A Daily Dispatch from the Front Lines of Leadership.


Passive-Aggressive Is a Major Problem

Passive-aggressive behavior is more common than we would like to admit. It’s always easier to express our candid views about a person without them present. The same applies to our views on issues. Many people find it painless to tell the leader they like an idea, yet later admit to others they hold an opposite view. This passive-aggressiveness is a common form of resistance in all relationships.

We all need to have the courage and integrity to not act passive-aggressively. The problem is that many of us do so without recognizing the meaning of our actions. When we complain or hold competing views, it is easy to express them to anyone and everyone but the person or parties involved. 

The first step toward becoming less passive-aggressive is to recognize the many common behaviors and actions of this dysfunctional expression. Here’s a short list: 

  • Withholding information
  • Offering partial truths
  • Responding sullenly to good news and success
  • Restating messages in a negative light
  • Insisting feedback is not important or relevant
  • Attributing our actions to directives, policies or powerful others
  • Showing up late to important meetings and events 
  • Alarming others about trivial matters
  • Giving people the silent treatment
  • Offering objections before an idea has been fully explained
  • Intentional procrastination to slow things down
  • Forgetting about or misplacing important documents 

You can think of many more examples. 

The resistance expressed through passive-aggressive actions is all too common. Catch yourself and others when they are acting in this way. Passive-aggressive behavior is never a sound strategy or style. It undermines the trust so critical to relationships. Be wary and call it out when you see it. Great leaders don’t act passive-aggressively, nor do they tolerate those actions in others. We’re saying that right to your face. 

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