Is there a strategy that helps managers deal better with such team members?
Yes – and this applies to all challenging situations or people. It’s called value freedom. This means that I don’t judge or condemn passive-aggressive behavior negatively, but see it as a pattern. As a learned pattern out of fear of confrontation and sanctions. It is very important to build trust with these employees. To always give them the feeling: Nothing will happen to you if you express your anger, show your disappointment or say that you are not satisfied. This does not mean that the leader is the fulfillment of all wants and needs. But that she likes to hear them and, if possible, includes them.
How diplomatic do you have to be when addressing difficult personality traits?
Diplomacy is usually very well trained and the employees feel: this is not real. This is why empathy is an important tool in modern leadership. As soon as I can empathize with how the other person might feel with my message, my arrangement or my statement, I will formulate accordingly. If the emotional level is positive or appreciative, I can say anything. But if the other person feels belittled on the emotional level, he no longer listens or accepts nothing.
Are there perhaps also advantages of passive-aggressive behavior at work?
Yes, passive-aggressive people do not immediately jump into every conflict in the offensive. Conflicting situations are often only emotional moments. If these are not rocked up, they are sometimes over again immediately. But if fuel is immediately poured on the fire, something can boil up that otherwise remains meaningless. Of course, a balanced conflict behavior is optimal.