Do you have a passive-aggressive team member? Many managers struggle with how to deal with this type of behavior. While it can be difficult to deal with such a co-worker, there are ways how to manage passive aggressive staff effectively.
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How to Manage Passive Aggressive Staff
What is passive aggression? And how to manage passive aggressive staff that exhibits this behavior?
Passive aggression is a form of indirect communication where someone expresses their feelings indirectly through their actions.
This can manifest in a variety of ways such as procrastination, resistance to change, or deliberately doing something badly.
While it can be difficult to deal with passive-aggressive behavior, it’s important to remember that it’s often a defense mechanism. The person may be afraid of conflict or may feel like they’re not being heard.
With that in mind, here are some tips on how to manage passive aggressive staff members.
- Try to understand the root cause of the behavior. What is the person afraid of? What are they trying to communicate?
- Encourage direct communication. Let the person know that it’s okay to express their feelings directly.
- Be assertive. Set boundaries and stand up for yourself when necessary.
- Avoid getting into a power struggle. This will only make the situation worse.
- Offer positive reinforcement. When the person does communicate directly or behaves assertively, make sure to praise them.
Be Clear About Your Expectations
When managing passive-aggressive staff, it is important to be clear about your expectations. This can be difficult because passive-aggressive behavior is often characterized by indirect communication.
However, if you are clear and direct in your communication, it will be more difficult for your staff to ignore you.
1. Be Specific
When you are communicating your expectations, be as specific as possible. This will help your staff understand what you are asking of them.
2. Use “I” Statements
When communicating your expectations, use “I” statements. For example, instead of saying “you need to do X,” try saying “I would like you to do X.”
This will help your staff feel more engaged and less defensive.
3. Avoid Using “Should” Statements
When communicating your expectations, avoid using “should” statements. For example, instead of saying “you should do X,” try saying “I would like you to do X.”
Using “should” statements can make your staff feel like they are being accused or judged, which will only increase their defensiveness.
4. Be Aware of Your Tone
When communicating your expectations, be aware of your tone. Avoid sounding angry, judgmental, or condescending.
Instead, try to sound supportive and positive.
5. Give Your Staff Time to Respond
When communicating your expectations, give your staff time to respond. This will give them a chance to ask questions or clarify your expectations.
It will also help them feel like they are being heard and respected.
6. Follow Up
When communicating your expectations, follow up. This will help ensure that your staff understands your expectations and is on track to meet them.
Address Incidents Quickly and Directly
When you’re a manager, you’re responsible for handling conflict and setting the tone for your team. If you let passive-aggressive behavior go unchecked, it can quickly become a toxic culture in your workplace.
Here are a few tips on how to address incidents quickly and directly.
1. Set the Tone from the Start
Make it clear that passive-aggressive behavior will not be tolerated in your workplace.
2. Address Incidents Quickly and Directly
Don’t let passive-aggressive behavior fester. Address it head-on as soon as you see it.
3. Be Consistent With Your Messaging
If you’re consistent in your messaging and follow through with your expectations, your team will be more likely to buy into your vision and less likely to engage in passive-aggressive behavior.
5. Lead by Example
The best way to prevent passive-aggressive behavior on your team is to lead by example. Model the behavior you expect from your team and they will be more likely to follow suit.
Avoid Reacting to Provocation
We all know that feeling when someone does something that gets under our skin, and it’s hard not to lash out. But as the old saying goes, don’t let the tail wag the dog.
In other words, don’t let someone else’s bad behavior control your reaction. It can be difficult to do, but try to avoid reacting to provocation.
This is especially important if the person provoking you is someone you have to see on a regular basis, like a coworker or family member. If you let them get to you, they will continue to do so.
Instead, take a step back and try to understand what might be motivating their behavior. It could be that they’re feeling insecure or threatened in some way. Or, it could be that they’re just trying to get a rise out of you.
Once you’ve identified the root cause of the problem, you can start to address it. If it’s something that can be fixed, like a miscommunication, then do so.
If not, then you’ll need to find a way to manage the situation. This might mean setting boundaries with the person, or it could mean walking away from the situation altogether.
Whatever you do, just make sure that you’re not letting them control your reactions.
Model the Behavior You Expect
It’s no secret that employees often take their cues from their managers. If you want your staff to be punctual, professional, and productive, then you need to model those behaviors yourself.
And that’s especially true when it comes to dealing with difficult behavior. If you’re struggling with a passive-aggressive staff member, it’s important to model the behavior you expect from them.
That means being direct and honest in your communication, setting clear expectations, and following through on consequences. It’s also important to be respectful and calm, even when the situation is frustrating.
Model the behavior you expect from your staff and you’ll find it’s much easier to manage passive-aggressive behavior.
FAQs About How to Manage Passive Aggressive Staff
- Understand the root of the behavior.
- Learn to spot the classic patterns of passive-aggressive behavior.
- Don’t ignore it.
- Don’t retaliate.
- Hold them accountable.
How do you outsmart a passive-aggressive person?
- Pay attention to passive-aggressive behavior.
- Call them out.
- Stay present.
- Be open and inclusive.
- Remove yourself from the situation if you can.
How do you manage passive employees?
- Keep your eyes and ears open.
- Create tasks ahead of schedule.
- Be a leader, not a boss.
- Engage employees who exhibit passive-aggressive behavior.
How do you tell an employee they are passive-aggressive?
Avoid any negative or judgmental words when talking to them. Instead, ask them specific questions and give them a chance to explain the behavior in question.
If you’re struggling with how to manage passive aggressive staff, these tips will help you take control and achieve success.
With a clear understanding of what passive aggression is, setting expectations, and addressing incidents quickly and directly, you can model the behavior you expect from your team.
If you want to be an effective manager or leader, then check out Promotable.org for resources that can help you improve. From books and articles to online courses, we have everything you need to become the best possible version of yourself.
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