Passive Aggressive Behaviour In The Workplace – By Violet Dhu

I am really passionate about helping organizations and individuals with effective communication. In the current era of low employee engagement and low trust, effective communication and interpersonal skills in the workplace are essential for both the company and for the individual. However, far too often, passive aggressive behaviour gets in the way of effective communication.

I like to teach people to be genuine, honest and authentic in their communication and this is referred to as assertive communication. But don’t be confused. Assertive communication does not mean over the top, or aggressive communication, it simply means being true to yourself, honest and authentic. The communication style that is often the most destructive within the workplace is passive aggressive communication.

I was pleased to be recently quoted by Rebecca Koenig in an article in about 9 passive aggressive office phrases. The article talks about how understanding the hidden messages behind passive-aggressive phrases helps an employee to become more assertive and productive in the workplace. I have shared in this article why passive aggressive behaviour is used and what the phrases really mean.

One of the common reasons why people show this type of behaviour is because they are resentful about something but they are unable to express this anger honestly. This behaviour is often a mask for anger, negativity or frustration.  Below are just 3 of the 9 passive-aggressive phrases commonly used in the workplace and the meaning behind them.

  1. “Thanks in advance” – Since gratitude has already been shown at the time the task has been assigned, the employee can no longer say no to the task, even if he or she has a deadline or needs to finish a more urgent assignment.
  1. “No one else has a problem with that” – Often said after an employee shares a concern or disagrees with a decision or plan, this really means, “stop disagreeing because everyone else is okay with this.”
  1. “Just checking in on you” – This basically implies a colleague wants to know about the progress of a task assigned to you. Most of the time, however, this means you missed the deadline or, if there’s no deadline, or you have missed the opportunity to discuss the task and set a deadline.

There are many other passive-aggressive phrases currently used in the workplace today. These are just some of the most common ones. If you try to decode all of them, you will lose focus on your current tasks and become less productive at work.

Passive aggressive behaviour is indeed one of the most destructive communication styles within the workplace. If you find that it is becoming more frequent in your workplace, the best way to deal with this is to address it directly. Approach your co-worker or boss privately and be direct on how it makes you feel when they use passive-aggressive language. Be specific and tell them what phrases make you feel defensive or ineffective at work. Also check your own language and your own phrases to ensure that you yourself are not perceived as being passive aggressive.

If you want to learn more about effective communication in the workplace, Violet has an upcoming Assertive Communication Skills workshop in Perth on 7 August.

The full article can be read here.

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