maladaptive management

Crises threaten organisational goals within limited timeframes. Mid-level managers deal with this daily. Management problems stem from maladaptive responses to crisis. What separates a maladaptive manager from an adaptive manager is how they handle these situations. Adaptive managers behave more effectively in response to crisis.

Stress is contagious. Most organisations keep stress well hidden by providing a lot of chicken soup and oranges. But what happens to the employees that choose not to partake in the stress relief on offer and have no other coping mechanism? In such cases we will see maladaptive reactions.

There are nine clues that will help you spot managers that do not react adaptively to stress. Maladaptive managers can learn to be adaptive managers, but adaptive responses are not an emergent property of repeated crisis situations. Nor are they something that can simply be learned by rote and applied, for instance, it doesn’t make sense to conceive of an Adaptive Manager test because it is not declarative, it is procedural.

To manage occupational stress, organisational behaviour is the only area we may apply leverage without sacrificing organisational fitness. Everything else is out of our direct control: the economy, the competition, the customers. Those are important considerations, for other experts, we focus on behaviour. Behaviour change is the first, and most important, step in occupational stress management.


Maladaptive Reactions:

1. Offensive speech

2. Motivating with fear

3. Micromanaging

4. Keeping secrets

5. Personal decision-making bias

6. Negative feedback

7. Detached

8. Rigid behaviour; flexible morals

9. Compulsion

Adaptive Reactions:

1. Adaptive speech

2. Adaptive motivation

3. Meritocratic empowerment

4. Transparency

5. Balanced processing

6. Positive feedback

7. Engaged

8. Flexible behaviour; rigid morals

9. Persuasion


What are the underlying reasons for retreating to maladaptive behaviour patterns? Mindful examination of heretofore automatic reactions allows a manager to objectively assess past behaviour and its possible nonlinear results. There are no empirically bad behaviours, there are only situationally inappropriate behaviours. Even something negative, such as using fear as a motivator, could be the correct choice in certain circumstances. But, no choice is appropriate in all situations and that is the core of the problem. Maladaptive managers aren’t bad because of the behaviour per se, they are bad because of their behavioural inflexibility.


Nine areas of focus:

1. Help managers spot triggers and develop strategies to handle them.

2. Help managers understand that adaptation is a process, not an event.

3. Help managers understand and address instinct triggers.

4. Help managers understand and deal with social pressure.

5. Help managers to improve their real social network.

6. Help managers to develop coping strategies for negative affect.

7. Help managers learn how to cope with cognitive distortions.

8. Help managers build a balanced lifestyle.

9. Help managers plan for lapses and relapses.