Whatever happened at home should stay at home, July 2, 2009 By Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

In this book, Sylvia Lafair explains how to break certain family patterns that limit career success by “claiming and taming the world of interpersonal relationships.” All people have problems at work and in their personal lives. They become upset, confused, and impatient. “Such frustrations are understandable. But what most of us…never really ‘get’ is why people believe the way they do, and what can be done about it. The problem isn’t always other people’s behavior, either. How many times have you regretted something you said or did at work and thought, ‘Why do I always do that?’ Ever want to help your employees find out what’s holding them back? Or holding you back?” Lafair poses other questions of comparable importance. Her purpose in this book is NOT to answer them. Rather, to help her reader answer them…and perhaps help others to answer the questions they have.

“This book helps you get to the bottom of workplace behaviors that simply don’t work for you or your organization. More important, it shows you exactly what you can do about them. You’ll learn practical steps you can take to improve your professional relationships and make you a better leader, a better mentor, a better teammate. You’ll gain a remarkable new understanding of yourself and your colleagues almost immediately.” What I realized almost immediately as I began to read the first chapter is that Lafair is demonstrating the importance of context and frame-of-reference by establishing them for the PatternAware™Leadership Model, an approach based on her more than 30 years of experience with both healthy and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships. Her observations and recommendations are thus supported by an abundance of empirical, real-world evidence. With rigor and eloquence, she explains how behavior patterns from a person’s history are intimately connected with every aspect of that person’s adult life, not least of all her or his work life. Much of her book is devoted to helping her reader to understand that, “although you can never fully leave your family behind, you don’t have to bring it to work.” That is frequently true but I have also observed, in my own behavior and others’, that it is possible to haul so-called “baggage” anywhere, into any relationship, without being aware of it. I’ve worked with people who have more hang-ups than a telemarketer.

Over the years, Lafair has identified “The 13 Most Common Patterns™ We Bring to Work” and they serve as a thematic infrastructure for her narrative. They are identified and discussed in Chapter Four. Here are three:

• The Persecutor: humiliates work associates with finger-pointing, demanding, judging, and blaming. The persecutor behaves like a bully and takes no prisoners. No resolutions occur because everyone is afraid to take him or her on.

• The Avoider: leaves the scene – whether physically or emotionally – when the going gets tough, so that the real concerns never are faced. Meetings get short-circuited or can=celled, projects are delayed, and resolution deteriorates into superficiality.

• The Denier: pretends everything is perfect, out of a desire to maintain the status quo. The denier will distort facts and statistics to keep situations from changing course, and only wants ‘yes people’ around. The denier’s mantra is ‘Problem? What problem?’”

Lafair rigorously examines a total of thirteen of these disruptive characters: Persecutor, Avoider, and Denier as well as Super-Achiever, Rebel, Procrastinator, Clown, Victim, Rescuer, Drama Queen or King, Martyr, Pleaser, and Splitter. Her insights help to explain recent Gallup research indicating that only 29% of the U.S. workforce is positively engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% is passively disengaged. That is, they are going through the motions, doing only what they must, "mailing it in," coasting, etc. What about the other 16%? They are "actively disengaged" in that they are doing whatever they can to undermine their employer's efforts to succeed. Supervisors who read this book may not have the same percentages among those for whom they are directly responsible the workplace in which they are involved but presumably they do have a number of underperforming workers as well as several toxic workers. Lafair can help those supervisors to increase the number of direct-reports who are positively engaged.

I especially appreciate her provision of a set of “Takeaways” of key points at the conclusion of each chapter. This reader-friendly device will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of those key points later. I also appreciate her skillful use of another device, “Sound Bites,” in Chapter Seven. The table provides a list of sound bites to consider when beginning to practice listening for patterns. This material (Pages 176-182) all by itself is worth much than the cost of the book if (huge “if”) if applied effectively whenever appropriate. Aptly enough, the title of the final chapter is “Connecting the Dots” and that is precisely what must be done when sorting through the details of one’s history (especially the childhood years) and correlating them with one’s behavior, especially in interpersonal relationships at work.

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith identifies as “20 Transactional Flaws” that are barriers to effective communication. For example, #8: Negativity or “Let me explain why that won’t work” that indicates a need to share negative thoughts even when not asked for an opinion. (Note: Masters of this tactic often praise an idea first, and then play the devil’s advocate.) I mention this portion of Goldsmith’s book because he makes a very important point: many of those who possess these flaws and demonstrate them constantly are unaware of them, or at least are unaware of their impact. This is relevant to one of Lafair’s most valuable insights: You cannot address what you are not aware of, much less respond effectively to what you do not understand. The only way to identify and then understand the various patterns one has now is to explore the history of one’s family patterns (the subject of Chapter Five) by connecting the dots throughout that history with one’s current circumstances. In this context, if the reader is an explorer, then Sylvia Lafair is the reader’s guide. As for the map, I highly recommend the PatternAware™Leadership Model.

Conscious, healthy relationships, July 24, 2009
By Peter Vajda "Peter Vajda, Ph.D., C.P.C." (Atlanta, GA)
SpiritHeart Integrative Coaching, Atlanta, GA

Socrates said it best, "know thyself." So does Sylvia Lafair. With "Don't Bring it to Work-Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" Sylvia Lafair gets to the heart of the conflict matter - the underlying dynamics of our own internal conflict and our interpersonal conflicts at work (albeit her book applies easily to our life at home, at play and in all relationship). Like it or not, believe it or not, we bring our family to work - our biography and biology. And it's our family history that causes us unhappiness, upset, frustration and conflict in our relationships. This awareness is the first step towards healing.

Through a guided process, Lafair supports you to explore your history of growing up - people, events, circumstances and places - to discover conflicts and tensions that led to reactive behavioral and thinking patterns which adversely affect "who I am" and "how I am" as you show up in your world at work. This level of self-awareness, which most self-help and change books seldom broach, is a welcome approach that not only has great merit, but includes an exploratory process that leads one to discover honest, "root cause" elements of folks' personal issues, baggage and stuff - the weak foundation underlying most failed relationships.

A therapist and change facilitator, Lafair presents 13 of the more common, unconscious and "invisible" dominant self-limiting, self-destructive and self-sabotaging behavior patterns (e.g., the persecutor, the avoider, the denier, the clown, the super-achiever, the rescuer, the drama king/queen, the pleaser, the martyr, the splitter, the rebel, and the martyr) we took on as children. Through her stories, anecdotes, and observations, Lafair shows how these patterns leak out in our workplace interactions and interrelationships. To the point, when we are operating from these patterns, we are really children in adult bodies wearing adult clothes and there's no wonder we don't get along in the "playground" called work.

Our transformation into our True, Real and Authentic self can only happen when we (1) discover these patterns; (2) own them: and (3) transform them into their polar opposites. This book takes us through a guided, well-designed three-step change process.

The book includes a number of tools and exercises to raise the reader's level of self-awareness - always the first step on the journey of personal change. The book operates as a mirror for the reader to truly "see" their self - uncomfortable warts and all - not to serve to "beat one's self up" - but to serve one's healing process.

On a practical level, this book is a terrific hip-pocket guide to improving workplace relationships (and relationships in other areas of your life) as it provides step-by-step action plans/suggestions to move from your "shadow side" to your authentic self, the self of open, honest, conscious and healthy relationships.

The first step in the change process is "unconscious incompetence" - we don't know what we don't know. Most folks, who experience failed relationships, do so because they walk through their relationships with blinders, completely unaware of their incompetence. Lafair moves the reader to the level of "conscious incompetence" (learning what patterns are causing conflict), "conscious competence" (what to do and how to "be" to positively and effectively change my interpersonal dynamics) and "unconscious competence" (steps to help me create new patterned ways of be-ing over time).

This book will supplement my methodologies in the way I support clients in my coaching work to deal with unhealthy and conflictual situations at work and at home.

All of life is relationship. Lafair's book is a must for those who have experienced failed relationship after failed relationship and want to take an honest journey to both understanding "why" and then doing what it takes to create healthy relationships. Too, I recommend this book for coaches and others who work with others at work, at home and at play to create healthy, conscious and self-responsible relationships.

Curiosity Leads to Cultural Wisdom, August 24, 2009
By Cathy M. Ozovek "Cathy Ozovek" (Pennsylvania)

I was curious about this book because of the title. I often say about my co-workers “I wish they wouldn't bring their personal problems to work." So of course, the title grabbed me. I learned pretty quickly the reasons why we have so much trouble separating who we are at home from who we are at work. What is even more interesting, is the fact that it is impossible to separate ourselves if we want to be authentic.

This book was eye opening. I had always been taught that to be professional it was important to keep my real feelings to myself and smile, smile a lot. Now I realize that it is certainly good to smile and be cooperative. It is also even more important to learn to tell the truth. As Dr. Lafair points out in the book, telling the truth is an art that takes lots of practice, and that "telling the truth is not the same as spilling your guts."

I wish I had read this book earlier in my career. I believe we all need practice in the truth-telling area. I wonder what the workplace would be like if we all felt safe enough to talk with each other honestly and really listened to one another. This book has given me the courage to talk with my co-workers in a new way. Now I understand how to be a resource and friend when they come to work with difficulties. I don't judge them the way I used to and for some reason we all seem to be getting along better. Or maybe, I am the one who has changed!

Accurate Assessment: Embarrassment > "AHA!" > Restructure, June 10, 2009 By Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) -

Sylvia Lafair has not only the background of knowledge and professional experience to writing this excellent book DON'T BRING IT TO WORK, she also is a solid writer who understands how to capture attention and maintain interest in both self-improvement and understanding as well as how to take the information gleaned from this book to the workplace. In short, this is not only a sound and enjoyable read of a book; it is also one of the better 'fix the problems at work' books on the shelves today.

Lafair's background as a Family Therapist is evident on every page. But what makes reading her introduction to the personality idiosyncrasies each of us has as a result of both our immediate family and our upbringing so pertinent is her mastery of finding just those character traits each of us possesses and leads us into the workplace where we not only identify our own 'role playing' but also the tropes of those around us. What then? Once the personality types dragged as baggage from the home to work are identified, Lafair addresses the means of how to deal with malfunctioning personality disorders in a way that benefits not only the 'person with problem', but also with the entire work 'family'. Observe. Identify. Alter. Change.

For this reader the magnetism of Lafair's book is discovering our own personality traits that have always affected the way in which we function. At first, identifying ourselves as either a 'victim', and 'avoider' or 'persecutor' etc. is embarrassing. But Lafair dives into reconstruction right away, provides insight and workbook sessions, and in the end everyone who reads this book will find a happier adjustment to the place where we spend the better part of our day - WORK! Read her book then consider giving copies to pertinent people where you work. Change IS possible.


This book has answered so many questions for me. I am in a highly competitive field full of super achievers and the atmosphere is often not very trusting. I often think people keep information to themselves to use for their own success rather than be a team player (even though that's what the organization states it wants).

Now I have a better understanding of why it is so hard for these folks to collaborate and it makes me fell less threatened. I see how many came from families where they were expected to produce above and beyond at all costs.
I now am determined to find ways for us to work together more effectively and that has given me confidence.
This book belongs in every organization so that we can all change from the fear based patterns we learned as kids to ones that open up better lines of communication. I strongly recommend.

Author's Bio: 

Sylvia Lafair, PhD, a business leadership and communications expert is President of Creative Energy Options Inc. (CEO), a global consulting company optimizing workplace relationships. Her book “Don’t Bring It to Work” (Jossey Bass) has won multiple best business book awards and she is often quoted in leadership blogs as well as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Fortune magazines.

She has years of experience with all levels of management as an executive coach, conflict resolver, and team builder. Her retreats for women in business are in high demand based on her book “GUTSY: How Women Leaders Make Change”.

Her state of the art program, “Total Leadership Connections”, now in its tenth year has transformed the lives of thousands by showing the power of increased workplace productivity utilizing her “results through relationships” principles. She delights audiences with her storytelling ability and capacity to make sense out of office politics.

Purchase a copy of her book today!