Is “Intention” Positive Or Negative Behaviour?

Gain Understanding Of How INTENTION Can Impact Your Organisation's Risk

“Organisations are no longer built on force, but on trust”

– Peter Drucker

What’s the difference between Intent vs Agenda?

  • “Agenda” can be thought of as a temporary organised plan for matters to be attended; and
  • “Intent” can be thought of as a course of action that a person intends to follow.

Intent matters! It is vital to trust! It’s critical to organisations!

While we tend to judge ourselves by our intent, we tend to judge others by their behaviour.

Intent, by and large, is drawn of the following process:

Intent in the purpose of why you are doing something.

Motive is the reason for doing something

Agenda grows out of motive. It’s what you intend to do or promote because of your motive.

Behaviour is the manifestation of motive and agenda.

Actions are the manifestation of your behaviour. It will symbolise the activities you follow based on your intention.

Outcome will be the result of your actions, whether positive or negative.

Let me ask you two questions.

  • What do you think is the most trusted institution in society? Government? Non-profits? The media? Large companies? According to a new global survey from public relations firm Edelman, the answer is business.
  • Now, what do you think is the most mistrusted institution in society? The answer is government. Are you surprised?

According to a global survey from public relations firm Edelman, 80% of people expect their employers to act on significant social issues like climate change, racism and vaccine hesitancy. In addition, the survey found that people think business outperforms government on a range of social issues: healthcare, inequality, jobs, climate change.  

There is a severe disillusionment with the government to solve significant problems.

The impact of intent issues on trust is dramatic.

A person with integrity, capability and results but with poor intent would be someone who is honest and performs well but whose motive is suspect. For example, perhaps this person wants to win at any cost. But generally, people will sense such behaviour and will not extend their complete trust.

On the other hand, a person with good intentions but without integrity, capability and results is a caring person who is dishonest or cowardly.

Leading with intention

“Intention” is often referred to as a mental state representing a commitment to carry out an action or actions in the future.

It provides the fuel required to act. It’s the “why” and the reason for committing to something.

If you operate with intention in the workplace, you will find people are helpful, understanding, engaged and most likely motivated in the actions you are looking to execute.

However, if you operate without intention, it will undoubtedly prevent you from getting the results for you and your team.

In leadership, the more intentional your behaviour, the more likely those around you will respect and follow your lead. Likewise, when they know the why behind your request, they are more willing to come along.

Negative intention

Douglas McGregor was a leadership expert who touted the value of “Theory Y” in which you assume good intentions and believe people want to do a good job.

This is certainly accurate for most leaders. While some leaders may not be extraordinarily effective, most of them don’t wake up in the morning seeking to be anything but their best.

However, things can go wrong, and a positive characteristic can become an unhappy reality for a leader’s employees.

Often that negativity can manifest in snap judgments, the blame game, and erroneous assumptions about co-workers, especially intense and stressful situations.

Let me ask you the following – Does your organisation have good intentions? Do you have a culture of caring for one another? For your work? For your clients? For your partners?

If you feel your organisation is deficient above, the following questions might provide an insight into the problem.

  • Are people manipulative?
  • Are people withholding information?
  • Are people seeking credit where credit is not due?
  • Are people spinning the truth?
  • Are ideas being suppressed?
  • Are mistakes being covered?
  • Are there lots of fingers pointing at others for blame?
  • Are there numerous meetings after meetings?
  • Are people overpromising and underdelivering?
  • Are people pretending that bad things are not happening?
  • Are people disagreeing or arguing for the sake of it?
  • Do management and executive have a different set of rules?

We know that good culture isn’t founded on ping-pong tables or free beers. Instead, it’s based on mutual respect and values.

Unfortunately, the behaviour of a single person’s behaviour can have a serious detrimental and negative effect on the entire business, especially if it comes from the CEO of the organisation.

Positive intention

But what if I told you that the underlying behaviour of someone with negative intention has a positive intention?

There is a reason why people do what they do. Their behaviour is not random.

Have you thought of the following – why do people steal? What do people commit fraud? Why do people commit crimes that cause such harm to their organisation that it may be forced to shut down?

For every negative behaviour, there is a positive intention behind that behaviour.

Whilst the behaviour itself may be negative or unresourceful, the intention is to meet one of their core emotional needs.

When emotional needs are empty, they need to be filled for us to feel good. So, some use chocolate chip cookies. Some gamble online. Some do drugs. All these offer a quick fix but can also have negative consequences on others and ourselves.

If you observe a colleague at work and this person is bullying and harassing other colleagues, they are unconsciously aiming to meet their own emotional needs.

Rather than thinking that this person is rude, aggressive or obnoxious, try asking yourself under what extreme circumstances you feel it necessary to behave in the same way? Once you look at it through this lens, you might begin to see things differently.

Malicious Insider vs accidental vs cyber attacker

What is the difference?


  • Malicious insider – Intentionally exceeded or misused access that negatively harms the organisation’s critical assets.
  • Accidental insider – Through their action/inaction without malicious intent that causes on the organisation critical assets

Yet, many organisations feel they have to choose between protection from outsiders versus insiders.

Keep in mind that once an outsider (with intent) gets in, there is a good chance they will perform the same types of malicious acts as malicious insiders, for example:

  • Plant malicious code or logic bomb
  • Create backdoor account
  • Exfiltrate intellectual property or other proprietary information

Insider threat is a behaviour pattern

Sometimes managers overlook the red flags (negative intention behaviour) out of concern for the bottom line or fear that it may cause the team, themselves, or their organisation.

However, a vigilant workforce (with positive intention) is an excellent defence and can usually recognise and report red flag behaviours no matter how hard insides may try and cover their tracks.