As we continue to move through the pandemic one of the subjects I continue to look into is how teams operate when they are obliged to work from home.
I still remember how my shift to a more virtual working mode happened several years ago. I had joined a new team consisting of just a handful of people. We didn’t have all the tools available to us today and staying in contact virtually wasn’t high on the agenda. As I soon was to find out, the team consisted of individuals acting as individuals. The few things that needed to be decided as a group were relayed to in presence meetings held about once a month. Until then I had been used to have a close relationship with my boss and my team. Moving into the new team felt like moving into a void. Since then my experience shifted, but that team and the way they interacted is a good reminder of how things working from home can also feel like.
Looking back with today’s knowledge I also use it to visualize team dynamics seen through the lens of attachment styles. As Bowlby and Ainsworth have shown, humans have a biological based attachment behavioral system. It means that one of the things people do when they step into a team is to monitor their surroundings. They look out for those they connect with in such a way that the relationship feels dependable. It’s the person they’ll go to when they feel down, upset, or insecure with team matters. It’s also the person they’ll count on when they have to move out of their comfort zone with some new task for example.
Once that connection is found, people will start to monitor if the relationship works out as they expected. That is according to their attachment style. Whenever they sense that contact becomes less available, they’ll start to reach out for more support or withdraw. Often they’ll be doing too much of it. A leader attuned to attachment styles will be able to react accordingly. Noticing that the reactions visible on the surface may indicate that below the surface there is a sense of disconnect that is establishing itself in the team.