Karen Horney, Anxiety and Successful Managers

Karen Horney was a well-known psychologist. She came up with theory of neurosis. Anxiety affects every person, right from birth esp. the way our mother treats us, parenting style etc. To cope with anxiety people develop coping mechanisms given below…

  1. Move toward people– try to please people by seeking their approval, look for partner who will love them and solve their problems. These are also called compliance needs.
  2. Move against people– try to control others, indulge in manipulative behaviour, try to promote self, seek limelight and exploit others for own benefit. These are called aggression needs
  3. Move away from people– try to become less dependent on others (try to be self-sufficient), avoid tasks that require interaction with people, live life within self- defined boundaries. These are called detachment needs.

All of us use all these mechanisms in our daily life- we sometimes please people, sometimes we withdraw, sometimes promote ourselves, but some people exclusively use one of them ex. they will always try to manipulate others and seek limelight and this where they move from normal to neurotic.

Three good tests to understand our inclination are Enneagram Test, Hogan Development System and Horney-Coolidge Type Indicator. All of them are influenced by Karen’s three coping mechanisms of moving towards, moving away and moving against people.

So which types are more successful in corporate world? Research has shown that most successful managers belong to category – moving against people. The famous (or is it infamous?) dark triad lies in this category. Dark triad consisting  of Narcissism, Machiavellian and Psychopathy is combination of high self-esteem, self-promotion and use of power and exploitation of people, for own benefit.

The other two types i.e. those moving towards people (pleasing people and seeking approval of boss) and those moving away from people (“invisible” type) are not likely to succeed.




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