Leaders, Are We Accomplices to Passive Aggressive Team Members?
by Kate Nasser |
Leaders, unchecked passive aggressive behavior in the workplace impacts the dynamics and potential success of teams. Those affected feel used, manipulated, and disrespected.
It is just as hostile as straight out aggression and can obstruct both morale and results. It erodes a key component of teamwork, engagement, and morale — trust.
Passive aggressive is less direct not less aggressive.
It can disengage employees from each other IF we allow it. How do we become accomplices to passive aggressive team members?
Spot the pattern of passive aggressive behavior in order to eliminate its ruinous effect on your team’s success.
Passive aggressive team members will:
Interrupt another team member who is speaking to us with a quick “sorry” yet no real acknowledgment of the other person’s presence. Or they will smile and say to the other person “You don’t mind do you?” They cover lack of manners with fake manners.
Restate exactly what another team member just said as if it’s their own idea.
Use subtle sarcasm against another team member and call it humor.
Intellectualize instead of apologize. When faced with evidence of their bad behavior, they are known to say “I wonder why I did that?” instead of “I am terribly sorry.” Or they repeat their bad behavior even with apologies.
Use neutral statements instead of true empathy. Effective team members support each other. Passive aggressive team members appear to support others. Facing a distraught team member, a passive aggressive would say something like “Yes, it is difficult, isn’t it?” A supportive team member would more likely say, “How can I help? Let’s look at it and find a solution.”
Hold others to a very high standard of behavior and call them on it publicly. “Well you wouldn’t want to be known as the one who didn’t help out, would you?”
Use apparently logical reasons to undermine other’s success — and then ask them if they mind. Example: As requested, a team member prepared a presentation for the next team meeting on a technology they were developing for all to use. The passive aggressive team member monopolized the meeting with discussion and at the end of the meeting said: Oh we won’t have time for your presentation today. Does it bother you?”
Mistrust, anger, resentment, and disengagement are the most damaging impacts of passive aggressive behavior on the organization and its results. If we as leaders do nothing to prevent it or cure it, team members begin to mistrust us as well.
Strong driver type leaders become an accomplice to this behavior with their sole focus on results. They dismiss outcries of passive aggressive behavior with: “Just focus on the work.”
High amiable type leaders, who love harmony in relationships, often dismiss passive aggressive “Oh they didn’t mean anything by it.” They are now accomplice to this damaging behavior.
Strong analytic leaders may overlook the passive aggressive behavior claiming they don’t have enough data to prove it’s happening. They become accomplices through the misnomer that if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. A ridiculous tenet.
High expressive leaders are so connected into the exchange of information they become accomplices by not seeing the manner of expression.
Check our own behavior. Ensure that you are not passive aggressive. Team members model the leader.
Ask yourself, am I afraid of conflict? That doesn’t mean that you are passive aggressive yet you are at a high risk of not addressing it. Get coaching on overcoming your fear of conflict and you become a far better leader!
Have the entire team develop a list of high performance team member behaviors. Clear expectations of behavior are one way to develop a culture of positive interaction and give everyone a mechanism for discussing negative behaviors.
Provide training on how to disagree without being disagreeable. A team’s diverse opinions are its strength. The way they communicate is its lifeblood.
Illustrate the difference between diplomacy and passive aggressive. Passive aggressives often mislabel their subtle behavior as tact when in truth it’s venom.
Be willing to spot and address the behavior even in a top performer. Singular results only contribute a portion of success. Behavior impacts morale which accounts for much of success.
Teach and use engaging meeting management techniques. Stop bad behavior in it’s tracks so all will fully engage as they feel valued and respected.
Watch for and dismantle cliques. Not all cliques are passive aggressive. Yet many of them are and in any case are harmful to a positive team culture.
As leaders we have an organizational responsibility to engage team members for positive morale and highest quality results.
We also have an ethical responsibility to create a non-hostile environment where all receive basic respect and an opportunity to fully contribute.
Passive aggressive behavior is a virus that can infect the team and kill results. Let’s prevent it or at least be the cure.
Question: What other passive aggressive behaviors have you spotted and how have you handled them?
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
Related Post: Leaders, A Pain Free Journey to Employee Accountability
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on employee engagement, leading change, teamwork, and customer service & experience. Kate turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.