Managing Passive Aggression in Workplaces

If you are a veteran of “office wars,” then perhaps you have experienced a lot of backstabbing, sabotage and nasty behaviors, right? As a normal consequence, you think that there is very little to be done to control this competitive behavior. You have become resigned to a certain degree of aggression every day in the office.

The ones that bother most are not the openly competitive people, because you know what they want, and there are no surprises in them getting ahead to snag the best projects, and commissions. What you don’t prepare for is the slow sabotage of certain people who feign cooperation and dedication, only to produce consistent failures.

If you were expecting someone to do a shared project, and your own evaluation is supposed to be in the whole project, but one part is not forthcoming, then what do you do? There were lots of promises, guarantees and strong words, but no results. And you don’t know if to believe this person, or to accept that the project is doomed and you are responsible very soon to report a failure.

Here is when the rubber meets the road: you are realizing that his delay is intentional and focused on making you fail! Difficult to believe, but no other plausible explanations are around, so you need to accept you’ve been blindsided by this person.

What do you do: have a strong discussion or say nothing? Knowing that a passive aggressive person won’t fight back, they can clam up, give you the cold shoulder, tell you what you want to hear, or burst into tears and run away.

If you show your anger, the PA will be less cooperative, stop communicating and confirm that you are his enemy, so becoming more hostile and resentful, even to the point of planning his revenge. Then, how do you manage this potentially explosive situation?

For some reason we have been conditioned to avoid any kind of open confrontation, even the healthy ones, and to try to keep up with a forced situation that doesn’t deserve to be called “peace,” but an angry truce.

Let’s go back to the basic situation, where you are a team leader, or a manager, and you have someone in your team behaving in this way. Of course, you know that this person is immature, that his PA behavior is a defense mechanism, and all that. Anyhow, this person is not responding to you!

Now, it becomes really personal…and you shift from an outsider’s view to a very interested insider, because the action is against you or your work objectives…You suddenly realize that the passive aggressive person’s goal is an attempt to control his environment, meaning by that you and your responses. He is controlling at least the time of delivery of this shared project!

What can you do? If you have identified already the presence of this kind of behavior, you know that you have always to design an alternative plan “B” which can provide you with the extra help needed to deliver the project done in time and quality.

If not, then the choice is to continue expecting from him the delivery of his task, or replacing him. In both ways, the “solution” will leave a bad taste in the relationship. The first lesson, “never trust your own evaluation to the hands of other person who cold be passive aggressive,” is learnt. In brief, control your expectations, parcel out important tasks so there are several responsible people involved, and re-check frequently to see how much delay the PA can generate before you stop him.

Neil Warner

Neil Warner

I’m the “relationship guru,” and my main focus is to increase the quality of love-based relationship experiences. In this ground-breaking guide I offer useful strategies on healing a difficult angry relationship with love and compassion. You don’t have to stay in an unhealthy relationship one more minute. Let us share our tools with you today.

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