Life rarely goes as expected. We face obstacles, people with different views and behaviours along with situations that cause frustration and annoyance. Maladaptive behaviour is behaviour that prevents us from making adjustments to these situations that are in our own best interest. It can be seen as not being able to adjust adequately or appropriately to the environment or situations and involves rigid, extreme and circular behaviour.

Leader disfunction can be exhibited in many different ways such as relationship difficulties, poor emotional regulation and dysfunctional interpersonal connection through to more serious mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. These behaviours can start after a major life change, illness, or a traumatic event. The behaviour can also be a learnt defence mechanism that worked in earlier life but now serves no purpose in an adult workplace.

Personality and behaviour are key areas of ongoing exploration for workplaces, coaches and practitioners attempting to find effective methods of behavioural change strategies for leaders within the workplace and to support them with interpersonal functioning with those they lead.

People Development Australia’s most recent research has linked DiSC style to more profound personality disfunction. While DiSC is a measure of ‘normal behaviour’ it also links well with several other psychological models and trait descriptions. The research has provided us with attributes relating to style and elements of disfunction. This link allows for early discussions around stronger elements of maladaptive behaviour and attributes of personality disorders.

While personality is complex, the research indicates that a DiSC profile may assist in breaking down this complexity while pointing to common maladaptive behaviours. It is hoped that a ‘softer’ personality model will now initiate early conversations about behaviour, to help unlock relevant theory around these behaviours and to assist in reducing suffering due to poor interpersonal connection, while enhancing interactions with others.

A key attribute of becoming more aware of maladaptive behaviour is our ability to interact with others in a mature way. Interpersonal relationships and an individual’s ‘mode of engagement’ figure prominently in nearly all aspects of human life and are strongly linked to suffering and growth strategies according much of the research we have explored. Yalom (2005) notes that “people need people – for initial and continual survival, for socialisation, for the pursuit of satisfaction” (p,24). A key aspect to people achieving mental health is by becoming aware of our interpersonal relationships. Learning the skills to respond in relationships with a broadened, flexible, empathetic and more adaptive repertoire of behaviours while replacing vicious cycles with constructive ones is imperative to leader effectiveness.

Practical strategies for exploring maladaptive behaviour can include:

  • Becoming self-aware of maladaptive behaviours and vicious cycles
  • Providing ongoing feedback and open communications around behaviours=
  • Lifting our emotional intelligence awareness and skills
  • Understanding needs driven behaviour and personal style
  • Finding new ways of interacting with others and trying and testing new behaviours
  • Exploring the many different ways to respond to life’s challenges.
  • Reframing unhelpful thinking patterns
  • Developing proactive resilience strategies
  • Finding suitable treatment strategies for unwellness

Read more about our research into personality disfunction and DiSC here