Eight Signs of Professional Codependency

Early in my banking career, I had codependency tendencies with clients. How do I know this? Eight behaviors:

1. I lost sleep over how I thought a client might be feeling – about their kids, their pets, their careers, their marriages, as well as their money.
2. I mistakenly thought that being “helpful” in all areas of their life (which I had no business or expertise in) would be met with oodles of gratitude and appreciation.
3. I had no boundaries on my time. I was available 24/7. Any client’s minor issue took priority over my exercising, relaxing, recharging, and taking care of myself. Then I resented them, and myself, when I allowed interruptions.
4. I feared angry clients and sometimes thought their anger was my fault.
5. If one client (out of 200 at the time) was unhappy, my whole day was unhappy.
6. If I stood up for myself or my employer, I felt guilty.
7. When I made mistakes, I felt like a failure.
8. If I got a new client, I thought it was because of what my team and I did. If I lost a client, I thought it was because of who I was.

Most of my clients then were wonderful people whom I adored. Yet, with these beliefs and behaviors, I tended to attract more than a few with ugly issues – angry ones who found someone to take their blame; needy ones who tested limits of compassion and empathy; and narcissistic ones who targeted me as a people-pleasing victim. Those few often kept me from being the best I could be for the rest.

How do you know if a professional in your life has healthy client relationships? Try this quiz:

True or False? (The more “True” answers, the better.)

  1. From the first phone call or meeting, expectations about next steps, communication, and process were discussed and agreed upon.
  2. While they can be sensitive to my feelings, they know they are not responsible for them.
  3. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” They recognize happiness is their choice, and no one else’s for them. They seem to have made up their mind to be happy.
  4. They admit their mistakes, promptly apologize, and make it right.
  5. They take time to replenish and recharge themselves so that they can do the best job possible. They have boundaries around their time.
  6. They respect the boundaries I place around my own time.
  7. There is expression about what each of us wants and needs from the relationship, without guilt or apology. Both of us expect straight talk, and deliver it.
  8. They seem to have an attitude of gratitude for their life and the people in it.

After some excellent coaching, life experiences, and maturing, I committed to cultivating professional relationships that are healthy, serene, and drama-free, as much as possible. Now I have a more manageable number of relationships, and, to a person, they bring me great joy. While there is still room for improvement, it’s a long way from losing sleep over issues I couldn’t control. When I got busy at working on myself, I got better at working for others.

Holly Donaldson

Holly P. Donaldson, CFP® writes and consults on the psychology of money. Her fee-only, product-free financial planning practice focuses on increasing financial self-efficacy for those seeking a financial navigator to help them make good decisions. She is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch." With a fully virtual practice in Seminole, Florida, she primarily serves clients located in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater areas. Holly will also work with clients who are a good fit located elsewhere in the United States.

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