Image Source: Corey Wane

The moment you open your eyes for the first time, you see your parents staring down at you ecstatically. They become your first point of contact in this world and teach you the ways of life around here. From then on, and until you enter your teens, they become your be-all and end-all. They become your bible, your Q’uran, your definitive textbook for everything you do in your life. And while you eventually grow up, think and make your decisions independently, make a living, and then live on your own, the deep sense of connection and intimacy you share with them never leaves you.

For this reason, your relationship with your parents determines how you react to people in your life, including your boss and teammates, and therefore, your life and career. Let’s look at this more deeply.

If you’ve had a rough relationship with your father or mother — who were your authority figures all your life, you’ll tend to have a problem with all sorts of authority figures in society, whether it’s the government, the police, teachers, or employers. Just like your parent did, these authority figures control some part of your life and you end up fighting against the use of this control against them. Precisely because you constantly fought against the control of your parents and never found peace with it.

Your reaction to authority figures depends on the sort of relationship you have with your parents. If an authority figure, like a boss, has the tendency to yell at people, you might resist that behavior strongly. Instead of taking it in your stride at times, you’ll likely oppose it and distance yourself from them. This is the reason some people keep switching jobs, citing a problem with the previous boss each time. People who have issues with authority usually find it difficult to stick to a job for any period of time, as they end up running into problems with their bosses.

Image Source: Elements Behavioral Health

This is, however, not the only kind of reaction that someone with authority issues would put on show. They could do the exact opposite too, like butter up their bosses constantly, do things to seek their approval, and feed their ego to please them. These are the people who work late hours, doing more work than they’re expected to without saying a word. They find it hard to say no to a boss, as that could change how the boss would feel about them — a clear no-no where they come from.

Similarly, we all exhibit different emotional reactions to different scenarios — like if a parent wasn’t around much or if you were raised by a strict, disciplinarian parent. Since your parents were technically your first managers, your emotional reaction to all other managers in your life play out the same way they did with your parents.

Now, you can’t go back and change the past to build a healthier relationship with your parents. But what you can do is, speak to them right away and make peace with them about whatever incomplete feelings you have about them, such as maybe a feeling of regret or disappointment. The trick is not to “fix” your relationship, but to make peace with the past. In essence, to say, “Whatever happened in the past is behind us, and we’re not going to ruin our present or future because of it.” This wipes the slate clean, and your relationship with your parents — as well as your managers — begins to change significantly. Obviously, some instances of relapse could occur, but you should be able to recover quickly.

If you want to an alternative option — one that doesn’t involve you talking to your parents, you can read about the interesting exercise that Executive Coach Noomi Melchior Natan has shared on Linkedin. The exercise seems helpful, and the article provides several other insights on this same subject. Key is to start the relationships anew and look at them from a new perspective. This will change the relationships you usually share with your bosses.