Tuesday, August 3, 2010

fine, be that way

I've been described as passive-aggressive by co-workers twice in the past month. Granted, one of these people is considered loopy at best, and the other one psychotic at worst, but still. I don't think I'm passive-aggressive (generally-speaking), but I hate to think that my actions are being perceived this way. Does that statement sound passive-aggressive? Maybe if I said it really sarcastically with an annoyed look on my face. But I'm being sincere! Aren't I?

No one has ever described me as passive-aggressive in my personal life (I don't think . . .), but apparently the fact that I get things done with a smile is unsettling to certain people. Today it was used because person A asked her colleagues to help with a certain simple task, and had apparently been faced with resistance, so I was asked to solve the problem. I (and others) felt that her colleagues should help if at all possible, and that perhaps they just weren't being responsive to person A (for various and sundry reasons), so I asked them very nicely, but firmly, to please help us out with this request. They both immediately complied, and person A said, "Did you do your passive-aggressive thing?" I think SHE was being passive-aggressive by implying such a thing!

I like this puzzle-piece photograph: a very neutral, yet pseudo-provocative image to accompany a discussion of psychological issues. Passive-aggressive behavior is a clinically described personality disorder characterized by habitual passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in occupational or social situations, via procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, and inefficiency. It is a form of covert abuse that is subtle, and veiled or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times loving and caring. It is said to stem from an inability to express anger in a healthy way. None of that sounds like me, except the last sentence. I do have some anger issues, but I try to keep that to myself (ha-ha).

When I did an image search for "passive-aggressive," lots of images came up of notes people had left in office kitchenettes complaining about people eating food that wasn't theirs. I have never done this, but I did post a note on the office microwave asking people to please be considerate of others when heating up stinky food in a shared workspace. Yes, it really annoys me when people heat up faux barbecue or some weird fish dish, and stink up the entire office suite. It's inconsiderate! Is it passive-aggressive of me to nicely ask them to think twice next time? Should I instead confront them with fists raised? Maybe. You think I'm passive-aggressive? Fine. I'll just be plain aggressive from now on (and I mean that without an ounce of sarcasm).


  1. Polite and direct are NOT the same as passive and aggressive- they are exact opposites.Why do so many people confuse these things? Anyone who interprets a request delivered "nicely, yet firmly" as passive- aggressive doesn't understand the meaning of the term. Being P-A is SO NOT YOU, Liz.

  2. When you ask someone to do something, like their job, you aren't being passive-aggressive. If you don't ask someone to do something, knowing dire consequences will ensue if the work is left undone, that is passive-aggressive. As much as I fantasize about remaining a quiet bystander and letting the car crash and burn, I just hate the dire consequences part and usually step in to prevent the problem. You do the same thing. That doesn't make you passive-aggressive. It makes you a responsible adult.