Dealing with a passive-aggressive peer
We've all experienced it. Everyone -- maybe your peers, your team, your manager -- agrees with a course of action, specific action steps. Then, you find out a few days later that someone who had committed to the course of action has gone off and done his/her own thing. This is what's known as passive-aggressive behavior. According to the National Institutes of Health, a passive-aggressive condition is one in which a person seems to actively comply with he desires and needs of others, but actually passively resists them. The person may even appear to comply and may demonstrate enthusiasm for the agreed upon course of action, but will tend to perform the requested action too late to be helpful or in a way that is useless or outright sabotages the action.
In today's Tuesday Reading, "How to Deal With a Passive-Aggressive Peer" Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins make four suggestions that may reduce the disruption that the passive-aggressive person causes:
Give feedback. Explain to the individual what you observe. Describe the impact of the behavior on you and the work and provide suggestions as to how he/she might change.
Focus on the problem, NOT the person. Don't focus on the personality and everything that bothers you about it. You are not going to be able to force the individual to change. Focus, instead, on how to achieve the actual work in spite of the individual's style. Hoping that the individual will change is not a strategy for getting improvement. Instead, explore the specific issue: What is needed to bring the individual back to the agreed upon course of action? What's the specific road-bock to the individual doing the agreed upon work?
Don't take it personally. It's not about you. More than likely, this is a characteristic that the individual displays to everyone he/she engages with. Observe the individual in action and you will see how his/her behavior plays out more generally.
Ask for a commitment. Ask everyone involved in the agreed upon course of action for a commitment -- what did each agree to do and by when. Record and publish these agreements. Peer pressure will often keep even the most passive-aggressive individual on task
So, this week when you experience passive-aggressive behavior, use these steps. They may not always completely remedy the problem but they should reduce the disruptions.
Have a great week. . . . jim