Passive-aggressive people at work

two passive-aggressive people facing opposite directions

Passive-aggressive people at work

This article takes a brief look at three passive-aggressive (aka manipulative-aggressive) personality types you may either meet in work or have to manage in work if they are part of your team.

Passive-aggressive type 1 – The countdown kid

The Countdown Kid is a passive-aggressive type who is likely very near to retirement. However, they are not looking to go out gracefully with some class and dignity. No, they are looking to work their ticket. They will play the organisational system for all it is worth because they have an agenda.

At best they might be doing the barest minimum they can do to get by knowing you can apparently do little about it.

At worst they might be seeking to try and force the organisation into paying them redundancy, an early retirement deal or some other thing they feel is available and which will yield them more than mere retirement. They do not care who they have to annoy or disrupt to get it.

They are a common feature of many modern, especially large, organisations. In large part the organisations themselves have created the problems themselves. There are many opportunities for these people to play the system. Opportunities arise because of overly-complex HR policies and poorly thought out historically created employment packages. Add to this new rules and regulations in HR and employment law and it is clear to see the fertile ground such people confidently operate in.

Passive-aggressive type 2 – The guilt tripper

The Guilt Tripper is the person who never lets people forget. They never let them forget the bad treatment they believe they have had at the hands of bosses and workmates. They never let facts get in the way of a good story either. Although their moaning may have some small kernel of truth they will happily exaggerate and embellish. Take their stories with a big pinch of salt.

The Guilt Tripper blames everyone but themselves for their perceived misfortunes. They never miss an opportunity to tell people either because misery loves company. They will badger anyone unfortunate enough or foolish enough to listen of their woe-filled tales.

If you do not give them a particular task or project they want they will moan on and on about how you “did the dirty on them” or “stitched them up” and generally held them back. Colleagues will get the same treatment if they are felt to have contributed to this heinous act.

They never seem to worry they might be wrong. They don’t acknowledge the reality of the situation because that would rock their world. Failure to succeed due to a simple lack of merit or some other valid reason holds no meaning for them. No, it was an unfair act directed specifically and callously at them and no one else.

Like other passive-aggressive types they are adept at recognising and pushing the emotional buttons of others. Guilt is a strong emotional button for most of us. They look for people who might either believe or support them. They also seek people who might easily cave in to their bullying passive-aggressive tactics. If you can smell the acrid stench of burning martyr it will likely be The Guilt Tripper.

Passive-aggressive type 3 – The control freak

The Control Freak is a perfectionist.  As such they are unwilling to and often almost incapable of delegating work to others. Even if they are capable of it they are often unwilling to do it. If The Control Freak does manage to delegate, or is forced to delegate, it makes little difference. They will simply try to micro-manage to such an extent they may as well have done it themselves anyway.

Because they seek so much control they will actively manipulate people and situations to gain that control. They are definitely passive-aggressive in nature and behaviour.

The Control Freak is consistently controlling with everyone they encounter. They cannot help themselves and will reveal their tendency despite any efforts to keep it hidden. The Control Freak is therefore relatively easy to identify. Their behaviour can be extremely domineering at times. The Control Freak could well have been placed in the hostile-aggressive section of my book.

Having The Control Freak on your team can be a motivational sink hole. Having The Control Freak as your boss can be even worse. Either way, morale can plummet.

What should you do about them?

The Countdown Kid, The Guilt Tripper and The Control Freak. Make no mistake, if these three are not properly controlled or dealt with, you will struggle. These passive-aggressive personality types and others like them, are dangerous. They are dangerous to your morale and mental well-being.  They are dangerous to the morale and mental well-being of your staff, teams and your departments.

Both the hostile-aggressive personalities, mentioned in an earlier article, and the passive-aggressive personalities mentioned in this article, are bullies. Take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. Assertively stamp it out. Either turn it around, neutralise it or eliminate it entirely. If you don’t then the toxic types, who use bullying as a weapon, will take control of your working world.

Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

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You might also enjoy these related articles:

Hostile-Aggressive People At Work

Overly Passive People Problems

Assertiveness defined

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