What exactly are 5-yr-old adults at the office?

Most of the time staff members, teams or executives physically appear to be adults, ­but unfortunately they act like 5-year-olds?  These behaviours were easily hidden until recently, as most adults were great at covering up bad behaviour. Now they simply don’t have the energy.

Recently I read a post which said people should not try to hide their moods, but they should be more authentic and show their feelings and show up fully as they are, regardless. I have a problem with this statement as it encourages bad behaviour to continue rather than dealing with the root cause and helping people step into their true potential. There is nothing wrong with admitting you are having a bad day, but you still need to be in control of your emotions and decisions.

Lockdown has skyrocketed fears and many feel they have lost control. This has led to people at the office behaving like 5-year-olds. Generally 5-year-olds are a delight to have around, but they can become little monsters at the office.

Before we go any further, have a look at these pictures, to see if you can relate.

5-yr-Old Aggression

Aggression At The Office

5-yr-Old Blame

Blame At The Office

5-yr-Old Confrontational

Confrontation At The Office

5-yr-Old Bullying

Bullying At The Office

5-yr-Old Rebel. Do as they choose

Rebel. Do as they choose, At The Office

5-yr-Old Defiant. My way only!

Defiant At The Office

5-yr-Old Withdraws, sulks, not a team player!

Withdraws, sulks, not a team player At The Office


“5-Year-olds can have tantrums, and resort to physical and verbal abuse. If the school days have been long and their nervous systems are taxed, you will find a 5-year-old regressing into 3-year-old behaviours. You may find that your children are more empathetic and kind to others, but may also accuse others of cheating if they lose a game. Children this age love to play and use their imaginations, but these imaginations can also scare them.” Adapted from an article about children written by – Meghan Leahy

The same applies to 5-year-old adults at the office. If overloaded, stressed and exhausted, they can even revert to 3-yr-old behaviour.

FACT: Toxic behaviour is a result of FEAR due to a loss of control. Fear is expressed with aggression, bullying, confrontation, withdrawing, blame etc. All of which are a result of FEAR and the feeling of not being in control.

How many staff members are experiencing anxiety, higher levels of stress, desperation or working longer hours just to meet unrealistic deadlines?

Doing any of the above can be very career limiting and prevent you from maximising your potential and impact. It is an extreme hand break on a team’s performance. Having to work with someone like this at the office can be a huge challenge and absolutely exhausting. After a day like this at the office, you can only take “grumpy” home with you and that is not what your friends or family need. Often people don’t like who they have become, but don’t what to do about it. It is as if they are trapped.

It does not have to be this way. There are huge benefits from tapping into the other side of the 5-year-old.

Generally being 5 years old is a great happy time of a person’s life. It is a time when you have confidence to explore and try new things, challenge boundaries, speak what you think…. A 5-year old will not hesitate to say what they think out of great curiosity or purely being frank. They express themselves openly, for example, “why is that person so fat” or “why is that old man bent over like that? Is he looking for something on the ground?”

You might have seen the TV series called “kids say the darnedest things”…. It is hilarious and adorable at the same time, as the children blurt what they think ins the spur of the moment, which is often outrageously different to what adults are thinking in that moment.

5-year olds  are comfortable with a little independence and confidently pursue friends and having great adventures in the playground where they test boundaries and demand to do things their own way. This in the corporate world can be channelled into potential with great benefits.

To clarify, here is a list of typical 5-year-old adult BAD behaviours:

  • Displays of aggression – aggressive verbal outbreaks
  • Blame everyone else except themselves – they never take responsibility
  • Confrontational
  • Breaks the rules – bypass policies and procedures. Always take short cuts, but shoot themselves or the company in the foot
  • Defiant or strong willed – unteachable, not a team player
  • Bullying – uses words to hurt, win a point, manipulate or get the attention off themselves
  • Withdraws or sulks  – gives the silent treatment and makes people beg to get answers. Often to manipulate or to feel they are needed.

Here are some typical 5-year old adult GOOD behaviours:

  • A great sense of confidence – can take charge and lead when necessary. Does not personalise changes that are needed
  • A sense of adventure and willingness to explore or learn – will take risks, explore and learn form their failures; all for the good of the project
  • Happy to play and include others – great team players, share the work load, share the leadership
  • Willing to please or help – go the extra mile, put in effort
  • Can experience or show empathy – care for fellow colleagues, assist when and as necessary
  • Happy to try, without being perfect – rather than not trying due to being scared of failure; they try and learn from their failures and reinvent where necessary
  • Creativity with a wild imagination (remember the tents you used to build) – thinking out the box, great product generation

Can you imagine if you could turn your grumpy 5-year-old adults at the office into delightful 5-yr-old adults with these amazing resources?

I recently read an article where parents of triplets (3 identical children) each of whom have completely different personalities and needs. They quickly learnt that they cannot use a corporate punishment approach in the house as each child is so different. So the rules and boundaries remain the same, but the “approach” used with each child is different. It is the same in the business world.

Once we take the time to understand people, we can adjust our approach to different personalities and even their personal core values, without breaking the corporate guide lines or triggering ourselves.

We need to help each other bring our brilliant and delightful 5-year-old’s to the office.

Amanda can help you turn your life around or turn your team around so you can all live your best lives ever, both professionally and personally with great performance!

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