Negative Behaviors

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

What is an extreme negative temperament?


We all have the ability to irritate others on occasion. An extreme negative temperament would be connected to behavior that is over the top, sustained and sticks out like a sore thumb.

It is a characteristic of the fourth factor I look for in candidate selection for a role.

  1. Capability
  2. Skill (Technical Knowledge and Practiced Performance)
  3. Interest, Passion, Value for the Work
  4. Reasonable Behavior

As a part of Reasonable Behavior, I look for both positive habits (repeated behaviors that contribute to effectiveness) and the absence of an extreme negative temperament.

I see myself as pioneering, competitive, assertive and confident. However, under moderate pressure, people have described me as demanding, egotistical and aggressive. Under extreme pressure, I might be seen as abrasive, arbitrary and controlling. If I were, indeed, abrasive, arbitrary and controlling, all the time, to everyone, that would likely have an impact on my effectiveness in most roles where I had to work with others.

Most of us contain bits and pieces of traits like this and under pressure or stress, those traits tend to emerge. As we feel this pressure and become aware of our response, we can, intentionally, temper those behaviors, moving away from behaviors that decrease our effectiveness and moving toward behaviors that increase our effectiveness.

Some, few people, however, move toward those extreme negative behaviors faster, stay there longer and may not be aware of the impact of those behaviors on their effectiveness. This behavior (the underlying temperament) is typically not coachable, and working with a person like this is usually outside the bounds of prudent managerial time. As managers, we are NOT psychotherapists. Our role is to assist the organization to accomplish goals and tasks.

As managers, we deal with people problems all the time. As managers, it is our role to support our teams and coach our team members to be more effective in the work that we do together. When behaviors escalate beyond that (and you will know by the churning in your stomach) it’s time to seek assistance and counsel from your own manager. That’s what they are there for, to bring value to your decision making and problem solving.

One thought on “Negative Behaviors

  1. michael cardus

    This is a great question and Tom you answered it well.
    Intuitively we know what is extreme temperament of as Jaques calls it -T…
    Bob Sutton wrote an entire book about it “the no asshole rule”…
    And -T is also noticed when someone is in a role that does not fit. They are either above or below the capacity that is required. Sudden changes in temperament that conjoin with a promotion is a sure sign that this person was not, at that time to proper fit


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