People & Human Resources

Why is everyone behaving badly?

Eve Ash /

Some business owners and managers are constantly disappointed by the negative attitudes of some of their team members. Many service staff get frustrated by their angry or moody customers.

The first place to look when those we deal with are not delivering the right attitudes is within ourselves.

The reciprocity urge

There is a basic law in social psychology that says that how you treat someone will strongly affect how they respond. Behaviour you send out will often come back to you – like a boomerang. This instinct is called the “reciprocity urge”. We get angry with those who are angry at us; we feel warm and caring and want to help someone who has been kind and helpful to us.

As leaders or service providers our behaviour has a significant impact on the behaviour of those around us. Many people simply see difficult customers, or unmotivated staff, or uncooperative team members, or uncommunicative managers, but do not realise that many of these behaviors, in others, are responses to how they themselves are behaving in the first place.

Too many people see themselves as the hapless victims of difficult people and situations around them. They fail to realise that their own behavior plays a major part in creating those difficult people and situations. The ‘boomerangs’ they receive are the same ones that they threw earlier. Rather than complain about the behaviour of others, look at your own behaviour first.

Increase self-awareness

But how do you increase self-awareness? Ask for feedback from those who work with you. Or use a 360-degree tool. The discrepancies between how a person rates their skills and how others rate the same skills will reveal opportunities for development.

Asking for feedback from others in a casual and informal manner can also be useful. Even just exploring the possibility that how you behave may be influencing how others behave is a big step e.g. “Do you think it is possible that Charlene is acting like that because of something I am doing?” Or ask Charlene directly!

So you can choose your mood and behaviour, and exert a strong influence on the behaviour you get back. If you are a business owner or manager, care about your people and show it – and they will be more likely to care about you and the business. If you want people to listen to you, ensure you listen to them. If you don’t, they won’t. If you want your customers to be polite and not rude, you need to make sure you are polite, even if they are venting. If you want others to be supportive and cooperative, make sure you set the right example.

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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