How To Stop Passive-Aggressive Behavior In The Workplace

Passive-aggressive behavior is one of the most destructive forces you will encounter in the workplace. It can destroy the teamwork you worked so hard to create. As the manager, you should address this quickly by setting new expectations for the team.

Rather than mandating the new expectations, get their buy-in to resolving differences among themselves in the following manner: In a team meeting say, “I’d like your input on how you prefer to resolve differences with each other. If a teammate has an issue with you or something you are doing, would you prefer:

  • they bring it to me (the manager) without discussing it with you. Then I will discuss it with you, without saying who brought it to my attention, OR
  • they come to you, and the two of you discuss the issue face to face?”

Most people prefer to discuss it with their teammate. When your team chooses that option, you now have their buy-in. Then say to them, “Because we are all in agreement, let’s make that the new expectation. When you come to me with a problem you have with a teammate, I will ask you what you said to them before coming to me.”

Then get their commitment to follow the 3 R’s:

  • Resolve issues with your teammates and not engage in passive-aggressive behavior
  • Refuse to listen to a teammate complaining about another – thereby eliminating the passive-aggressive person’s audience
  • Redirect the person to deliver the message to the appropriate person

When they accept responsibility for resolving differences, the results will be:

  • more teammates resolving differences between themselves
  • fewer people coming to you to complain about teammates
  • more tolerance of their teammate’s behavior
  • increased teamwork as a result of better communication

If an employee comes to you for help when they don’t know how to address an issue and don’t want to make the situation worse, that is when you coach one or both of them how to have a respectful discussion or mediate between them. I’ll discuss mediation in another post.

That’s my perspective, what’s yours? Leave us a comment or question below this post and thanks for reading!

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