Relational Dynamics: Over Functioner – Under Functioner

The Over/ Under Functioner roles correlate to how individuals address and respond to stress. When faced with a stressful situation are you more likely to collapse and wait for someone else to handle things or do you become hyper busy and organised?

It is quite possible that you have had experiences of responding both ways as you can be quite fluid in these roles. For example you may find yourself in Over Function when responding to situations at work and then find that you have taken up the Under Function role in your romantic relationship letting your romantic partner carry the load.

The Over Functioner

The Over Functioner when dealing with stressful circumstances will increase their busyness and become more rigid/structured in an attempt to settle the space back down. This is not the same as Over Achiever as you can be chronically busy and still not achieve exceptional results.


The Pay Off

The benefit for an individual when they engage in Over Function is that they give themselves the illusion of being in control, they are seen as the ‘together one’ and they have a feeling of being needed.



Feelings of resentment and pressure can build over time for someone who spends significant time in the Over Function role. An individual operating out of this space for an extended period runs the risk of pushing themselves beyond their own systemic capacity. The result of this can be emotional, physical or mental shutdown. A simple example is the person who pushes themselves till they get sick, thus swinging into under function.

The Under Functioner


The Under Functioner when dealing with stressful circumstances will go into shut down, avoidance or simply look for an Over Funtioner to arrive on the scene and sort everything out. The person in the Under Functioner role will struggle to make head way on any tasks or projects they are undertaking. In romantic relationships for example they may sit on the couch and expect that their partner will take care of the day to day aspects of the household.

This is not to say that an Under Functioner is necessarily lazy or lacking drive it is just that it seems they can’t get anything to work out and constantly require rescuing.


The Pay Off

The benefit for an individual when they engage in Under Function is that they can avoid the hard and annoying ‘stuff’ of life. They are able to abdicate responsibility to others and have others solve their problems.



The person who spends extended periods in Under Function becomes highly vulnerable and reliant on others. They are often exposed when they are required to step up and struggle to take control of their own lives.

The roles carry fundamental challenges however one of the major flash points is when individuals have been relating to each other through these roles and suddenly a switch occurs. It can be extremely confronting for relational dynamics when the Over Functioner for one reason or another collapses into Under Functioner and then the Under Functioner is forced into the Over Function role with no idea potentially on how to fill the others shoes.

The two roles operate in polarity to one another and so individuals can have dramatic swings from one end of the spectrum to the other. The aim is to avoid the Over Function – Under Function Dynamic altogether and focus on moderate healthy function.

These dynamics can be complex and quite loaded however this information provides you with another way in which to view human dynamics.