Passivity – Rebellion with a Smile - Part II

Wed, 2015-01-28 11:03 -- tomjonez


Last week I pointed out that one of the behaviors that can be challenging when leading a team is the characteristic of passivity with a member of a team. In defining this topic, I clarified that passivity is, “The failure to take action when called upon to do so.”

Passivity, as discussed previously, is often masked by an agreeable outward appearance and corresponding verbal responses. In other words, the person who is asked to complete a task may well agree, nod their head affirmatively, will often smile, and may even say “yes,” …and then does not follow through behaviorally and to actually do what is assigned; they fail to act.

What to do?  Here are several steps that can help to address this issue:

1. Behavior: It is important to realize this issue is about behavior, not words.  The passive player will often outwardly agree, they simple won’t follow-through and do what is asked or assigned.

2. Discuss: In order to move ahead, the leader will need to meet with the passive player and describe the difference between “saying” and “doing.”  Expectations must be clear.

3. Deadlines: When assigning – or in this case likely reassigning - a task, it will be wise to set a deadline by when the task must be accomplished.  Endless delays are a favorite tool of the passive player.

4. Documentation: It will be wise to place the task or assignment, and the specific deadline, in writing and to ask the person to agree and sign the written assignment.  Provide them with a copy and keep one yourself.  “I did not understand” or other such passive strategies can be curtailed by a written agreement and practical acknowledgement of what is expected.

5. Third Party:  It may also be wise to ask an appropriate third party to witness the steps above.  The verification provided by a third party may be valuable if subsequent consequences become necessary down the road.

Passivity is a tricky topic and can be a difficult behavior to manage.  Often the passive player appears compliant, agreeable, they may be enjoyable, and smile frequently when asked to participate in team objectives.

Yet in reality, they fail to follow through and get the job done.  Though it may be a bit strongly worded, at the core, passivity in such cases is simply rebellion – and as previously mention - often it is rebellion with a smile