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Passive Aggressive Personality and the Workplace

Do you have someone on your team who is so frustrating because he is too good to fire but too bad to keep?


There is a great picture of people who have this issue. It is like having a big dog with its’ paws on your shoulders licking your face while, at the same time, it is peeing on your feet.  Do you love or hate the dog?


People with passive aggressive personality structure possess the aggressiveness of a highly competitive person, but convert that energy into passive behavior.  Instead of getting angry, they will unconsciously do things to irritate you. They might be late for a meeting, or question your judgment.  There might be some truth in what they say, but it is the “edge” in their comments that will feel disrespectful or hurtful.


Such people have great difficulty being aware of how they are getting in their own way.  Instead of owning their aggressive attitudes, they make excuses and feel misunderstood.  They point to the truth in their observations and genuinely believe they are simply acting in the best interest of their organization.


Passive-aggressive behavior in the office can infect almost any team or culture.  It often shows up in teasing and sarcastic remarks.  Teams that tease each other are often venting unresolved resentment through their joking. They have combined a positive comment with a negative one and delivered both to the hearer.


There is great benefit in learning to be open and honest about disappointments, resentment and misunderstanding. Wounds of this nature will occur in every relationship; professional and personal.  If the culture supports open resolution, the negative energy disappears. If they are not resolved, that same negative energy can fester and grow like a cancer cell.  I have seen people leave a job they loved because their resentment toward a coworker had grown too big to tolerate. I have seen work teams split a part by unresolved conflict.


Candor is a skill that needs to be learned. Please let me know if I can be of assistance to you and/or your team.


About Jack Skeen

Jack Skeen
Jack Skeen, founder of Skeen Leadership, has been coaching bright and successful leaders for close to two decades, spending thousands of hours addressing every imaginable leadership, business and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.

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