How to deal with passive aggresive behavior at work

Face passive aggression in your own workplace

Organizations can have a complete array of responses to passive aggression. Perspectives range from denial and avoidance, where thoughts like, "We are a happy family," and "That kind of thing doesn't happen here," are the norm; all the way to the development of plans and procedures for managing employee confrontations in a positive way.


There are a significant number of open or hidden attacks perpetrated by employees against their fellow workers. In fact, having casual conversations with people from different companies, I could gather a series of incidents which merit to be labeled as passive aggressive attacks.


Confrontational incidents can be worrying some managers, but they lack the language to share and discuss them. Sometimes the manager will feel allowed to share his concern when the issue of the cost of hidden confrontations is brought to the forefront. Then, you can hear the worry underneath behavior's description. What is the real nature of this person's actions? What else can an employee do in his way to prevent others from reaching team goals? Is this jealousy or something more dangerous for the work environment?

Here and there, we could collect a story of an individual who displays a passive-aggressive nature that forces everyone to comply with his wishes, only to became verbally aggressive and confrontational at times. His passivity would resort to sullen silences, lack of collaboration, intentional clumsiness and lack of compliance with the workplace norms. Others would have to take up the slack resulting from tasks not finished on time. If the whole group doesn't became aware of the collective repercussions of this behavior on their own work performance, this can go on for a long time.



Some managers unprepared for dealing with this type of personality and needing to avoid conflict, have a tendency to coddle the individual in an attempt to prevent the rare angry outburst. They go along by ignoring the consequences on the team's effort of this kind of non-cooperation. This "solution" is equivalent to patronizing and "mothering" the passive aggressive employee, and it does nothing to help the employee to either change his behavior or make the decision to seek employment elsewhere. In fact, it helps to reinforce his passive aggression, and it can go unchallenged for a long time.

Human resources, managers and team leaders at all levels must be ready, willing, and able to identify and, at the very least, isolate the passive-aggressive employee. Employees with this personality disorder can be the "hidden sabotage machine" that hampers all legitimate teamwork efforts. If the person can be rehabilitated, coached or trained to perform in a more standard way, depends on the company's resources and the severity of the passive aggressive attitude. Sometimes, if the person doesn't agree to cooperate in the change of the environment, separation is the only way left.

Want to know how to protect your own career from the impact of passive aggression?

Now, you know what to do to identify and contain passive aggressive behavior.

1 comment

Ron 4 years ago

I like and appreciate your hub.Great post!

Ron from Fitness http://www.intervalstraining.net

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