Impact of Childhood Interpersonal Trauma on Workplace Functioning

By Tracy Teichman, BA

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Childhood interpersonal trauma can have a significant impact on a person’s capacity to perform well at work. Unrecognized trauma from childhood can show up in various ways in adults and impact them at work, including:

  1. Fear of authority: People who experienced early interpersonal trauma may have difficulty following directives, lack trust in leaders, or even conflict with people in positions of power. These individuals may experience anxiety, stress, or a sense of powerlessness when interacting with authority figures. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt, even when the individual has the necessary skills and experience to complete a task.
  2. Fear of failure: Childhood emotional trauma can cause individuals to believe that they are ineffective or inadequate, which can result in a fear of failure. In the workplace, this fear may manifest as procrastination, avoidance, or even self-sabotage.
  3. Failure to set boundaries: Childhood interpersonal trauma can lead to a failure to set and maintain appropriate boundaries at work. This can result in overwork, overwhelming responsibility, and difficulty saying no. Over time, this can cause problems in relationships outside of work and lead to a lack of social support.
  4. Problems with interpersonal relationships: Individuals who experienced childhood interpersonal trauma may struggle to build and maintain good relationships with coworkers, leading to professional isolation or conflict.
  5. Difficulty managing stress: Childhood trauma can make it difficult for individuals to manage professional stress. Anxiety, panic attacks, and physical symptoms such as migraines or stomach issues can follow.

Interpersonal trauma in childhood that goes unnoticed can significantly affect a person’s ability to succeed at work. It is crucial for people who have been through trauma to seek help and support from trained professionals who can help them heal and be more productive at work.


Tracy Teichman, BA

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