5 Tips to Correct Passive Aggressive Behaviour in the Workplace
I recently had a conversation with a director who was changing companies. She was advised that passive aggressive behaviour was a problem in this specific organisation.
Interesting. Why, when Australians are recognised for being so laid back, friendly and open?
Further discussion with her reminded me how often this is raised in my role as a business mentor.
For example, in a recent mentoring session, I asked Michael* why he didn’t query a decision he didn’t agree with. His response was that he didn’t want to rock the boat, that he would do it after the meeting, and then didn’t get around to it. Delving deeper, we worked out that he subtly avoided and then roadblocked the strategy. This is passive aggressive behaviour, which we agreed is unhelpful and disruptive.
I reflected on all the times I’ve asked an individual how they respond to a direction they disagree with and realised it’s often. The reason behind it can be avoidance, reluctance to confront an issue or even procrastination.
So why and how do we overcome it?
I’ve established a strategy with 5 steps to combat this issue.
The strategy involves taking the emotion out of the confrontation. Michael and I worked through the following solution.
1. Recognise the problem you’re avoiding and write it down.
2. Set up a meeting with the person involved to talk to them about the problem which you’ve briefly outlined on paper.
3. Avoid “you” and “I”. Focus on the problem; it is not personal, this is business.
4. Use the document as the discussion point. Explain the problem as you see it.
5. Collaboratively work through a solution together.
Michael tried this and it’s working for him. The emotional investment is removed, and he is now developing a stronger voice in meetings and the business. It is not always easy to change your behaviour. However, recognising the consequences of being passive aggressive is the first step. Don’t accept the behaviour; work out how to deal with it.
So, next time you hear yourself agreeing to something, and feel that instinctive knot in your chest screaming, “I don’t want to do that” or “I don’t agree with that” – unpack it. Work out why you feel this way, and then consider how to address the issue without aggression or angst.
*Names changed for confidentiality