Working With The Poster Child For Passive-Aggression?

Passive-aggressive co-workers & competitionHave you ever felt kicked in the stomach and, while you were trying to catch your breath, the kicker was telling you that it was your fault you were feeling hurt because that’s not what they intended?

The kicker might go on to add that you just have to have a tougher skin. That’s passive-aggression at a minimum, and Hijackal™ behavior above that..

You are legitimately hurt or negatively affected by someone’s behavior and they have the gall to tell you it’s your fault. Although that is not the accurate psychological profile, it is just how you feel when it plays out.

I frequently work with leaders and their teams. It is just as frequent that I encounter passive-aggressive team members and leaders! So, are you working with the poster child for passive-aggression? I’m going to write a few posts about this so that you may be better able to identify the behavior, and know some good ways to respond. So, stay tuned!

Here’s the actual definition of passive-aggressive behavior:

American Heritage Dictionary:
“Of, relating to, or having a personality disorder characterized by habitual passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in occupational or social situations, as by procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, and inefficiency. ”

Medical Dictionary:
“being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by expression of negative feelings,resentment, and aggression in an unassertive way (as through procrastination, stubbornness, and unwillingness to communicate.)”

A while ago, I was working with a team because no one seemed to understand how to play nicely together while accomplishing the mission. The team has members at four levels from entry to executive. Deadlines are missed. People are unexpectedly missing without notice. In the few months I observed them, it became clear that everyone, top to bottom, were missing the intrapersonal and interpersonal skills that could allow them to do more than deflect responsibility and evade accountability. It was like shooting at a moving target:

“I could have got the report in if X had done his job on time.”
” Management is unrealistic. They don’t listen to us.”
“I have to take my leave and I have that right even if I’ve agreed to attend a meeting. There are rules, ya know.”
“Am I the only one around here who gets anything done?”

Any of this sound familiar? I’m sure you could add many more sentences that you have heard…or, worse, uttered!

The first step in managing passive-aggression is to be sure you’re not playing in that arena. It takes two to be passive-aggressive. No audience. No drama. No participation. No go!

So, first installment: Consider if you are dragging your feet, making excuses regularly, or looking for someone to blame as your basic modus operandi.

More in the next post!
P.S. If you have questions for me, just add them into your comments on this blog post and I’ll answer you asap.

Here’s to Active Assertion!

Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
The Relationship Help Doctor

headshot2011Rhoberta Shaler, PhD is The Relationship Help Doctor. She works with individuals, couples, families and workplace teams to help them develop the skills, insights and solutions that lead to better communication, conflict management and collaboration. You can work with her online through Zoom, or in-person in her office in Escondido, CA, at The Optimize Center.

For immediate insights, subscribe to her blog at  There are hundreds of posts there and a search button to help you find what you need.


Disclaimer: all advice, insights and suggestions made here are not to be construed as psychological or legal advice. Any actions you undertake as a result of reading any article, book, ebook or blog post from Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, are entirely your own. Having worked with individuals and couples for more than twenty-five years, she offers her opinions  for your consideration only.  

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