Human behavior, whether that of a child or a grown employees, always stems from a goal or purpose. Starting as a thought, the behavior is further enforced by triggers of the emotions and senses. This behavior, when it is “good”, gets us rewards and recognition, while on the other hand, negative, or “bad”, behavior creates a strain on a relationship, sometimes fatally.
If you were to look at it closely, the misconduct of some employees closely resembles that of a child’s misbehavior while he is seeking his mother’s attention and not receiving it. Remember the antics of a young child in the supermarket who had a “Terrible Two’s” tantrum because his mother won’t but him the candy or toy he wanted? Well, it is my opinion that the goal behind the employee’s purposeful misconduct is to seek attention, in one way or another.
“Every behavior, good or bad, has a goal behind it.”
Looking at the goals that triggers misconduct, let’s begin by looking at the primary misconduct, that of attention-seeking. Behavioral studies show that the desire for attention is universal in all people, regardless of age, color, language, culture, etc. People tend to seek attention in positive and useful ways; but if they can’t get it that way, they will seek attention in negative and useless ways.
Turning the Negative into a Positive To become effective in helping negative attention-seekers, we must first change our response to them by showing them that they can be accepted as a useful and contribution member of the family or organization. We do this effectively when we show them that they achieve significance through their positive and useful contributions rather than through they useless bids for attention or service. In order to focus on their constructive behavior, we must either ignore their misbehavior or pay attention to it in ways they don’t expect.
Caution: Attention should never be given on demand, even for positive acts, because doing so reinforces their inappropriate desire for attention.
* Instead of reinforcing their negative and untrue belief that they don’t belong unless they are the center of attention, help them develop positive feelings about themselves, their abilities, and their contributions.
Who’s Your Daddy?
Next set of misbehaviors are those of the power-seekers who feel that they are significant only when they are bossing (bullying?) people around. They tend to do what they want, when they want, and how they want despite the rules, regulations, or policies. Even when their parents or supervisors succeed in subduing them, the victory is only temporary. The argument may be won, but the relationship is lost – maybe permanently.
On the other hand, sometimes the defying child or employee may seem to be complying, but they are doing so in their own way, in their own time, and at their own speed, all contrary to the rules, regulations, or policies. This artificial obedience is known as “defiant compliance”. If this struggle for power continues and the power-seeker comes to feel that they cannot defeat their parents or supervisor, they may trade-in their desire for power for their next misconduct weaponry, that of subtle revenge.
* When dealing with power-seekers, refrain from getting angry, from “blowing your top”, and disengage from the power struggle by refusing to hold a no-win conversation. After arranging an appointment to meet with them when they calm down, turn your back and walk away. (After all, it does take two to tango, doesn’t it?)
When Getting Mad Is Getting Even or Stopping the Madness
The revenge-seekers are somewhat paranoid in their thinking, in convincing themselves that the world is out to get them, in believing that they have no significance unless they are hurting others, and in finding their belonging by being cruel in their relationships. Unfortunately, they trigger a downwards spiraling chain of events. Their revengeful acts, when discovered, deeply hurt their parents or supervisors, causing them to want to retaliate. The revenge-seekers then respond to the counterattacks by seeking further revenge, either by intensifying their misbehavior or by selecting another item from their weaponry inventory.
* To be of help to the revenge-seekers, train yourself to avoid retaliation, at all cost. As difficult as it may seem, train yourself to improve your relationship with the revenge-seeker by remaining calm and showing them goodwill. Be prepared to the unexpected: If the war of revenge continues despite your attempts to defuse it, the revenge-seeker may come to feel completely defeated and may give all attempts to become a contributing member. They may even turn their feelings inwards by displaying manipulation as their next weapon of choice.
To Suck Up or Seek Out? That Is the Question.
Manipulators, because they tend to feel inadequate to interact appropriately in a relationship, may display feigned inadequacies or disabilities. Rather than come right out with their wishes, wants, and desires, they will find elaborate ways to get others to do something for them. They become con men and women. To them they are finding the “easy and sure way” to get what their want by lying, cheating, overcommitting, supercharming, and “gently” aggressive.
* To help the manipulator convert this misconduct, train yourself to eliminate criticism, and focus, instead, on their assets, strengths, and abilities. Look for ways to help them, as I like to call it, “maximize their potential”.
Turning Misconduct Into Super Performance
Remember that all misbehavior and misconduct, even appropriate bids for attention, stems from discouragement. Discouraged people lack the courage to behave in an active, productive, and constructive manner. Their misbehavior does not become evident unless the manipulator perceives a real or imagined loss of status. Whatever goal or purpose the manipulation serves, it is done in the belief that only in this way can they have a place in the family or organization.
In your relationship with your child or employees, remember that their behavior and intentions towards you will change only when you change your approach. Although you do not cause them to misbehave, you can reinforce and encourage their misbehavior by reacting in ways they expect. Therefore, concentrate your efforts on changing your behavior if you want them to change theirs.