Overcoming negative behaviours

Personality clashes and interpersonal conflicts waste a huge amount of time and energy. Here’s how to solve them.


Personality clashes, communication breakdowns and interpersonal conflicts waste a huge amount of time and energy. Common negative behaviours are usually in the form of:

  • Complaints
  • Resistance
  • Disruptions
  • Demands
  • Aggression


This is what you might be hearing:

  • This place is so boring
  • He’s so pathetic – never makes a decision
  • You’re not listening to me
  • I’m not going to make this change – it’s all wrong
  • I’ve really had it with your incompetence
  • We’re never going to finish
  • Management sucks


So what are some good techniques for dealing with some of these behaviours?


Give feedback to complainers


One of the most important skills you need is to give another person feedback on their negative behaviour. Some people get very worried about giving feedback, but there is a simple formula you can use.


Tell the complainer that “when you complain about co-workers, and talk about how boring it is at work and how bad the managers are… I feel annoyed and frustrated and it breaks my concentration and is demotivating for me and others. For example at the team meeting this morning you ……..”


And “in the future how can we change this so it is not an issue….” or “So, what I’d like you to do in the future is ……”


Complainers like to interrupt and argue when you try to give them feedback. They want to justify their behaviour and challenge you and keep on complaining. So you need to be able to control the interruptions so you can get your message across.


You may have to regain control by saying something like ”please let me finish” or “it’s important that I explain this, so please wait till I have finished”, or even use some non-verbal behaviours such as putting up your hand.


Overcome resistance by finding and meeting the hidden need


When you try to push someone who’s resisting it can make them resist more and really dig their heels in. Resistance is usually a response to change. People resist change for a reason.


So what you can do is try to uncover the hidden need. They may have some need that is not being met, so you should try to identify that need and if possible meet it (within reason). For example, the need may be for recognition of expertise, or a need to be in control. Try and to identify that need or needs and to some extent satisfy them.


How do you find out a hidden need? People often give clues by what they say. Listen carefully. Most people don’t because they are too busy reacting to the resistance and trying to push the person into acceptance.


Learn to ignore disruptive behaviour


People find it very difficult to get their work done when they get constantly interrupted or distracted by others. But there’s a very important psychological principle that everyone should know – when you reward behaviour, it tends to happen again.


The challenge here is to stop rewarding the disruptive behaviour by reacting to it. Just don’t encourage it. Ignore it. Keep focused on your work and your end results… not the behaviour that is disruptive. Every time you let someone interrupt, you reward that behaviour and it will happen again. The skill is to stop rewarding the undesired behaviour.


Negotiate and seek commitment to overcome demands


Demanding behaviour occurs when someone is unreasonable in their expectations or inconsiderate of others. And when somebody is unreasonably demanding you have to negotiate and seek commitment. Negotiate how you are going to work together in the future and seek a commitment to change. This may need to be done more than once to get the message across.


Overcome aggression by managing your own emotions


You might try any of the above techniques but they are all aimed at changing the person exhibiting the negative behaviour. Unfortunately you can’t always get the other person to change.


Sometimes the only thing you can change is yourself, and your own reaction. You have to learn to manage your own reactions! You can stay calm, not get upset or defensive and reduce your stress level in the process.


So let’s create more pleasant, comfortable and productive workplaces.




Play Click here to see the video Overcoming Negative Behaviours




Eve Ash is a psychologist and co-producer with Peter Quarry of Overcoming Negative Behaviours (from the Communication Essentials Video Series) www.7dimensions.com.au


Click here for more Eve Ash blogs



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: support@smartcompany.com.au or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.