Can passive aggressive behavior in the workplace = Psychological Bullying”?
The Definition of Bully “to frighten, hurt, or threaten a small or weaker person clarifies how an individual can prey on the vulnerable or weak.
But what if an individual does not know he is being hurt or threatened?
Or, what if this scenario is happening in the workplace, to you, by a close coworker without your knowledge? Yes, there is no recognizable threat now, but as the truth unfolds, there is a possibility that you’ll realize that the motives of some whom you have trusted are not pure.
Unfortunately, this form of workplace bullying has the potential to damage your emotional and psychological state (as you cannot face the fact that this deception has happened to you).
Bullying is not always physical or verbal abuse
On more occasions than I care to admit, I have witnessed individuals manipulate others (sometimes unknowingly to the victim) to obtain information, to pile on excessive work (as in clever movies like “Office Space”), to rise above in the ranks, or to coast through without having to do much work. Just because bullying does not contain overt verbal or physical abuse does not mean that mental and emotional abuse is not happening as an effect of bullying.
Manifestation of the Passive aggressive mask
Passive aggressive behavior manifests as polite comments and gestures and inferior body language, although the individual can be thinking the direct opposite. It’s all a part of a game of manipulation to allow a person to believe that they are maintaining one relationship with a co-worker or management when this fake relationship is being conquered up only for gain. Behavior’s that emulates passive aggressiveness are used to get closer, gain ground, with one’s motives going unnoticed.
Due to the non-threatening attributes of passive aggressive behavior, it can be used as a tool or weapon to deceive other co-workers. Their demeanor and actions fail to impact with the same intensity as an aggressive physical bully, so it is often overlooked, or even questioned (with non-sustainable proof). As a result, many do not see passive aggressive individuals as someone that can cause harm. In fact, they never see them coming. “Passive aggressive” individual’s wear masks.
Merriam-Webster states that passive aggressive behavior is “of or denoting a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting, or misplacing important materials.”
It is in this nonaggressive behavior that individuals feel “safe” to state and do as they please. In their eyes, it is not a terrible thing, because their behavior and actions are non-confrontational.
“Oh, I’m sorry, would you like to take the lead on this project Alice? (knowing that they are offering just so that Alice can offer it back to them, “thanks for offering Linda! If you will like to take the lead on this project, that is no problem, but if not, I can take it!” (Alice has hopes you will decline, she’s just too shy to admit it), “Thanks, Alice, I think I will take it!” (Just like that Alice lost out). Linda received the lead and did not have to display any aggressive behavior to get it. Her deceptive behavior allowed Alice to offer it.
As Webster’s definitions denote, procrastination is another way a crafty individual can prey on the weak. Management has been known to enlist the ideas of others as if they are going to use the feedback to make changes.
After receiving loads on top of loads of valuable feedback (generally from face to face feedback sessions) nothing comes of the situation. Various employees ask about its progress just to realize that this particular manager either drags their feet or never does anything with the information at all.
Now employees are left with the sour taste that they have been lied to or used. Morale takes another hit. Employees were transparent in hopes for the greater good, but they have gained nothing in return. In fact, these individuals often use that information that they elicited to rise to another position. The knowledge given to these particular managers by frontline workers allows them to sound “in touch” with the plight of the frontline employees and customers.
Does any of this sound familiar? Have you encountered this in the workplace? If you are not sure, begin to watch those with their pleasantries after more times than not, an offense has taken place.
How can you protect yourself from such behavior?
Begin to watch the consistency of another’s actions. Do not rely on what’s verbal cues; it is that easy. Watch their behavior. Over and over again, it is their behavior that will tell the tale. Watching carefully for such behavior can help you avoid much corporate heartbreak that can ultimately be damaging to your psychological state or career.
Fandango MovieClips (1999). Office Space. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsLUidiYm0w
Office Space (1999). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjJCdCXFslY
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2017). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=webster+definition+of+bullying&*&spf=1