Negative Micro Behaviours Are A Sign Of Frustration And Poor Communication Skills

In a previous article, I explained which behaviours may constitute a negative micro behaviour and how the display of such behaviours should be best managed and addressed.

In this article, I would like to explore with you why a staff member may display negative micro behaviours at work.

All actions, all behaviours, whether overt or covert, whether consciously or unconsciously executed, are forms of communication.

Mindful and constructive communicators are more likely to consistently:

  • Demonstrate professional, overt behaviours;
  • Communicate with clarity;
  • Invite feedback and receive it graciously; and
  • Be able to manipulate (with integrity) every situation so that the person/s they are interacting with also communicate with clarity in a professional manner.

Those who are less mindful, less able to articulate themselves and less skillful in communicating in a constructive manner are more likely to display negative micro behaviours. These staff tend to a take a ‘communication short cut’.  They are certainly communicating (in a minimalist or avoidant fashion) but what and why they are communicating is often obscured and delivered in an unprofessional manner.

If a manager does chose to address a staff member because they have displayed a negative micro behaviour, the manager will usually state the behaviour observed, explain how it made the receiver feel, state the behaviour is inappropriate and tell the staff member not to behave this way again.

This type of delivery is fraught with danger. Perhaps the staff member is not aware of the communication style they demonstrated in that moment and why they reacted in the way they did. More likely than not, the behaviour has become a habit. Asking someone to stop an ingrained behaviour does nothing to stop the person engaging with that habit reaction again. Such in instruction does nothing to support the person from changing their reaction pattern. Essentially this type of conversation leads to failure, more frustration (experienced by both the manager and the staff member) and further disciplinary action.

Where is the coaching conversation? The type of conversation which will support the staff member to recognize their reactions, why they are reacting, what they are reacting to and what strategies they might choose to implement to better manage both the situation and their own emotions differently the next time.

For example, interrupting others (a negative micro behaviour) may occur because the person interrupting:

  • Holds a belief that this is how two people can ‘bounce ideas off’ each other and generate a dynamic discussion;
  • Doesn’t realise the other person dislikes being interrupted;
  • Is getting frustrated that the speaker is taking too long to ‘get to the point’;
  • Has other things  which they consider more important or wish to be doing at that point and wish to ‘hurry up’ or ‘wind up’ the discussion;
  • Believes the information they are being presented with is sub standard, not useful or too complex;
  • Finds the information to be subjective and lacking in qualitative content;
  • Disagrees with the content, the analysis or the conclusions drawn;
  • Is getting frustrated because the speaker is not providing the level of clarity or detail required by the listener;
  • Is worried that if they wait for the speaker to finish, they will forget the questions they wanted to ask or the contribution they wished to make….

And the list goes on.

If the listener (doing the interrupting) does not have the skills to communicate constructively in the moment, share their concern with the speaker and seek agreement about how the current conversation can be conducted (and how future conversations can be better prepared for and managed), just asking the listener to stop interrupting will either lead to the person interrupting on another occasion or displaying of a different negative behaviour.

The good news for managers is that they don’t need to know (prior to a counselling discussion) why a staff member is displaying a negative micro behaviour. In fact it is absolutely much better if the manager doesn’t even try to guess the reasons for the behaviour. The manager only needs to be prepared to have a coaching conversation and be skillful in asking constructive questions. Then the reasons, possible solutions and a strategy for improved behaviour will unfold before them as the staff member answers each question posed by the manager.

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About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.