Why Do We Misbehave?

Misbehaving can be a great source of fun, pain-shame-guilt-blame, or both. Most of us know the right thing to do.

In one of my favorite movie scenes from Four Rooms, Antonio Banderas says to his kids, “Don’t Misbehave!” Clearly, the kids immediately devote themselves to misbehaving.


So, why do we misbehave? We misbehave for three reasons: altruism, delicious temptations, and vulnerabilities. 

1. Altruism

  • “Just helping”
  • Cutting corners
  • Turning a blind eye
  • Hiding the truth for or from others
  • Giving overly generous or false feedback

2. Delicious Temptations

*George S May’s Big Four Gurri’s Fifth
·         Greed

·         Speed

·         Laziness

·         Haziness

·         Craziness



3. Vulnerabilities and Resilience

Internal and external factors contribute to our moral strengths and weaknesses. Resilience is created when a workplace culture faces ethical dilemmas and handles them effectively. No one expects perfection. The challenge is to thrive in the face of change and disruption. The task is to reaffirm and update values and processes. Vulnerabilities include:


Internal Factors


Feeling States…. Anger, hunger, desperation, frustration, fatigue
Entitlement…….. “I deserve it”, “The rules don’t apply to me”
Culture…………. Internalized family, neighborhood, workplace cultures
Mind Games…… We can convince ourselves of many things that aren’t so
Bitterness……… “It’s their fault”, “They owe me”, “It’s not fair”
External Factors


Pressure……….. Performance standards and deadlines, social, emotional, financial; being helpful, needed, or important
Opportunity……. Isolation, privacy, independence
Culture…………. External culture of acceptance in family, community, department, workplace
Financial………… Financial distress is a terrible pressure, desperation can challenge our values and commitments