The Worst Workplace Behavior

It happened again today!

I need to stop being surprised by it.

Every time I facilitate a seminar on my “7 Deadliest Communication Sins” audience members’ consistent identify one issue that frustrates them the most.

You probably have experienced it, too.

And, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve also engaged in this communication technique yourself.

It’s “passive-aggressive” behavior.

It comes up every time I ask the question “what is your biggest frustration, challenge and problem you encounter regarding communication in your workplace?”

Now, it may not be the first thing out of people’s mouths but with an audience of 20 or more people it will come up within the first half-dozen items.

From what my audience members tell me “passive-aggressive” behavior, which technically is a behavior and not directly “communication,” comes in these three primary workplace situations:

  • When employees are asked to do things in a new, different way, or to implement new technology,
  • In being offered constructive criticism and feedback, and
  • Specific, direct requests they prefer not to deal with (for whatever reason)

Passive-aggressive behavior is one of those types of workplace behaviors that is a real killer to trust between co-workers.

Passive-aggressive behavior may also be the most egregious because it’s stealthy, isn’t it?

It’s often hard to recognize in many situations because it can be delivered covertly, under the guise of agreement.

Sometimes it’s overt, like with sarcasm or indirectly “throwing someone under the bus,” as the saying goes.

What is your experience with passive-aggressive behavior in your work environments?

What strategies have you applied to overcome it, work through it, resolve it, etc.?

Let’s discuss this and identify some cures, because it is absolutely killing company cultures, which kills productivity, which kills company profits.

Feel free to share your passive-aggressive experiences below.

’til next time Communicate With Power!

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2 thoughts on “The Worst Workplace Behavior

  1. Pat Kuhrtz says:

    When I encounter a group that does not appear to be operating on the up-and-up, I tend to start small with what I can control. Lead your team to be open and honest first. Then, work on influencing through the same open and honest communication to peers and superiors. Sometimes, this will break the pattern enough for you to be successful. But, still be aware of what is happening around you. It can come back at you.

  2. Kenn says:

    “Passive-aggressive behavior is one of those types of workplace behaviors that is a real killer to trust between co-workers”

    This one sentence really hit home with me. TRUST is fragile in any relationship. The work environment is not exempt from how it’s built or destroyed. The elephant in the room is why? Why do coworkers not trust each other. Why do coworkers feel that they do not have a voice? Why do I not trust you enough to speak freely?

    More times than not it is the FEAR of the response that awaits once they speak. Secondly would be the type of people that are cowards who like to get the waters troubled and then watch the show.

    So ask yourself, has your workplace created an environment where speaking your mind can get you ostracized? On the short list? Walked out the door?

    I do not have the magic wand per-say but this is what I do when any one of my 17 reports displays that behavior. I CALL IT OUT! I will ask them on the spot (if in a meeting) to elaborate so we can all understand.

    “i.e. So what you are saying Bob is that you hate the idea outright or there are somethings you would like to change”

    I’m asking on task questions for celerity on the spot if needed but certainly the very first chance I have. You have to make people OWN the behavior. It is a flat out killer of relationships, visions and teams.

    Some people are not aware that they are doing it. Many others use it as a form of workplace bullying and how do you handle a bully? You stand up and go head on in the most professional and tactful manner possible but what you cannot do is allow the behavior to slide as that only reinforces it.

    The best thing anyone can do is to OWN it or bring it to the attention of someone so they can.


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