Coaching Passive/Aggressive staff

If you have staff on your team who aren't responding to you it may be because they are getting some benefit from it. These types of staff are often called Passive Aggressive staff. They may seem quiet perhaps sullen but they can be quite manipulative and quietly aggressive in getting their own way.

Perhaps a staff member just isn't responding because they are intentionally trying to hide the fact that they have done something wrong.

In stead of being honest and upfront, they remain intentionally quiet while everyone tries to get to the bottom of the problem. Their unresponsiveness is a passive way of dealing with something that they feel really uncomfortable about.

Alternatively, their unresponsiveness can be calculated aggression because they want to intentionally hurt or control other people.

Both are Passive Aggressive strategies.

The first thing a manager needs to do is to encourage them to talk, and that's not easy. You'll need good communication skills and the ability to ask open questions. That's what we teach in our online Coach Training for New Managers.

These are the questions that don't just have a yes or no response. They're questions that start to dig a bit deeper. "Tell me a little bit more about what's going on for you." It's not a yes or no answer.

The other technique is what's called the friendly silent stare. That is the quizzical look. You're asking the question and you're sitting there, and you raise your eyebrows. Give them time and space to talk. You give them a bit of time.

You actually say, "I've noticed that this is happening, or this isn't happening. Can you tell me a little bit more about it? What's the situation? What's going on for you?"

Don't rescue them by giving in first to the silence. Create the uncomfortable silence and let them sit in it. Keep waiting. Be silent. Be genuine but resolved to discover why they feel the way they do.

If you are genuine and calm but firm in your resolve that they open up and discuss what's going on, you may find that they begin to talk after only a few minutes.

Keep asking the open questions. Your goal is to understand why they feel miserable enough to act this way.

You may find that your style or particular staff or departmental processes and rules have all been contributing to their misery. Now you can address the problem.

Sometimes a manager/coach has to be tough first in order to be kind.

You can buy the coaching script in our "Coach Talk for Managers" e-book or listen to an expert interview on this subject at our site.


Juliette Robertson

Showing Managers howt o overcome Generational Diversity and Double the ROI with their Gen-Y

Facilitator of Change, Emerging Leader Programs, Professional Trainer, Facilitator, Executive Coach

Let's begin with the fact that I love Gen-Y (staff currently aged in their 20's). I think most of them are awesome, very talented and I am very excited about what they bring to the wor...

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