Difficult Colleagues 6 – Personal History/Family of Origin

Those who’ve taken my OT5DT Workshops, know that how we react to our teammates has a lot to do with our personal history and/or our family of origin. We break into groups who work closely with each other to start seeing ourselves from a perspective foreign to business: our growing-up years.

So much of who we are as an adult is a product of our families’ spoken or unspoken rules. We share:
* Where we grew up, how many siblings we had, and our birth order
* The most difficult, important or unique challenge of our childhood
* Describe a mistake we made, how we responded, and how we recovered from it

My brother, sister and I were adopted from different families. We always knew we were adopted, and were introduced as “this is my adopted daughter, Margaret.” We felt alien and “on trial.”

The most difficult challenge of my childhood was that we had a deeply depressed mother. We never knew when our mother would erupt in rage and throw things at us, so we spent our young lives living in fear. Masking emotions was a rule for us in our home. As soon as a rage event started, I would freeze and shut down my emotions to try to weather the storm. My shutdown was my safe place, my MO. The screaming could go in one ear and out the other, not stopping inside my brain, while I stood stock-still.

Years later I had two managers who did the same thing. And me? I retreated into my safe place to withstand the barrage. I now had PTSD inside my workplaces from something that happened 20 years ago in my family. My MO was still intact.

I not only had a family of origin that never equipped me to advocate for myself, but now I also had personal history inside my companies that continued my PTSD. Grasping my family situation was the first step in trying to grow in my ability to accept myself as-is.

Others come from families who loved them and wanted them to succeed. Children from these homes were healthy, happy, and extroverted/introverted. The world was a safe place for them to explore relationships. And still others came from families where they were expected to compete or fight.

When we share our growing up years with our coworkers, we instantly become gentler with them. We become advocates for each other and learn how to work with them better. This is the beginning of Psychological Safety in our teams psychological safety & trust is a potent blend that helps us become better teammates and accelerates our performance together.

Without a probe into our younger years, we’re more apt to label someone with a different experience as a “Difficult Colleague.”

This exercise sets the tone of the workshops; each group becomes more caring with each other. Compassion for each other is the mark of a maturing team, spurring growth in synergy. We “see” each other and develop our capacity for high performance. There are no Difficult Colleagues. We are human beings who share an extraordinary journey together.