From gossiping at the coffee machine to using emails to evade personal contact, today’s workspace offers numerous opportunities for passive-aggressive behaviour. Passive aggression is a masked and deliberate way of expressing hidden anger. A passive-aggressive employee will use numerous types of behaviour to get back at people, without them ever becoming aware of his anger.
Hostile cooperation among workers combined with compliant defiance of workspace standards, at the very least results in an unpleasant office atmosphere. In the worst situation, this toxic combination can sabotage productivity at a significant level.
Here are some of the most common signs of Passive-Aggressive Behavior in the office.
1. Avoiding task responsibility
2. Doing less work than requested
3. Missing deadlines.
4. Making bosses appear unresponsive or incompetent by going over their heads.
5. Withholding important info
6. Using email or leaving notes to avoid face to face confrontation
7. Ignoring the emails and notes left by others
8. Complaining about office procedures and policies.
9. Coming late to the office
10. Taking sick leaves unnecessarily
11. Misplacing or forgetting important documents
12. Resisting suggestions for improvement or change
14. Using public settings to call out coworkers, like during presentations or meetings
15. Giving plausible explanations to justify all the behaviours mentioned above
Why offices are the perfect places for passive-aggressive behaviour
1. People spend a large chunk of their time at work
Most people spend around 6 to 10 hours of their time at home sleeping. A large part of their conscious time is spent in office than anywhere else. Whether it is chronic or situational, passive-aggressive behaviour is likely to appear where the person spends a lot of his time.
2. People form relationships where they spend more time
Enduring relationships are developed in most workplaces, over friendly lunches and course of a team project. And within such relationships, it is common for passive-aggression to occur.
3. Office spaces do not encourage emotional expression
Even in a business environment which is often formal and professional, emotions stir over several things- respect, promotions, workload, personal self-worth and more. These personal and heartfelt emotions require an outlet. The absence of such an outlet leads to passive-aggressive behaviour.
4. Direct expression of anger may feel like insubordination with the hierarchy set in most workplace cultures
Even though an employee may feel that his boss has slighted him, most workplace cultures do not allow employees the freedom to tell the boss about their feelings without risking their job. Bosses also sometimes violate unwritten and written rules by giving their employees candid feedback. This could be done in a closed or an open setting. In such situations, employees are forced to choose words with precaution. Such situations become perfect environments for passive aggression.
5. The workplace hierarchy may become similar to a dysfunctional home environment.
Similar to a child, whose caregiver has all the authority and power over it, a workplace with a strict hierarchy can trigger an employee to perceive management as too authoritative or hostile. Even if there is no truth in this perception, an employee with passive-aggressive tendencies will respond to authority figures just like he did to the abusive adult from his childhood
6. Relying heavily on electronic communication gives an ideal cover for passive-aggressive communication among employees.
While electronic media can be efficiently used to maintain and establish major decisions, it also acts as a perfect medium for passive-aggressive interaction. Passive-aggressive people would prefer to email or message over personal interaction. Thus, with no personal accountability, important information can be withheld, lost or hidden.
7. Dynamic teamwork which is common in many offices can be a great medium for loss of accountability and obstructionism
One passive-aggressive team member’s covert actions can sabotage the complete project or stop the show. He may do it in such a subtle way that his responsibility may not be apparent and he will tenaciously justify his contribution readily.
8. It is often hard to terminate employees.
It can be very challenging for the human resource department to fire passive-aggressive employees. The intentionally inefﬁcient worker who just meets the minimum requirement can put up a good ﬁght, playing a victim of harassment or some disability. He may claim that his manager doesn’t like him and is harassing his performance.
A passive aggressive employee will always be armed with an explanation for such behaviours and will be an expert in projecting himself as a victim to any accuser.
Passive aggressive behaviour at the workplace can affect the office environment, productivity and employee team spirit. It almost always goes undetected. Identifying and combating passive aggressive behaviour needs knowledge and skill.
At www.preftrain.com.au, you can learn more about recognising and combating passive aggressiveness through an intensive behaviour management training course. Their behavior courses are designed to help recognize, monitor and deal with various forms of workplace behavior issues effectively.