be. People with this attachment style do not want or need to rely on others: they want to be in control. Such individuals can be distant and aloof in relationships: they are unlikely to open up to others, especially when it comes to expressing private thoughts or emotions. The disorganized type is sort of a mix between the other two insecure attachment styles. Individuals with this pattern tend to switch between anxious and avoidant behaviors. This often makes it difficult for people around them to predict how their disorganized friend, child, or intimate partner will act: they never know what’s coming next.

Attachment Theory and the Four Attachment Styles

According to John Bowlby’s work on attachment theory, attachment begins as soon as a baby is born. The helpless baby relies on its primary caregivers for care, support, and safety.

When parents are attuned to the child and meet his or her physiological and emotional needs, the child can

form a secure bond with them. Yet, if the baby perceives that his or her needs are not met by the attachment figures, he or she becomes insecurely attached.

This first relationship that the baby has serves as a template for how future relationships form and function. Consequently, the template that each of us formed in early childhood continues to affect our social interactions as adults. Were you able to build a secure bond with your caregivers early in life? If yes, you would be able to feel safe and comfortable in social contexts later on.

In contrast, if we – as children – perceive that our needs cannot and will not be met by others (especially, the ones closest to us), we are likely to exhibit attachment issues throughout our lives. One way to distinguish between attachment patterns is to contrast secure and insecure attachment.

Anxious Attachment in the Workplace

According to research, having an anxious attachment style can result in personal and interpersonal struggles in the workplace. These issues usually stem from low self-esteem and high levels of insecurity, worry, and self-doubt. As a result, the anxious employee might constantly seek approval from their colleagues.

People with anxious attachment might invest a lot in interpersonal relationships at work. They may also try hard to be liked by everyone, and conform to the group’s wishes to avoid confrontation.

Anxious individuals also exhibit a strong fear of negative feedback, which could be harmful to the already negative view of the self. So, fitting into the group, being liked by everyone, and receiving appreciation and praise for their work are priorities for the anxious employee.

The constant need for approval can cause the anxious employee to become clingy and needy. They might have unrealistic expectations and demands and thus overwhelm their colleagues or supervisors and cause them to distance themselves. The anxiously attached employee might exhibit an inability to work on their own and rely heavily on the team to finish their work.

The interpersonal stress that anxious individuals experience at work might also hurt the way they feel about their jobs. Such employees might feel under-appreciated and thus dissatisfied with their occupation. They have a higher risk of burnout episodes and exhibit more counterproductive work behavior and turnover intentions.

The pros of having anxious attachment at work

In several of his research papers, Ein-Dor has demonstrated various perks of having anxiously attached employees in the team. Due to their hyper-vigilance (extreme sensitivity and alertness to the surroundings), individuals with an anxious attachment style might be superheroes when it comes to detecting threats, risks, and deceit.

Furthermore, because of their need to be accepted and approved by the group and the leaders, the anxious employee is often highly self-reflective and aware of their own shortcomings and weak spots. Consequently, they constantly seek ways to improve themselves and their performance, and thus become better at their jobs and strengthen their skills.

Last but not least, the anxious employee is no troublemaker. Due to their desire to belong in the group and be seen positively, these individuals are likely to conform to the prevailing wishes of the workgroup and, therefore, create less friction in the workplace.

Avoidant Attachment Style in the Workplace

Looking at the existing research, one thing becomes evident: the avoidant employee is not the social type at work. They do not seek closeness with colleagues or leaders and do not rely on social support.

Avoidant individuals might even have a negative perception of the people in their work environments, including the boss. They tend to view group activities as unchallenging and beneath their level and exhibit an overall distrust towards others.

People with an avoidant attachment style prefer to work on their own. Sometimes, they might use work as an excuse to socialize with the group. They don’t want to establish strong bonds with co-workers and tend to put independence at the top of their priorities.

A potential threat to the atmosphere in the workplace is that avoidant employees might be resistant to leadership, critical to their supervisors or leaders, and unlikely to conform to the group. For these reasons, unlike anxious employees, avoidant individuals might be, to some extent, ‘troublemakers’ in the workplace.

Secure Attachment in the Workplace

In general, secure attachment has many benefits in all types of social contexts, including the work environment. Secure employees tend to have it easier when it comes to interpersonal relationships at work – be it with colleagues, supervisors, or leaders. Securely attached employees are comfortable with and good at forming strong bonds, and others in the workplace generally perceive them as valuable group members.

Securely attached employees are characterized as the “least likely to put off work, least likely to have difficulty completing tasks, and least likely to fear failure and rejection from coworkers”. They were also found to be more likely to show trust towards and have positive perceptions of the leaders and their intentions.

Employees with a secure attachment style exhibit high satisfaction with their jobs, working conditions and coworkers. Such individuals also report better well-being and fewer symptoms of illness (physical and mental), as compared to insecurely attached employees.


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