Watch your back

”]Cover of "Meet the Parents [HD DVD]"

Watch your back because passive aggressive colleagues are stealth saboteurs. They need to be handled with care.

Have you worked with passive aggressive people? How do you deal with it? 

Remember the movie Meet The Parents starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller where the father keeps making snide little comments towards his prospective so in law, having digs at him about choosing nursing as a profession. That’s an example of a classic passive aggressive stance.

Passive aggressive behavior is defined by traits such as: obstructionism,  procrastination, resentment, resisting suggestions, sullenness, blaming others, chronic lateness and forgetfulness, and complaining. Passive aggressive people also have trouble expressing hostility or anger openly. They avoid responsibility by claiming forgetfulness, they fear competition, and will often make excuses or lie to get out of doing something.

The Harvard Business Review says health authorities define the passive aggressive condition as “one in which a person seems to actively comply with the desires and needs of others, but actually passively resists them . . . a passive-aggressive person may appear to comply with another’s wishes and may even demonstrate enthusiasm for those wishes. However (ominous music here) the person will tend to perform the requested action too late to be helpful or in a way that is useless or straight up sabotages the action to show anger that he cannot express in words.”

Have you worked with people like that?

There’s nothing more infuriating than when we have to deal with people who are sullen, who keep dragging their heels on jobs and who never seem to obey instructions without actually disobeying them.  These are the people who seem to accept where others are coming from but who passively resist. And they are experts at smiling while sticking in the knife.

The thing that riles us the most about passive aggressive behaviour is that it is aggression, but it’s hidden and indirect which makes it more difficult to confront.

Writing in Psychology Today, social worker Signe Whitson says passive aggressive behaviour is invading the workplace because people are spending more time at work. The greater focus on team work these days gives people the opportunity to hide their aggression behind a smile. And then there’s the impact of technology. Texting and emails, with those ambiguities in words, can be the perfect cover for passive aggressive communication.

It’s bad enough when you see it in work colleagues. Even worse with some bosses who block career paths and who just focus on the negative all the time.

So how do we deal with this sort of behaviour? Some psychologists recommend confronting the behaviour (“are you upset about something?) and being assertive, pointing out the impact they have on people. Basically, it’s about refusing to play their game and confronting their dishonesty.

Dealing with passive-aggressive behavior is extremely challenging because a really good passive aggressive is very slippery. Often, too, you may not be sure if you have been the victim of passive aggressive behavior-or not. You may be feeling angry and upset, but not sure why or if it is justified.

How do you tell? One way to identify it is to look for patterns in someone’s behavior – not just isolated incidents. For instance, if Roberto generally is dependable and is home on time for Tina to attend her meetings, the one “miss” may not be motivated by passive-aggression. However, if he often sabotages Tina’s attendance while denying he is doing so, a behavior pattern is evident. What should you do to deal with passive- aggression once you have identified it?

Three tips to cope with passive aggressive behavior:

Tip #1- Directly confront the behavior and ask if the person is angry at you. For instance, ask “You called me pork chop tonight. Do you have issues with my weight?”

Tip #2. Be on guard and don’t trust what the person says or commits to. Develop a Plan B. For instance, Tina could have arranged for someone else to pick her up for the meeting in case Roberto didn’t make it home on time.

Tip #3. Use assertive communication skills to let a person know how what they do affects you and makes you feel. Try something like “I heard you repeat something that I told you in confidence. That really hurt me; please don’t do it again because I would like to trust you.”

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About Georges Abi-Aad

CEO, electronic engineer with MBA in marketing. Multicultural; French citizen born in Lebanon working in the Middle East and fluent in French, English and Arabic. I have more than 30 years of proven experience in the Middle East with European know how. I am good in reorganization and in Global strategic management business. I am a dependable leader with an open approach in working with people, forging a strong team of professionals dedicated to the Company and its clientele. Perseverance is my key word. Married to Carole and having 2 children: Joy-Joelle and Antoine (Joyante!).
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2 Responses to Watch your back

  1. Pingback: Power-Driven Resistance « Martin Webster, Esq.

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