How To Quickly Solve Passive-Aggressiveness On Your Teams

We’ve all attended group meetings, where we concluded the panel believed that everyone was on the same page but then heard voices of discord later on in the day. What happened? We debated the idea or concept till there wasn’t disagreement. However, after everyone left the room, their disputes were resurrected.

Executives aren’t immune to this. The recent Leadership IQ study, How Effective Is Your Executive Team? discovered that only 19% of top executives strongly agree that all the executives are fully committed with no backstabbing or passive-aggressiveness when a decision is made. This could be related to a different finding from the study, which is that only 14% of respondents strongly believe that the members of their executive team feel at ease with disagreements between them.

While we may not like to fix it, many teams have been unable to gain full participation at one moment or another. There are steps groups, whether executive or otherwise, to ensure that no person attends a meeting without voicing opposing opinions.

A highly efficient strategy using one of the most effective methods is to use the nominal group method to test the blindness of every significant decision. It’s like this. After your group has reached an important choice, you should stop the meeting. Ask everyone to take out a piece of paper and write something along the lines of “Folks; I’d like to verify that you all interpreted this major decision differently. I’m asking you to record precisely what you believe we came to today.”

After that, walk through the room, and ask every group member to take a moment to read their responses. It’s not possible to skip this step, and everyone in the room must take their time reading their response. If someone is trying to leave by using “ditto” or “I am satisfied with what she received,” make them read the exact words they wrote.

The goal of this activity is to reveal any issues. If you fail to spot those discrepancies before the meeting is over, it will take you several hours or even days trying to find a way to get the group aligned.

It’s also possible to employ the nominal group technique as your team’s choice is being debated. If your group is to be stuck or you’ve reached an unnatural stopping point and everyone is unable to continue, you can ask them to pull out a piece of paper, and then ask the group with a question they have to consider.

Suppose a group is discussing an issue that is difficult to resolve. In that case, it is possible to have everyone answer the following question “If someone else in the room wanted to know about all options we thought of but did not choose which one, what would you tell them?” You could also ask, “If you could create an entire solution from scratch, what would it be? Why or why not?” Or, you could pose a question like, “Which of our customers/stakeholders would be concerned about what we just decided?” For a more positive twist on that question, replace the word concerned with thrilled.

The purpose of these methods is to bring out and resolve any disagreements over your most important decision-making before the participants are permitted to quit the meeting. I’m sure that many are bored of meetings and would prefer to see them end earlier. But skipping this exercise will allow passive-aggressiveness to fester, resulting in even more (and more painful) meetings.

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Adam Collins
Adam writes about technology, business and economics. With master's degree in Economics, he's presented six papers in international conferences. As a solivagant in the constant state of fernweh, curiosity is the main weapon in his arsenal.

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