Projects are due; holidays are here, so much to be done and so little time to do it. It is just a part of life to be dealing with so many different types of personalities, different work ethics and just basically understanding the people that you work with in a forty-hour work week. Dealing with co-workers that are passive-aggressive in their behavior can be quite frustrating until you learn the best ways in which to deal with this type of behavior. Individuals who exhibit passive aggressive behavior tend to express hostile and antagonistic feelings in a non-aggressive way. Although they may appear to be passive on the surface, in reality they are direct and purposeful and intend to control, injure or assign a negative perception, all the while avoiding responsibility (Hopwood, 2009). Once you understand passive aggressive behavior it is easy to spot.
Many people are afraid to confront feelings period, whether they are positive or negative. So many people really do not know how to express themselves and exactly what they are feeling so they stuff their emotions down ignoring them. These negative emotions come out in some form or fashion and most of the time at the expense of others. In order to feel their self-importance they will put others down but in a joking matter and subtle way. A passive aggressive individual is identified by their actions, behaviors, non-verbal and verbal actions. Nancy was never satisfied; nothing in the department went her way. She was overworked, underpaid and never let a moment go by that she didn’t let everyone around her know it. If you had a question, even if it was not directed at her, she had the answer.
But yet, she never kept her workload up to the levels of the rest of the team. Always with an excuse, she never completed her work on time and blamed others for the lack of cooperation. In meetings, Nancy had her arms folded, or her head down writing whatever came to mind on a piece of paper. When asked her input on anything her answer was always, “whatever the team decides.” But yet, she was the first one out of the gate to complain about decisions that had been made. Nancy is a prime example of: Passive Aggressive Behavior. Dealing with Nancy was difficult but yet she had a charm and gentleness about her that although she got on your nerves she also could be very sweet. Nancy had been with the company for over seventeen years, she was single, never married and no family to speak of near her.
Knowing Nancy as an unhappy, lonely person and understanding her past helped in dealing with her on a daily basis. Her behavior, although unacceptable, was due to her lack of self-image, her disbelief in her own abilities and her own lack of social skills. Her only way of communication was in a negative way. Complaints given, reviews with low scores, lack of promotion and even lack of increase in pay, have yet to change the behavior on Nancy part. It is surprising that she still has a job with the same company.
Taking the time to view how to handle situations and interact with other people can greatly impact the workplace environment. It is important to deal with emotions in ways that are healthy and constructive to both yourself and those in your life. Although Nancy’s behavior had a negative impact on some of the co-workers, learning to tune her out was their way of handling her behavior. There were a couple of individuals that would call Nancy out on her behavior and in some cases it ended up with conflict between the two parties. Passive-aggressive behavior can cause problems in the workplace on both a personal and organizational level.
Organizational politics has emerged in the last decade as a field of growing value and relevance for understanding managerial processes. Studies have examined various aspects of political behavior in the workplace but have not done enough to cover the full variety of aftermaths that such behavior may yield. (Vigoda, 2002) Office politics play a role in aggressive behavior as studies done by Ferris, Fedor, Chacher and Pondy (1989) suggest. In this study it was pointed out that self-interest may be consistent with or at the expense of others. Organizations politics can result in both a positive and negative outcome at work. Helen and Joe were both up for the same promotion at work. Joe was friendly outside of work with his supervisor, Tom. Helen, being a mother of a teenager, did not spend the time meeting others after work.
Both individuals were on the same level with skills and knowledge, but Joe was promoted. Up to the time of the announcement, Helen and Joe were work time friends, often going to lunch together. After the announcement of Joe’s new role, Helen could not bring herself to continuing the friendship. In fact, Helen turned into a very passive aggressive individual often sabotaging Joe’s work to make him look bad. The role that office politics played lead to the behavior of Helen; however, she finally saw how her behavior was only hurting her and came around to acceptance of Joe’s new role. Within a couple of years Helen had moved over to another department and by-passed Joe’s level within the company.
Understanding the personality traits of co-workers and supervisors will be a positive aspect of dealing with the passive aggressive individuals. When dealing with someone who exhibits passive aggressive behavior, moderating your responses will help the individual work on changing their behavior. To show anger when dealing with these type individuals will only invest and encourage their behavior by bringing you into the aggressiveness. Choosing not to participate in passive aggressive behavior, either by calling out a co-worker on his/her conduct or by not exhibiting such behavior yourself, can only reap benefits.
Ferris, G. R., Fedor, D. B., Chachere, J. G., &Pondy, L. R. (1989a). Myths and politics in organizational context. Group and Organization Studies, 14, 83-103
Hopwood, Christopher J;Morey, Leslie C;Markowitz, John C;Pinto, Anthony;Skodol, Andrew E;Gunderso. The Construct Validity of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. Psychiatry; Fall 2009; 72, 3; ProQuest Central pg. 256
Vigoda, Eran. Journal of Organizational Behavior Stress-related aftermaths to workplace politics: The relationships among politics, job distress, and aggressive behavior in organizations 23. 5 (Aug 2002): 571-591.