Dad's Impact on Your Career
Experts explain how a father's parenting style can have a long-term impact on the workplace.
As yet, there's no such thing as "Take Your Dad to Work Day." But a
psychologist maintains that most of us -- consciously or unconsciously -- bring
our fathers into the workplace every day. Who's behind your need to (pick one):
please the boss, find someone to blame, bark at subordinates, climb the ladder,
or work harder than anyone else? Stephan B. Poulter, PhD, says it's Dad.
He spells it out in his book The Father Factor: How Your Father's Legacy
Impacts Your Career. WebMD talked with Poulter, a former police officer
who for 24 years has been a clinical psychologist specializing in family
relationships, and two other experts about the influence fathers have on
Understanding the Five Fathering Styles
Much is known about a mother's role in shaping offspring, but Poulter
believes that fathers provide the model for workplace behavior. "Dad's rule
book" -- the spoken and unspoken rules about work ethic, relationships,
ethics, and money -- gets internalized. It may foster positive behaviors, such
as a strong work ethic, but often sets up career roadblocks.
The legacy comes from the "father factor," or the type of fathering
a son or daughter receives. While dads can exhibit a combination of styles,
Poulter says one will dominate. He categorizes these styles as Superachiever,
Time Bomb, Passive, Absent, and Compassionate/Mentor.
- Superachiever. Looking good and winning is the mantra of
the Superachiever, whose legacy is shame. Their children become their own
toughest critics. They expend tremendous energy hiding weaknesses, can't share
their insecurities with anyone, and feel they are phonies. Poulter has a
five-step strategy for becoming a "balanced achiever," at the heart of
which is a lot of self-nurturing.
- Time Bomb. With a dad who explodes unpredictably, a kid
learns that keeping Dad happy is goal No. 1. As an adult in the workplace, the
child may be skilled at reading others' behavior but has difficulty dealing
with conflict out of an insecure need to please. The first step in changing
this behavior is to recognize the problem and change limiting thoughts, such as
"If I'm not always nice, people won't like me."
- Passive. More than 50% of baby boomers are products of
passive fathering. Such dads act more as observers than participants in their
families. Emotionally they neglect the children, who respond with self-neglect
and ultimately depressiondepression. Two career roadblocks loom: lack of
motivation and fear of failure. Gaining insight, taking charge, and changing
the internalized father factor are keys to personal and career
- Absent. When a father is physically or emotionally absent,
it gets translated into rejection. "Kids are wired for both parents to love
them," says Poulter, who describes his own father as emotionally distant.
Poulter tells WebMD that absent fathers are the glue that holds juvenile gangs
together, and he believes they're also responsible for widespread depression
among Generation X. In the workplace, the child may have problems with
authority figures, especially male bosses, and direct anger toward co-workers.
Poulter offers action steps for healing the anger, which include recognizing
that the absent father's legacy carries positive as well as negative
- Compassionate/Mentor. This is the poster dad for effective
parentingparenting -- usually someone else's dad. He
doesn't drag around resentments or unfulfilled dreams. Poulter lists 10
characteristics of the Compassionate/Mentor dad that less enlightened men can
learn to emulate in the workplace. These include "allowing flexibility,
forgiveness, and compassion to influence management style, co-worker relations,
and client relations," and "reaching a balance of assertiveness between
the extremes of aggression and passivity."
Poulter has a number of checklists and exercises for recognizing and moving
beyond career roadblocks. "People think they can't go beyond their legacy,
but the goal of this book is to get the adult to move in the direction they've
always wanted in their career, life, finances, and relationships."