New Manager Wanted: Co-Dependents Need Not Apply

hovering boss - codependentMoving into management and  leading others is a sign of success for many. Some people even believe if they work at a company long enough, they are entitled to move into management, as though you simply need to wait in line to become a manager.

Unfortunately, not all of those who aspire to (or wait for) a leadership position are cut out for it. Especially, those who have difficulty maintaining good boundaries and need to be liked.

In short, co-dependents need not apply.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is the tendency to put others’ needs ahead of one’s own with the underlying belief that the receiver of the favor will be beholden to the giver. Unseen strings are attached as the codependent giver considers their offering a personal sacrifice and expect something in return, like respect or a returned favor. They often protect others from the natural consequences of their own actions, like the manager who uses company funds to make her administrative assistant’s car payments because she can’t manage her personal finances. (Seen it.)

Codependent managers do things for employees that the employees are able to do themselves. Ultimately, the interference — while well-intended — prevents or interferes with the employee attaining new abilities and skills and taking responsibility. An example of this would be a manager jumping into to perform a task instead of spending time to train the employee to do it because it’s easier and faster for the manager to do it herself.  And in each instance of codependent behavior, the manager resents the fact that they are doing it, whether they admit it or not.

Codependent Leaders vs. Empowering Leaders

Other signs of codependent managers are:

  • Not enforcing work rules, so employees will like them.
  •  Delaying or avoiding completely addressing employee issues because they walk on egg shells around employees who get angry easily when issues are addressed.
  • Jumping in to fix employee mistakes or problems when the employee could do it themselves.
  • Having a tendency to hire people who seem to need rescuing or are down on their luck.

In contrast, an effective and empowering leader seeks to build employee capacity by:

  • Building respectful relationships with employees without the desire to be liked.
  • Meeting obstacles or conflict head on without being overbearing.
  • Handling resistance when managing organizational change without giving in to the  discomfort of learning new ways of operating.
  • Respecting rules, policies, procedures, and parameters, while understanding when a true exception exists.

The more effective and empowering manager understands that her duty is to the organization and its interests. This helps her understand that effective management is not culling favor with employees to further her own psychological needs.

Instead, good leadership is about allowing employees to gain new work-related competencies and guiding them as they work through the awkwardness of getting better at something over time. They don’t feel the need to rescue employees from making every mistake. In turn, this approach increases the employee’s sense of competence and control over their work.

Finally, the empowering manager encourages new coping abilities in employees to replace maladaptive behavior.  The empowering manager says “no” when it’s in the best interest of the team/organization, allows employees to feel angry or sad when needed, tolerates healthy conflict, and asks for what she herself needs in the workplace.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: