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Passive Aggressive Behavior in the Workplace

Shalu Bhatti Apr 17, 2019
Passive aggressive behaviour in the workplace leads to a lot of problems including overall atmosphere, productivity, and efficiency. Know why employees tend to develop this behaviour and how to deal with such employees.
Passive aggressive behavior is defined as a personality trait or behavior wherein a person fails to address negative feelings of anger and frustration in a direct manner, and therefore creates a negative and passive attitude so that the anger and aggression is displayed in an indirect manner!
A survey done by Booz, Allen & Hamilton revealed that more than 30% of the working population including managers, executives and other employees admitted that they work in an unhealthy passive aggressive environment at work.
An organization needs to have active and energetic employees that participate and co-ordinate in effective teamwork to achieve the organizational objectives and goals.
However, since an organization consists of employees, with different way of thinking and working, even a single employee with passive aggressive behavior can affect the overall performance of the team, and the most difficult part is that because an organization deals with so many employees, it becomes difficult to identify the root cause.

How to Identify Passive Aggressive Behavior in the Workplace?

The success of any organization depends upon the success of its employees. Working as a team and working together is the key to achieve the desired results. This signifies that teamwork plays a very important role in a working environment.
When it comes to an organization having employees having passive aggressive behavior, it actually leads to delays in meeting the desired targets and result. They say a rotten apple can contaminate other apples around, similarly, a passive aggressive employee can affect the entire team's performance.

Signs and Symptoms of a Passive Aggressive Employee

  • Fails to meet deadlines on time.
  • Agrees to everything but doesn't live up to the commitments.
  • Takes long lunch breaks and comes late to work.
  • Tends to procrastinate responsibilities and remain frustrated.
  • Always complaints about people being unfair to him or her and how he or she is always unappreciated for their contribution.
  • These people are usually stubborn and avoid taking responsibilities.
  • They always seem to be forgetful and tend to give excuses like "I didn't know that" or "I forgot about this and no one reminded me."
  • Other traits and characteristics include sulking, projecting themselves to be 'victims of a situation', and creating a chaotic environment around through constant gossiping and complaining about higher authorities and co-workers.

How to Deal with Passive Aggressive Behavior in the Workplace?

Employees tend to develop this kind of behavior to indirectly express their hidden anger and frustration. They avoid being questioned by the authorities about the 'whys' and 'hows' of their deadlines. They come up with excuses to save themselves, but they are happy that they have successfully made the person, say the boss suffer in some way or the other.
This way of showing anger is usually seen in people who have always been punished or threatened during their childhood when it comes to expressing their negative feelings. So how should you deal with passive aggressive people in the workplace?
  • An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind! Do not reciprocate passive aggression with passive aggression. Confrontation is the key to make things work. Be open and clear with the person about the confusion that their behavior is causing at work and ask him to be honest about his the motive behind the same.
  • Now, your direct confrontation may be answered with an argument or a blame game. It is common among the people with passive aggressive behavior. But you need to put across to the person that the deception created by the confusing behavior and stories would no longer work and that he or she needs to stop.
  • People with this kind of behavior are very good at convincing and making promises that are never fulfilled. Don't let the person get away with the same promises again. Make sure to focus on their performance rather than their promises.
  • Make the person accountable for their tasks and deadlines. Keep on repeating these steps until the person gets the message.
Passive aggressive behavior is a personality trait and not a mental disorder. However, it can be considered a sign of an underlying mental condition which can come up in the future. The signs and tips mentioned, would definitely help you in dealing with passive aggressive behavior in the workplace.
This behavior has to be eliminated from the environment, else it is sure to affect the workplace environment adversely. So make sure that you identify these behavioral signs as soon as possible to suffer the minimum amount of chaos.