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Nursing 101: Your Passive Aggressive Nurse Co-Worker/ Classmate

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by The_Optimist The_Optimist (Member)

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Dealing with Passive Aggressiveness

What is "Passive Aggressiveness"?

Technically, "Passive Aggressiveness is the indirect expression of hostility, such as through hostile jokes, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate/repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible." (Dictionary)

But it has come to be associated with mean behavior or a show of subtle hostility in nursing. Many a person has complained of feeling victimized or perhaps antagonized through the show of passive-aggressive behavior by a colleague or class mate. This behavior is NOT synonymous to nursing alone but can occur in EVERY facet/relationship in life. For this article, we shall relegate it to nursing.

People sometimes resort to passive-aggressive behavior as an avoidance measure either not to directly confront the situation or to cause pique to the other party, who THEN, bites the bait, gets mad and is made to look bad. After all, the person with the passive-aggressive behavior NEVER said a word. No, they didn't- they only made you look worse through their manipulative use of their passive-aggressive behavior.

A clever but very manipulative behavior!

Passive-aggressive behavior is one of the most damaging to any colleague/classmate relations because of its latent nature. You might ask yourself, how you deal with something you can only feel (sometimes) see but cannot express to another.

Helpful Tips Dealing With Passive-Aggressive Behavior with Colleague/Classmate

  1. Recognize the behavior for what it is. The first step towards finding a solution is recognizing the behavior.
  2. Resist engaging the behavior. As much as is humanly possible, do not engage the behavior. State your feelings in a very concise but non-threatening manner and leave it at that. You put the passive-aggressor in a bind because they cannot openly come at you without having to acknowledge their part in the situation at best. At worst, they look at you like you are crazy:yes:. That is okay too, you got your point across.
  3. Do not argue. State your case and if the person denies, allow it. You have stated your case.
  4. Examine yourself and be sure that YOU are not the passive-aggressor!

Thoughts...

By

The_Optimist

P.S: Joe V, do you mind making this an article? Thanks bunches:):inlove:

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TU RN has 5 years experience and specializes in ICU, PCU.

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Nice tips! My way of dealing with passive aggressive, or even straight up rude, coworkers is to smile and kill em with kindness. Like you said, don't let on that they're getting under your skin. Just shove kindness right back into their face. I have one coworker (a medical clerk) who always seems to be intentionally working my nerves. Constantly trying to distract me when I'm in the middle of catching up on documentation - with nonsense questions. Rolling her eyes and giving me this attitude when I still have to draw a set of my AM labs. She always seems to be peeking into my patients rooms when I'm putting in IVs, doing assessments, giving medications, and performing miscellaneous other cares to see if there's something she can focus in on and comment on after I leave the room. There are many other little things through the night that seem to be an attempt by her to magnify my inexperience to the other staff, and even the patients. One time a patient told me that this medical clerk had gone into the room to talk to her. Apparently she had told the patient that I was new and had been having a rough week (which I was, but the nurse-patient relationship is built upon trust and confidence and this just crapped all over that). Regardless of it all, I still smile at her and thank her for her help with everything and never let on that she's driving me up the wall most of the time.

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Nice tips! My way of dealing with passive aggressive, or even straight up rude, coworkers is to smile and kill em with kindness. Like you said, don't let on that they're getting under your skin. Just shove kindness right back into their face. .... Regardless of it all, I still smile at her and thank her for her help with everything and never let on that she's driving me up the wall most of the time.

Um, this is also passive aggressive behavior.

I agree with the OP: First recognize the passive aggressive behavior for what it is, second, do not engage, and third, use direct (assertive) communication.

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TU RN has 5 years experience and specializes in ICU, PCU.

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Sorry I'm confused by that response. How can you both "not engage" and "use direct communication" in the same response to someone's behavior? Using direct communication IS engagement. You realize those are two opposite things right? And prefacing a statement with "um" is not only completely condescending in real life, it's unnecessary on the internet. Did you really need to let on to me that you gave that statement a moment's thought before proceeding with it by saying "um" or could you have just thought about it before typing it out and proceeded without the disdain? Treat people how you would want to be treated.

I had a class in my program that was directed at handling these and other professional issues. The overriding theme for conflict with coworkers was to not confront the person about it, but go to your higher up. I improvised from this a little because I don't think my coworker's actions are damaging enough to my daily life to involve management and bring disciplinary action upon her. Instead I proceeded to treat her as I described, how I treat all people, and how I would want to be treated: with a smile, thanks for her help, and an abundance of kindness.

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By not engaging, what I mean is to not get sucked in to the drama that the person is attempting to create with their behavior. By definition, passive aggression is aggression disguised in such a way as to be indirect, so that if you react negatively, you look like the bad guy. The passive aggressive person looks completely innocent. That is what I mean by not engaging, is to not get involved in this dynamic.

Using direct communication means that you call them out on their behavior. You point out the discrepancies between what they say and what they do. When they behave inappropriately, you address it in the moment.

I don't see how those things are opposite at all, and both are components of dealing effectively with passive aggressive behavior.

"Killing them with kindness" in response to behaviors that bother you is an example of passive aggressive behavior. You are being indirect and not acknowledging that the other person's behaviors bother you.

I still smile at her and thank her for her help with everything and never let on that she's driving me up the wall most of the time.

The way you described your strategy for handling such co-workers sounds pretty hostile to me:

Just shove kindness right back into their face.

So, it's not really true "kindness" that you are showing to your co-worker. You are masking your hostility under a veil of "kindness".....this is textbook passive aggression.

As far as my use of the word "um", here is the definition from merriam-webster.com

[h=2]um[/h] interjection \a prolonged m sound, əm\—used when you hesitate because you are not sure about what to say

This is how I meant it. I'm sorry that you read any more than that into it.

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dudette10 has 14 years experience as a MSN, RN.

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IMO, people who use passive-aggressive behavior on a regular basis are lacking confidence or feeling threatened in one or more aspects of their lives, whether it be professional or personal. When I have had issues with people like this, I've addressed it directly and privately, and the behavior (at least right to my face) stopped. It seems that people who routinely handle their own feelings with passive-aggressive behavior toward others are stunned into silence when someone calls them on their ********.

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Where I work now, we have 1 older nurse, in her early 70's who is so passive aggressive that I've never experienced that level of any place I've worked. It's hard to even communicate w/ her. Sad, because she can't be assertive and just say what she needs. Has to resort to this and can't see it, apparently! I don't engage w/ her much and if I do a few short words. She likes to watch your face and if she gets a "reaction" it makes her day! Pathetic!

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