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Two unexpected ways how love can create tensions at the workplace

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

love can create tensions at the workplace

As a CEO or team leader, you want to understand what’s happening when weird stuff starts to happen. Perhaps you have been in a place where you see that some tensions are up, but the reasons said don’t feel the actual causes.

Here are 2 interesting scenarios.

1. Falling in love

When a team member falls in love with someone (irrespective if he/or she is in a relationship or not, if acts out the new feelings or not), certain dynamics start to take place:

  • Falling in love is a projection of a part of oneself onto the beloved person. In Jungian terms - the projection of that part of the soul that is called anima (for men) or animus (for women).

  • Now, the person who is in love acts as a semi-person because part of his being is not at his disposal for a while. Sometimes he will fly (when he can connect with the projection), sometimes he will be quite down (when the person who wears the projection seems unavailable). Ok, this part is fairly simple. But what happens next…

  • To sustain the projection, the person who’s in love (let’s call - the lover) needs to perceive the love object (the loved) as an ideal human. For this to happen, the lover unconsciously uses several defence mechanisms (idealization, splitting, projection, displacement) through which the lover becomes blind to the loved person’s shadow aspects.

  • The lover splits off the part that is unacceptable in the idealized loved person. And then projects this unacceptable part onto someone else. And with that, it displaces the anger that is directed at the unacceptable part.

  • As a result, the lover starts to get irritated or even starts hating someone else disproportionally.

An example:

  • John falls in love with Ann

  • John becomes less reasonable at work as he’s only partially himself, while in the “in love” stage

  • John idealises Ann and projects the split off unacceptable Ann's part onto Elsa

  • John starts to get disproportionally irritated by his coworker Elsa

  • This tension becomes tangible in the office and goes on for as long as the “in love” stage lengths.

2. Challenges in the relationship

Let’s take such an example:

  • Eva is married to Ron. Ron is an abusive alcoholic.

  • Thus, Eva is a “victim” and Ron is a “persecutor”.

  • To justify her staying in a relationship with Ron, Eva unconsciously idealizes him. Again, the same chain reaction takes place: idealization > splitting > projection & displacement.

  • However, in this case, an additional dynamic takes place. As Eva cannot express her aggression and angst at home, she uses other social groups for this goal as an absorbent for her emotions.

  • What this means practically - Eva is grumpy, annoyed, and outright hostile towards some of her colleagues and friends without an objective reason.

What to do in such situations?

In the ideal world, as a leader, you could ask questions and point out your findings and suggestions to the people concerned. And then they will change. Ok, it’s more of a fairy tale world.

In the real world, you can start by changing yourself. If you perceive such behaviours around you (e.g. unreasonable irritation, hostility), then ask yourself:

  1. Why do I need such mirrors in my life now? What is going on in my own life?

  2. Am I idealizing someone (A)?

  3. Am I making someone else (B) pay the price so that I can keep idealizing A?

  4. If yes, what is the reality about A? And about B? (switch off black and white thinking)

  5. Could I be displacing my anger from the actual root relationship to an absorbent social group?


Farhad is the CEO of Cocoon.

When there is a challenge at the business level Cocoon Program supports founders:

➝ To find the link between the business challenge and their personalities and personal challenges;

➝ To bring forth personal changes that, as a result, create changes in the business.

Let's talk and see if we can support you to solve your biggest business challenge.




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