Dealing with Passive People at Work

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Sometimes managers can get lulled into complacency thinking that just because employees keep their heads down and keep their thoughts to themselves that they are happy, when in reality they may be masking disatisfaction.

Q: How do you identify a passive person?

A: A passive person is actually defensive, it’s just that they choose to defend themselves by blending into the background. You can often sense their avoidance – lack of eye contact, never either overly supportive or overly critical. Often rather than telling you something to your face, they will try to get another person to relay the message. This kind of triangulation is not good for healthy relationships.

Q: How can a passive person become more constructive?

A: First a defensive person must begin to think better of themselves. Often there can be a lack of self-confidence so realize that you are a good person with a valuable opinion. When you feel yourself stepping back, decide to step forward instead and say what’s on your mind. Do less hinting at what’s bugging you and be more direct.

Q: What should a manager do with a passive employee?

A: A manager should look for signs of avoidance and in a low key way, ask for input and feedback. Take extra time to consult with employees before ramming an idea or decision through. Unless you get commitment, assume that some people are not buying in. Ask them what reservations they have. Boost confidence by offering deserved praise.

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