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The 4 key points Harold makes in this video are:

1. Assume good intent
2. Stay away from labelling
3. The team needs to own performance
4. Invest in the relationship.

Ask your question: http://www.drharoldhillman.com/ask-harold-show.html

YouTube Link: How to Deal With a Passive Aggressive Co-worker | Episode 8

Ask Harold Episode 8 Transcript:

Today I’ll answer a question from a viewer who is working with a passive-aggressive co-worker and wants to know how to improve the situation. So let’s get in to it.

Hi everybody, Harold Hillman here. Thank you for joining me on episode 8 of Ask Harold. Today’s question is from Brian: Brian faces a challenge that can be particularly frustrating when you’re on a team and you need everybody to pull their weight, but somebody begins to fall short. So here’s Brian’s question:

Hello Harold,

I’ve got a team member at work who I think is passive-aggressive and it’s really getting to me!

[Brian makes that point with an exclamation mark.]

This person is constantly agreeing to things in meetings and even says things like – I really like that idea! – and – Let’s work on making that happen! Then after our meetings I hear from others that we didn’t agree to anything.

I’ve also been accused of slowing projects down because of inaction even though it’s not me. And while I can’t be a 100% certain, I get the impression that he has told his team not to support the things that we agreed to.

What really bugs me is that I can have follow-up conversations with my team mate about whether we are ok taking the agreed plan, or discuss other options. But he just comes back and says the original idea we talked about is fine. Then, finally, we don’t do anything and they say things like – Well, this project didn’t have the proper resources anyway.

This is so frustrating.

[Brian writes]

What can I do to improve the situation?

Brian, your question is a good example of all the funny things that go on caused by human dynamics, when people work together on a team.

I’ve never met a perfect person, so, by extension, that means that I’ve never met a perfect team. But the important thing is that you keep trying to lift your game.

So Brian, here are 4 things that I’d like you to think about in relation to your question:

1. The first thing is: assume good intent with your colleague. I realize that you think he is passive-aggressive, but check how your own thinking may be actually getting in the way of the dynamic between the two of you.

First, ask yourself, always start with yourself: have I been clear enough in pointing out my concerns to him? Have you given him tangible examples of where he’s dropped the ball? Are you certain that he’s heard your concerns as something that he co-owns with you?

Let’s assume that he hasn’t heard as clearly as you had suspected he might, Brian. Make sure he knows that these things aren’t optional.

2. The second thing I would advise is: stay away from labeling, like terms like “passive-aggressive”. Labeling your team-mates is never a good idea. Inevitably you really do begin to select data that confirms what you are already thinking about them – and once you start to do that, it begins to shape the personal dynamic between you and that person. Just like it already has done between you and your colleague, Brian.

So make sure that you’re as objective as you possibly can be and avoid using labels that may damage the relationship.

3. The third thing, here’s an important one, is: the team needs to own performance. If your team member doesn’t turn things around, and even if he does, the team should get used to taking regular checks on how the work of the team can be improved. This includes discussions about where performance is slipping, and where things get bogged down, and what may be causing it.

I’m a big fan of Patrick Lencioni’s team model, what he calls the “5 Fundamentals of a High-Performing Team”. And one of those fundamentals is commitment. If people believe that their commitment is optional, it will inevitably play itself out that way.

So the team really needs to address this issue, not just you Brian. If it needs to go on the table, then put it on the table.

4. And then, finally: invest in the relationship. Now that I’ve said that the team has to own performance, I’ll also say that the individual relationships around the table are important.

So, do you need to invest more in your relationship with this particular colleague? And if you both have teams, does your team need to spend time with his team? Do you need to strengthen the connection in a way that will enable you to talk more freely with each-other, with more candor, whenever those inevitable tensions begin to play out? Because they will.

Lack of role clarity can often cause tensions. So sometimes it’s about sitting down and hashing it through. When you don’t take the time to invest in the relationship, people tend to read more into your motives, and, to some extent, Brian, that’s what you may be doing with your team mate. So the real question is – have you invested enough time?

Thanks for that question, Brian, it was a good one, and thank you all for watching Ask Harold. On the next episode, I’ll answer a question from a viewer who is at a crossroads in his career and wants some advice on which way to turn. I’ve definitely got some views on that.

Remember, if you like this video, tell others about it, and subscribe to Sigmoid’s YouTube channel. And if you have a question of your own, or want to see my other videos and articles, go to my blog at www.drharoldhillman.com

Take good care and see you all soon.