Once again, I’m out of my area of professional expertise, but I would suggest the answer to the title question is “passive-aggressive behavior.” My partner, Barbara, will write more on this subject later, but I wanted to at least introduce it.
Based on reading 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness, by Andrea Brandt, and my own experience and observations over the decades, I believe most of us could do better.
Here are my takeaways from Brandt’s book:
- Unlike extrovert/introvert, passive-aggressive is a learned behavior developed during our formative years. Brandt would say that if one parent is dominant and the other is subservient, children will almost inevitably develop some passive-aggressive tendencies.
- Unrealistic standards can cause a child, who becomes an adult, to develop passive-aggressive tendencies.
- Brandt would say that we don’t express our feelings because we leap to the conclusion that any difference of opinion will lead to a quarrel, which in turn will threaten our relationships.
- She would also say that if you don’t ask for what you need, the odds of getting it are greatly reduced.
- The best thing we can do for our children is to raise them in an environment where it’s safe to express our feelings and speak the truth to each other.
- People with passive-aggressive behavior will say “yes” when they really mean “no.”
- According to Brandt, conflict — even if it’s occasionally uncomfortable — can help create good, enriching relationships. (Editorial comment: this is very counterintuitive.)
- Don’t assume the other person knows what you’re thinking and feeling.
Hopefully this list whets your appetite for reading Brandt’s book. It’s not an easy read, but I believe that for any leader or senior executive, it’s worth the effort.
Two closing comments:
- Since it’s a behavior learned as a child, many of us may not realize we have passive-aggressive leanings. I would encourage you to ask your mentor, supervisor, coach, spouse or someone who really cares for you what they think.
- In reading the book and self-diagnosing myself, I don’t believe I’m passive-aggressive. However, as I reflect on my interactions, I would say that, at times, I’ve behaved in a passive-aggressive manner. This has generally resulted in confusion, miscommunication and bad results.
In my amateur opinion, dealing with this subject could be a game-changer for your team. I strongly encourage you to read this book in order to better understand the impact this very common situation may be having on your company.