Attachment in the workplace


Human beings are both genetically and neurologically geared to form relationships with others, therefore Attachment perceptions are formed in any social structure e.g. clubs, social gatherings, churches, network events etc.


When a new employee joins an organisation, they go through a similar Attachment process to that of infant and parent, whereby perceptions of security, trust & value, acceptance and belonging (either consciously or subconsciously) are being formed. In this instance, the “primary carer” is the Direct Manager. If the employee fails to attach to the organisation, this will impact the entire relationship they have with the business from a productivity and engagement perspective.


It’s important to note that the new employee is attempting to bond with the organisation (i.e. the social entity) not the Direct Manager. However, it’s the Direct Manager who has the most influence over the strength of this bond. From a workplace perspective, there are 4 components to consider:




(1) The “Critical Attachment Period” (CAP)
When a new employee joins an organisation, they go through the “Critical Attachment Period” (CAP) during their first 120 days of employment. During this time, a two way assessment is taking place between the new employee and the organisation. Firstly, the organisation is assessing both the potential (future) contribution of the new employee, as well as their cultural fit. In other words, the organisation is determining whether they have made the right hiring decision. Secondly, the employee is actively assessing whether they’ve made the right choice i.e. how well they fit in, the degree to which the experience matches their expectations and whether they can visualise themselves being a productive member of the team in the long term. 

(2) The Direct Manager’s Influence/Impact
Just as a child forms an Attachment to their primary carer, within a workplace context the primary carer is typically the employee’s Direct Manager. The impact of the Direct Manager is therefore significant in helping the new employee attach to the organisation. In fact, over 80% of the employee’s perceptions formed during the “Critical Attachment Period” (CAP) are directly influenced by the immediate Manager or Supervisor. 
(3) Core Attachment Perceptions
The strength of bond (or Attachment) between with the employee and organisation is based on the core Attachment perceptions of:
• security;

• trust & value;

• acceptance; and

• belonging.


These core Attachment perceptions are formed based on 20 workplace drivers. These drivers describe and quantify perceptions such as:
• the professionalism experienced during the recruitment and selection process;

• the clarity of pre-employment communication;

• the effectiveness of the orientation process;

• the availability of training and incremental learning;

• whether the job description truly reflects the role; and

• whether they understand the performance expectations.


(4) Key Response Behaviours
This strength of bond (as determined by the employee’s perceptions of the 20 workplace drivers) leads to key response behaviours which include:
• risk of attrition; and
• discretionary effort & performance.