Guerrilla Tactics Against Passive Aggression in the Workplace

Guerrilla Tactics Against Passive Aggression in the Workplace

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Passive-aggressive coworkers are the most frustrating and obnoxious people in any workplace

The worst case of passive-aggressive behavior involves destructive attitudes such as negativity, sullenness, resentment, procrastination, “forgetting” to do something, chronic lateness, and intentional inefficiency.

When it involves promising to do tasks others rely on — purposefully not getting them done and offering lame excuses later then portray their behavior as non intentional – it’s exasperating for the manager.  Time, energy, effort, opportunity, and sometime money is lost.

In cases where some work is actually done, it may be delivered too late to be useful (e.g., “You needed this for the meeting at nine? I thought you said for the meeting at noon!”), may be performed in a way that makes it useless (e.g., “You wanted the stats for ‘06? I thought you said the stats for ‘96!”), or it may be sabotaged in any number of other ways.

This creates a paranoid team or workgroup environment — workers need to be always on the look out for “backstabbing behavior,” so they can defend themselves and preserve the quality of their own work.

If the team you lead or are part of is not succeeding, your own career is at risk!  Passive Aggressive behavior can and often does destroy teams and poison the workplace.

In an optimal organization you find efficient high-performing teams. Great team performance depends on trust, cooperation, communication, and employees’ high level of personal responsibility.

Today’s stressful environment makes nurturing high performing teams difficult. Why? Because growing unemployment is resulting in employees working with people they otherwise may not choose to associate.  The workforce is stagnant.

Financial insecurity is adding heavy pressure to the workplace. To survive, individuals resort to strategies such as doubling their productivity and making themselves indispensable; while other employees buckle under stress, get burned out and end up performing below their abilities.

A third group of people – passive aggressive workers — have difficulty managing their anger and negative emotions held from present or past situations. Their emotional imbalance sabotages their team with passive aggression. When resources are scarce, all competitive behaviors play harder, and non-productive reactions also develop to frustrate highly effective and valued workers. What results is lower performance and increased organizational and interpersonal stress.

Passive Aggressive behavior must end in the workplace.  But conventional wisdom to remove it may be wrong.

A good leader knows there are ways of solving such challenges, if what is needed is more training or time. What is more difficult to address is the contradiction between expressed compliance and negative results.

People demonstrating passive aggressive behavior promise compliance, but later there are no measurable results. Sounds disconcerting? Of course it is! And this fake compliance or what has been called “intentional inefficiency” is more usual than expected. According to a recent study of corporate culture conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton, more than 30 percent of the managers, employees and executives surveyed believe they work in unhealthy, passive-aggressive organizations.

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