In HR they call Passive Aggression (PA) the perfect crime as it involves a variety of behaviors designed to “get back” at another person without the other recognising the underlying anger.
I thought they were just “difficult” staff. Now I realise they though of themselves either as victims or some sort of resistance fighters. That is victims of bullying or resistance fighters against bad management . Typically they missed deadlines, failed to hit targets and didn’t seem concerned. It was never their fault. The deadlines were unreasonable, the targets unrealistic. It didn’t matter that they had signed up to them. What was clear to them was that I really didn’t understand-the business,I was out of touch with life on the front line, the lack of cooperation from others, the pressure they were under. There were too many priorities meaning some deadlines had to be missed. But the first I heard of this was when the deadline had past, up until them, “every thing was in hand”. My emails to chase up progress went unanswered. When I asked why I was told we’re too busy and there are too many emails. And they couldn’t understand why I was getting so worked up.
This type of behaviour can be found at any level within the organisation and it is notoriously difficult to deal with. Challenge it and the first response is often indignation, “ I don’t know why your so upset. It will get done as soon as I have finished the other tasks or are you saying this is the new top priority?” Indignation is followed by procrastination and half hearted effort. The advice from HR is closer supervision and tighter more explicit targets monitored over shorter intervals. Which means more one to ones and probably involving a third party in order to ward off an accusation of bullying.
A classic PA action is simple to go off sick for a couple of days at a crucial point in a negotiation, the day before a report is due or when the individual was due to make a key presentation. The aim being to undermine the manager.
Passive Aggression is more about resistance than competence it can be difficult to prove and isn’t adequately covered by HR procedures which is why it is referred to as the perfect office crime.
Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk
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