Weave’s 2020 BGS Webinar Series

About the speaker

At the 2020 Business Growth Summit, we brought in Kristy Gaisford, an individual and relationship therapist, to discuss how to build a healthy company culture. Kristy has a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and owns a private practice in Salt Lake City.

Kristy is certified in Relational Life Therapy, a method developed by family therapist Terry Real. She provides therapeutic interventions for patients and families at Intermountain Healthcare and Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake. She also regularly conducts seminars on healthy self-esteem, relationships, and how to live a healthier life.

? Webinar | Creating a delightful workplace ?

Happiness in the business world

Kristy starts out her presentation by talking about the impact relationships, including work relationships, have on our happiness and well-being. People want to be appreciated, they want to believe that their job matters, and they want to make a difference in the world. The happiest people in organizations give each other equal time to express ideas and understand the roles of their teammates.

What gets in the way of happiness in the workplace? Oftentimes, Kristy says, it’s due to the fact that we aren’t taught how to have healthy self-esteem and boundaries. We are all human beings, full of flaws and egos. While businesses can have statistical goals and performance-driven objectives, they also need to promote the sort of interpersonal communication and relationships that promote healthy self-esteem and good boundaries.

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The relationship grid

In her therapy work, Kristy frequently relies on the relationship grid developed by Terry Real. One of the axes in this grid is self-esteem, and the other is boundaries. When we get too far away from the convergence of these two axes, we start to drift into unhealthy relationships.


According to Kristy, healthy self-esteem allows us to value ourselves the same way we would anybody else. It lets you accept yourself as you are. She sees this sort of equality in how patients are treated in emergency rooms. They’re triaged by need, regardless of whether they’re homeless or extremely rich.

Unfortunately, our society doesn’t really teach us this type of self-esteem. We’re often caught up basing our opinions of ourselves on metrics like popularity on social media. Healthy self-esteem, on the other hand, helps us accept our flaws, remember our strengths, and aspire to be better.

There are two extremes that humans gravitate toward when they’re exhibiting bad self-esteem. One pole is shame. Shame is the feeling that you’re a fraud. It makes you question your worth at your job and causes self-contempt.

The other extreme is grandiosity. When someone gets a promotion instead of us, grandiosity is a response to the shame we experience. It causes us to insult and look down on others. It’s the voice inside your head that says, “That person only got promoted because they’re a brown-noser.”


Kristy describes two types of boundaries that are required to maintain healthy relationships. The first is an internal boundary that protects the world from you. When people get upset to the point that they throw temper tantrums or otherwise lash out, they lose this internal boundary. Unhealthy self-expression is a hallmark of bad internal boundaries.

External boundaries protect us from the world. If taken too far, such as in the case of an insult or another sort of verbal attack, these external boundaries create an impenetrable buffer that isolates us.

Victor Frankl said, “Between the stimulus and the response, there is a space.” Boundaries are an essential part of having healthy relationships. The question is how we establish healthy boundaries without becoming boundaryless or walled-off.

The four quadrants

The two axes of self-esteem and boundaries create the four distinct quadrants of the relationship grid. When a conflict triggers a fight or flight response in the workplace, it’s easy to drift into one of these quadrants. Kristy describes each of these quadrants with the hope that, should we slide out of stable self-esteem and boundaries, we can identify problematic behavior and return to a healthy center.

Boundaryless grandiosity

Sliding into this quadrant can lead to instances of abuse and even violence. An out-of-control ego without boundaries is dangerous. Coworkers end up walking on eggshells around someone experiencing grandiosity with no boundaries.

Boundaryless shame

People that have shame but no boundaries become needy, desperate, and even manipulative. They tend to try to force other people to make them feel better about themselves. It’s natural to want to feel love and acceptance, especially when you need a job to subsist. However, moving into this quadrant burdens those around you and exhausts your work relationships.

Walled-off grandiosity

Those experiencing grandiosity with heightened external boundaries come across as passive aggressive. They exhibit indifference to whatever’s happening around them in the workplace. Their general vibe is that their coworkers’ and clients’ opinions aren’t important to them. This quadrant is seen more in larger corporations, where it’s easy to compartmentalize and ignore your fellow employees.

Walled-off shame

When we wall-off our shame, it usually derives from feelings of “why bother?” and “what’s the point?” While people displaying signs of walled-off grandiosity seem passive aggressive, those dealing with walled-off shame are commonly seen as depressive. They fixate on their mistakes and can’t recognize what they’re doing well. These types of unhealthy relationships lead to a high turnover rate.

Healthy work relationships

Kristy teaches individuals, couples, and groups about the four quadrants to assist them in figuring out their own dysfunctional behaviors. Anytime we go into one of the quadrants, she says, it takes a toll on our human relationships. We constantly need to be doing whatever it takes to stay centered.

In all of your business relationships, remember you’re talking to another human being with their own specific set of flaws. Leaders should focus on the positive as they meet with those they supervise. Ask your employees to talk first, and repair relationships by apologizing, showing humility and vulnerability.