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Codependency, The White Lotus, and Your Career

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Jennifer Coolidge The White Lotus wearing pink tunic and headscarf.
Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya McQuoid in The White Lotus, Season 2. Photo credit: Fabio Lovino for HBO

The storyline and excellent acting of White Lotus, coupled with the exotic Sicilian scenery was compelling and brought viewers back to Season 2 of the show. While all the couples vacationing in Sicily exhibited codependent behaviors, the character Tanya McQuoid's codependent behaviors were the easiest to observe. So what do codependency, The White Lotus, and your career have in common? Perhaps more than you think.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a description of one of the many types of unhealthy relationships. Two people are involved: the codependent person and their partner. Not restricted to romantic partnerships, such relationships can also be with a family member or friend. The two key issues in such a relationship are always:

  1. There is no clear boundary between the two individuals.

  2. The relationship is one-sided. This means that one person takes care of the other person's needs to such a level that they neglect their own needs or aspirations. This one-sided relationship can lead to low self-esteem and emotional or even physical abuse — or both.

Symptoms of Codependency:

Symptoms can differ but commonly include:

  • reliance on other people's opinions to feel better due about oneself due to very low self-esteem

  • excusing or tolerating abusive behavior

  • avoiding conflict

  • feeling insecure within the relationship

  • fixing everything to the point of self-neglect

  • clingy behavior

  • significant fear of being alone or having a relationship end

  • blaming yourself for other people's problems

  • denial that anything is really wrong with the relationship

Tanya was Codependent

The only female character to span both seasons, Tanya, expertly played by Jennifer Coolidge, exhibits all the symptoms listed above. Repeatedly, we see her as dependent on others' opinions and caregiving for reassurance; tolerating negative behaviors in her romantic relationship; avoiding conflict in her romantic relationship to "keep the peace"; insisting on having her personal assistant in Sicily on what would have been a special trip for her and her husband (clingy behavior); fearing being alone (and due to her age, likely fearing limited options), and mostly denying (until the very end) that anything is actually wrong with her relationship or with her wealthy new "friends." These are among the many traits and actions of a codependent person.

Codependency tends to start in childhood when a child is put into certain situations: caretaking of a parent or having had overprotective parents or having been neglected. It is very common in children of alcoholics or drug addicts. When alcohol, drugs, or other addictions are at play, a child blames themselves and believes they are responsible for the dysfunction. They internalize the chaos because they are not allowed to talk about their situation and they can develop the need to control things," says Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA. Tanya's character mentioned a difficult childhood relationship with her mother (Season 1), hence the likely source of dysfunction in Tanya's childhood.

Codependency and Your Career

"Everything in your personal life affects everything at the office." Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA

"Everything in your personal life affects everything at the office. Codependent traits are brought to a working relationship and can hamper a career," says Siegert. In a work setting, it is common to see a codependent person exhibiting:

  • an amplified level of imposter syndrome

  • self-sabotage

  • hypercritical behavior toward others

  • a lack of motivation to support supervisees

  • overcautious tendencies

  • a need for control or rigidity

  • strong emotional reactions to everything

  • anxious or fearful behaviors

  • difficulty identifying their feelings or what they need

  • the belief that they have no power

  • avoidance in seeking professional guidance of any kind because they believe they know what to do

Evaluation by a supervisor can be especially distressing to a codependent person as they can tend to view criticisms as a threat of being fired in the future (which is really a fear of abandonment transported to the work setting). Often, such a person when passed up for promotion will work harder than before and will begin to seek emotional fulfillment from their work. They choose to make their work a key component of their identity.

Additionally, when a person with codependent traits is in a hiring position and forms a team, they can unconsciously form one that mimics their family dynamic--the source of their codependency. This does not necessarily bring out full creativity, innovation, or energized thinking.

The overall work environment result is that a codependent person stays too long in a place that is stagnant. As a typical coping mechanism, they ignore any sense of shame, fear, or anxiety and just stay within the inertia of their environment, thinking that working harder will solve the issues in their career. In this sense, they spin their wheels.

"For Executive Coaches, codependency is a common topic with clients. There are a lot of forces at play. Validation of the situation, offering a different point of view, and helping with a new perspective, are some of the main topics to expect when working with an executive coach and this matter

arises," says Siegert. "Sometimes, you just need to be curious and explore some topics, and then chart a new course with a navigator that knows those waters."

To speak with Beth about codependency, your career, or any other topics, along with how executive coaching works, schedule a free 30-minute call to get acquainted. You can do so by sending an email to: or simply clicking the button below:

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