There’s no question. The workplace is a breeding ground for passive aggressive behavior. This article from the Harvard Business Review points out the various signs that you’re being passive aggressive at work. Read below to see if you recognize yourself in any of the following scenarios, and if you do, stop it!
1. You Don’t Share Your Honest Opinion, Even When Asked Directly
You have an opinion, your own take on a topic. Yet instead of sharing it, even when someone says, “hey, Kathleen, what do you think?” you keep your mouth shut. That way, you’re not on the hook for anything, are you? You didn’t give your opinion, they did things their own way, and it’s not your fault. Think of the last time someone asked you what you thought about work project x. Did you speak up, confidently? Or did you stay quiet?
2. You Got Upset with a Colleague, but Didn’t Tell Her Why
Unless you’re a professional actor, you cannot possibly get mad at someone without them feeling the chill from you. When someone does something to upset you, which they’ll inevitably do, take a few minutes to compose your thoughts, then take the offending person aside and tell her that when she interrupted you during the meeting, she hurt your feelings. Then accept her apology and walk away. Diffusing a situation before you let it fester by thinking and rethinking and overthinking will save you a lot of unnecessary stress.
3. You Slack Off On Projects You Don’t Find Valuable
Your boss asked you to do something that you saw as having little value, so you didn’t do it. Or you didn’t do it as well as you do other projects that your heart is in. But let’s face it. Every job has pieces that are less valuable than others. That doesn’t mean you should only do the parts you love — that’s unrealistic. Instead of prioritizing tasks by how much value you find in them, set up a three-tier priority system and classify everything as A (your core tasks), B (projects you’re helping other people with that have some urgency), and C (projects that should be done “one of these days”). Every day you should focus on A and B, and there should be room in every week for C tasks. Take emotion out of it.
4. Public Praise, Private Criticism
If you’re out in public, you can say, “oh yes, she is so great, isn’t she?” and behind her back, you’re saying, “hey, she really isn’t the bee’s knees, but she looks like she is because of something I helped with,” and that’s being passive aggressive. In fact, you don’t need this article to tell you that talking critically about a colleague behind their back is textbook passive aggressive behavior. Further, if you hear a colleague criticizing someone, do not engage. Try this instead: when you talk about someone behind their back, assume they can hear you. That is, never say something about a coworker (or, hey, anyone) that you wouldn’t say in his or her presence.
5. You use the phrase “It’s Fine” When it is in Fact, Not Fine
You find yourself saying, a little tersely, “sure, fine, whatever you want to do,” when what you want to say is, “actually, I think there’s a better way. What if, instead, we ….” The first feels better, because anybody should be able to pick up the fact that it’s not fine. Not at all fine. But they can’t pick it up. Or they choose not to. So they listen to your words instead of the perceived intent behind the words. And you get upset. But you shouldn’t. In fact, say what you mean, and say it confidently. You won’t regret voicing your opinion.
Be nice. Say what you mean. Give praise more often. Get the work done. When someone upsets you, let them know. Work toward a solution. Let your voice be heard. You can do your part to make your office a happier place. So why not start today? When you’re going about your day, keep this list in mind, and ask yourself, “am I being passive aggressive?” If you find that you are, in fact, being passive aggressive, stop that line of conversation in its tracks.
The rest of the office thanks you.
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