Passive aggression = destructive ambiguity

A little while ago I was preparing a job application, it required leadership behaviours that show I can work with ambiguity and uncertainty.

That we are facing ever increasing uncertainty and complexity due to the rapidly changing nature of our technological and social environment is an idea that will be familiar to many. I think about the ways in which I can cope in such an world. I often conclude that it is by building trust and demonstrating self awareness that I and the teams I am in can be resilient and therefore, more adaptive.

A colleague and I were last week talking about passive aggression and covert opposition, traits which I think demonstrate a lack of trust.

Passive aggression is indirect hostility where someone has an emotional response to something but for any number of reasons try to behave ‘normally’. In such a situation how do I know whether their response is related to something I have, or am perceived to have done, or, whether it is something else not related to me? I’ve found passive aggression is difficult to challenge as it is indirect and in isolation individual acts can appear to be socially acceptable (although they still may not leave you feeling great).

I’ve decided that in future I’m going to ask people more about how they feel instead of trying to work it out. The next time I think I am subject to passive aggression and if I feel able, I will ask if that person is frustrated or angry with me, someone else or whether it is that I’ve simply misread the situation? As I heard someone describe it the other day – I’ll try to stop being so British.

I’m sure this approach will be at some risk but I think the benefits will be worth it.

Passive aggression is behaviour that is ambiguous and makes me feel uncertain, We have enough of that already.




Trust, accountability & humility. High performing environments in technical, highly complex orgs

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