Leadership Mindset Shift #7: Behind Most Negative Behaviors Are Unmet Positive Needs

Posted on April 19, 2023 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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Are your leaders skilled at recognizing negative attention and intervening positively, or do they get mired down in power struggles and miscommunication?

When children misbehave, we often explain it as “negative attention.” It’s remarkable how much energy and effort children will put forth trying to get attention. Many times this negative behavior only works against them, resulting in punishment, power struggles, or other negative consequences. The same is true for adults, although the negative attention behaviors are often more refined, habitual and costly.

The best parents, like the best leaders, learn how to turn negative energy into positive motivation so everybody wins.

If you surveyed the leaders in your organization, how would they answer these questions?

Have you ever;

  • Wondered why adults sometimes act like spoiled children?
  • Noticed how much energy gets wasted in drama?
  • Wished people would focus on their work instead of sabotaging each other?
  • Observed how miscommunication can erode trust and morale?
  • Wondered why people seem to behave in ways that only hurt themselves? 
  • Found yourself engaging in self-destructive behaviors even though you know it’s not helpful?

How does negative attention show up in your workplace? How much time do you spend putting out fires, fighting the same battles over and over and creating policies to manage the behavior of just a few people? How do you get negative attention?

Shifting your leadership mindset about negative behavior can make all the difference. Here is the seventh of eight mindset shifts that can transform a leader’s effectiveness.

Leadership Mindset Shift #7

Behind most negative attention behaviors are unmet positive needs.

By recognizing and offering the unmet positive need, leaders can significantly reduce costly power struggles and miscommunication while improving employee engagement and motivation. 

The Positives Behind Negative Attention

The Process Communication Model (PCM) reveals the secret; a powerful, predictable, and observable relationship between negative and positive attention.

In my previous post on Mindset Shift #6, I outlined the six clusters of psychological motivators for human behavior, each one linked to a personality Phase type. Human beings will always strive to meet their psychological needs. It’s a survival instinct, just like breathing. And here’s the most important part; when humans don’t get their needs met positively, they will attempt to get those very same needs met negatively, with or without awareness. This is distress, and it causes predictable miscommunication.

What does this mean? When we observe negative behavior, in most cases, it is a symptom that the person is desperately trying to meet their positive needs, only they are going about it in a negative way. 

Here are the six predictable and observable behavior clusters, called Failure Mechanisms, that occur when someone isn’t getting their needs met positively. Review Mindset Shift #6 for insights on how to meet needs positively instead of negatively.

Over Controlling

Over controlling includes; micromanaging, overworking, criticizing others’ work and how they use their time, and obsessiveness around fairness, money, and details. Comments like, “You are wasting my time,” or “What an idiot!” are not uncommon from these people when they aren’t getting positive recognition for their productive work and time structure.

Making Mistakes

Making mistakes includes; losing confidence, inadvertently messing up in a way that invites criticism and being overly self-critical. Comments like, “I’m sure I messed that up,” or “Why am I such an idiot?” are common from people when they aren’t getting positive recognition of person and sensory.

Pushing Beliefs

Pushing beliefs includes; becoming opinionated, self-righteous, and judgmental, going on crusades, making everything an all or nothing issue and becoming suspicious of people who don’t share your beliefs. Comments like, “They clearly aren’t committed,” or “You are either with me or against me,” are common from people who aren’t getting positive recognition for their principled work and convictions.


Blaming includes; making excuses, blaming others, being blameless, avoiding any responsibility, whining and complaining. Comments like, “Not my fault,” or “She made me do it.” are common from people who aren’t getting positive contact.


Manipulation includes; creating negative drama, pitting people against each other, maneuvering for selfish gain, or cornering people into lose-lose situations. Comments like, “John in accounting was criticizing your work to the team, but you didn’t hear that from me,” or “Only losers keep quiet in meetings. You should tell John to mind his own business,” are common from people who are not getting positive incidence.


Withdrawing includes; isolating, avoiding interactions, spinning wheels, starting projects but not finishing them and shutting down. Comments like, “It’s all too much,” or “I don’t know what to do,” are common from people who are not getting positive solitude.

Once leaders understand the connection between positive and negative attention they have tremendous new capability to intervene in ways that actually improve the situation rather than make it worse.

Wait a minute! Are you trying to tell me…

Right about now I bet you have some big questions;

  • Are you trying to tell me that simply offering someone the positive need will stop the negative behavior?
  • But if I respond with positive needs, won’t that just reward the negative behavior?
  • How can I be proactive so I don’t have to deal with the negative attention in the first place?
  • Don’t we still need to address the behavior?
  • How does this impact the way we approach discipline and performance management?

These are absolutely the right questions to be asking. The answers might surprise you, though.

Shift Your Mindset To Become A Better Leader

Understanding the connection between positive motivation and negative distress is the focus in one of the modules in the PCM Leadership Program.

In this module, leaders will learn how to:

  • Recognize and reverse their own distress behavior.
  • Avoid power struggles around negative behavior.
  • Reduce costly miscommunication.
  • Intervene positively to help reduce negative conflict.
  • Improve discipline, incentive and performance management processes.

Contact us today to find out more about how PCM helps leaders recognize and maximize the critical intersection between communication and personality.

Why Choose the PCM Leadership Program?

People skills are the primary leadership differentiator: being able to connect, engage, resolve conflict with and motivate anyone are essential leadership skills. Today’s leaders must cultivate their self-awareness and agility to be successful in a highly diverse, global and virtual environment. 

The PCM Leadership Program is a collection of learning & application modules that apply the Process Communication Model to solve the most common and important leadership challenges. 

Senior leaders will gain a greater understanding of how their own personality impacts their role and performance as a leader, how to adapt communication and motivation strategies to maximize the contribution of all personality types in the workplace, and how personality differences are best managed from a strategic level. 

Newly promoted and mid-level leaders will learn and apply critical social-emotional and communication competencies to improve their effectiveness in a wide range of leadership challenges such as communicating for greater impact, managing and motivating performance, dealing with miscommunication and conflict, building trust and engagement, and self-care.

We can help you assess your leadership development needs and design just the right program for your goals. Contact us today.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2023

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