you’re trying to draw the person out, so don’t be intimidating. Be
kind and firm: “We agreed to the project plan and then you went
to Mary to change the timelines. I’m on the hook for delivering on
time and now my project is in jeopardy. I want to know if there’s
a risk in the plan. How can we get these issues on the table when
we’re building the plan in the first place?”
Most passive-aggressive people are trying to avoid uncomfortable
situations. The secret is to tip the balance so that it’s more
comfortable to confront the issue directly than it is to be called out
for taking that conflict underground.
WHAT IF IT’S ME?
Do you recognize yourself in this description? Biting your tongue
when you don’t agree with a decision? Telling yourself all the reasons
why a plan won’t work? Getting more and more frustrated
about how things are going but doing nothing to change the path?
Do you have room to improve in the conflict department? You’re
not alone. There are things you can do to get out of the passive-aggressive
The most important thing you can do is to stop having the conversation
in your head and start having it out loud. Find someone
you trust (even if it’s someone outside your organization) and
share the situation with them. Ask them questions, such as, “What
am I missing?” “Are my concerns worth mentioning to the team?”
“How would I go about raising this issue?” Your confidant will
provide important perspective and help you gauge whether this is
something you should deal with directly or something you should
let go once and for all.
Your conflict aversion is pretty typical and probably the result of
a few uncomfortable experiences. But conflict can be calm, kind and
helpful if you approach it in the right way. Try raising your concern
as a question. “How will my team deliver on the Calgary project if
we’re needed on this Winnipeg project?” Be honest and transparent
about how you’re reacting to the plan. “I’m getting anxious about
how my team is going to react to another project.” Add your truth to
theirs and see if you can resolve the issue together. “Ok, so you need
the Winnipeg project live by December and we’ve already committed
to Calgary by November 1st. What are our options?”
If you have a tendency to stay passive when something is frustrating
or angering you, you are doing yourself a disservice. Staying
quiet means no one knows that you want something to change.
Give your colleagues a chance to make things better by articulating
your concerns in a friendly, constructive way.
Passive-aggressive behaviour is costing us dearly. Our organizations
are losing productivity and our people are paying the high
price of ongoing frustration, stress and anxiety. It may seem hard
to believe, but the path to decreased stress and improved mental
health in the workplace is to have more conflict, not less. More
open, direct, productive conflict, and we’d all be healthier. n
Liane Davey, Ph.D. is vice president, Global Solutions & Team
Effectiveness at LHH Knightsbridge.
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38 ❚ SEPTEMBER 2015 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL