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7 Signs of Childhood Trauma Manifesting at Work



Our behaviors are essentially a reflection of our experiences. Here are seven signs of how past childhood trauma can manifest in the workplace:


Excessive independence - When someone is over-independent and self-reliant to the point that they do not ask for help or seek support for fear of inconveniencing others.


For example, they will not delegate work and attempt to do everything independently.


Overextending oneself - When someone dismisses their own needs and takes on more than they can effectively manage. They might be running on a near-empty tank, but they continue to give and care for others.


For example, they will take on a lot of responsibility at work even if their plate is already full.


Not able to set boundaries - When someone cannot say no or set boundaries to care for their own needs. There is a fear of disappointing others and letting them down that prevents them from prioritizing themselves and setting boundaries.


For example, despite being exhausted and overrun with tasks, they will not be able to say no to a colleague or leader who asks them to help lead a new project.


Conflict avoidant - When someone will do anything to avoid conflict and confrontation. They will not express their opinions, needs, or feelings, and they often rationalize other peoples' behavior to avoid getting into an argument by confronting them.


For example, if they feel disrespected or unheard by a friend, family member, or colleague, they will not have that conversation with them. Instead, they will rationalize their bad behavior (i.e., that is just how they are).


External validation is important to them - They doubt themselves a lot. Their self-worth comes from what other people think about them.


For example, they will not feel confident in their contribution to a project until they receive a head-nod from their boss or teammates.


Toxic relationships - People with childhood trauma tend to get into unhealthy relationships—not limited to romantic relationships. They might have friends, family members, or co-workers that take advantage of them because of their lack of boundaries, self-confidence, and ability to be assertive—making them more susceptible to toxic relationships.


For example, they develop a relationship with a colleague who preys on their vulnerability and uses them to complete work they find to be undesirable.


Perfectionism – While many of us want to do our best, a perfectionist holds unrealistic expectations of themselves. They can be extremely critical of everything they do or how they appear, leaving them feeling less than, a failure, or unworthy if they do not meet their expectations. The fear of failure governs them and can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. The all-or-nothing approach can hold them back and keep them feeling stuck.


For example, they create a report that goes above and beyond their manager’s expectations. However, they feel they could have added more data or displayed it more effectively.


How can someone correct the effects of childhood neglect?


Correcting the effects of childhood trauma is a process. It starts with connecting with oneself and gaining awareness of thought and behavioral patterns. People with childhood trauma are generally not kind to themselves and their own worst critics. Practicing self-compassion by forgiving oneself more often can start the healing process. Show the same kindness and understanding to yourself that you show to others. Allow yourself to make mistakes and hold space for the feelings that show up when you make them. Be patient with yourself, seek therapy to heal your inner child carrying the trauma, and work towards reparenting yourself.


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