I am a new M-T listener. I am part of a project taking a series of operational pain-points and combining them into related IT projects to derive the solution. A recent team meeting was completely derailed by a single recalcitrant member doing the passive-aggressive thing. No,no I will abide by the team's process (5 minutes) complete derail activity.

Since this wasn't my meeting, it was a little awkward to say "sit down and shut up". I finally stopped the meeting, gave some pointed feedback to Mr P-A. We moved ahead for about an hour and then P-A started again. We stopped the meeting completely and went to the airport.

How do you suggest dealing with Mr P-A? I guess, short of a 0.22 hollow point?

Love the show. You guys are great.


sholden's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Does the person causing the problems work directly for you?

If so, are you doing 1on1s with the person?

That is the first step, and then I'd start with feedback on the team member's observable behavior.

From what you describe the behavior you are getting is not effective and that needs to change.

Thanks for the questions! - Steve

dad2jnk's picture

If he reported through me then the resolution would be pretty straightforward. We work in a weak matrix and he is in a different function. I will give him feedback at the next meeting we are together in 2 weeks. If it still persists, then I will give his manager a "feedback opportunity" for Mr P-A.

I use the one-on-ones and my DRs love them. I have been able to change some behavior and motivated the team through some change. A great tool.


jhack's picture

"Doing the P-A thing" doesn't describe his behavior. What did he do? What did he say, how did he say, what were his facial expressions?

Those are the things you have to address. Telling someone they're passive aggressive and expecting them to change is almost always ineffective.

Peer feedback on the specific behavior and its impact is the right approach.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

So this person doesn't report to you. And it's not your meeting. It doesn't sound like they're a peer, more like they're down the food chain.

Why is this your problem?

dad2jnk's picture

Thanks for the responses. His P-A thing is "I submit to the team's process and will trust you guys" then in five minutes he is declaring the process broken. The whole package of crossed arms, eye roll, verbal cues, etc.

He is more of a peer than lower on the food chain. However, I can not directly influence his line manager, who is in Switzerland.

Why is this my problem? Meetings like this are a complete waste of my time and air travel. The project we are working on is high visibility and tight timelines (aren't they all?). I will give him one more chance next week and if he is still off base, I will go to his boss.

ashdenver's picture

I've got to say, my husband would just get up and walk out of a meeting where someone habitually pulled that kind of stuff.

Me, I'd probably cut him off as soon as he started the secondary "the process is broken" spiel with "Gee Mr P-A, since you said you'd submit to the process, let's go with that and we can discuss modifcations to the process at a later date; I've got a plane to catch / another meeting to attend and I think it's important we get through as much of the agenda as possible during what little time we have together today. [no pause to let him get a word in edgewise] Moving on / back to the topic: ____"

Personally, whether it's the appropriate protocol or not, I'd seriously consider skipping meetings he's attending, asking the meeting chair to provide me a copy of the meeting minutes and following-up with emails to the folks who can actually make things happen regarding the outstanding items that didn't get addressed due to Mr P-A. "I don't see XYZ made it to the meeting minutes. Here are my thoughts. Anyone else? Let's see what we can accomplish in email before our next meeting."

If you're going to his boss, I'd recommend you have all your ducks in a row. Explicit examples, a list of attendees who would back you up, a list of dates / times when he's hijacked meetings, etc. I'd also suggest you have some solution included in the presentation to his boss. Maybe you know of someone else in a similar position who could replace Mr P-A in those meetings who wouldn't be a PITA or perhaps you could suggest that Mr P-A be moved to a process-improvement task force because, after all, you know how important it is to Mr Switzerland Boss that this project conclude seamlessly and you're just looking out for his best interests.

(I've found that offering suggestions on how to resolve or improve the situation you're complaining about helps the manager take action. There's a lot less thinking involved on their part - they can just pick an option you've laid out & run with it. Plus, you look less like a whiner and more positive, results-oriented when you offer solutions. You've thought things through rather than just bitching cuz you're pissed.)

dad2jnk's picture

Thanks ashdenver. I will let you know how the next meeting goes.

This sounds like a good podcast topic - What to do about meeting pirates? Apply the feedback model once, twice, then stop the meeting or leave. I can hear the guys now.

All the best, Ken

US41's picture

Give the guy feedback. "Hey, dude, when you roll your eyes, cross your arms, and lean back in your chair, to me you look like you are looking down at everyone in the room. When you do it, I get the impression you think we are idiots, and I'm wondering if others think the same thing. Do you know that you are doing that? "

He'll argue and say, "You're the one with the problem." or "Don't think that way" or maybe "You're wrong."

Just walk away. The next meeting, he won't do it. You watch. He'll push back like crazy when you give the feedback, but then he'll stop the bad behavior because he'll be embarrassed you can see him.

The behavior might stop if you feedback the guy so that he understands "We can all see you. You are not invisible."

bflynn's picture

One recommendation that I haven't heard is to ask the meeting director to cut the guy out. He is not helping the process. If he does not change his behavior, he can and should be excluded from it.


ccleveland's picture

Have you talked to the guy outside of the meeting to [u]better understand him and his concerns[/u]?

It sounds to me that he's looking for someone to give him some credit and look at his side. [u]From his point of view[/u], when he starts off by agreeing, it could just be his way of trying to show that he "wants" to agree with the process. Sure, perhaps he could say it differently, but "judging" him as Passive-Aggressive directly or indirectly isn't going to get him to change.

Going to his boss also has a good chance of increasing the [u]subtlety[/u] of any aggression he may have without decreasing it one little bit.

You want the project done.
He has a perceived problem with the project, right or wrong.
His perceived problem is delaying your project.

It sounds like you need to address his perceived problem in a way that is satisfactory to him. Talk to him without "judgment" about his behavior to find out [u]why[/u] is concerned. Help him see his own benefits in a proposed process or changes to the process.

Will that take more of your time? Yes.
Is it fair? No.
Will it help you reach your goal? Probably.


lalam's picture

If this person is important for the project success, then you have to find a way to work with him. I agree with ccleveland:

You want the project done.
He has a perceived problem with the project, right or wrong.
His perceived problem is delaying your project.


Walking away from the problem or escalating probably won't get you any closer to the project success. Now, if this person is not critical to the project success - by all means, escalate to his boss and have him removed from the meeting if this persists.


eagerApprentice's picture

We had a team member like this on one of my projects when I was a consultant - it was annoying to everyone on the team. However, he was pretty good at one part of the project that was vital, so we just tolerated him.

It was horrible though - he often affected team moral and slowed us down. I might suggest confronting him, but when I remember this person on my team finally being confronted, it actually made him worse and more unbearable to work with. Luckily the project did finally end and we all escaped - a luxury I know you don't have on hand.

Based on that, I might follow a more diplomatic approach until you can replace him or distance yourself.

US41's picture

[quote="eagerApprentice"]he was pretty good at one part of the project that was vital, so we just tolerated him.[/quote]

This is a classical management blunder. We've all done it at one point in our careers - we've tolerated a technically gifted jackass and let him destroy everything except his technical contributions. I've done it - we've all done it.

It should probably have a cute name like The Deal With The Devil. It's never a good idea to keep someone on the team that poisons the water everyone drinks from.

Managers must learn to not be afraid to cull the herd when one of them is infecting the others with disease or negativity. Failure to do so can result in a major disaster.

If they will not change their behavior, then show them the door.

I learned this lesson this summer. I had an employee who was covering a very difficult and painful project who was determined that he would not be part of a team. He tried using his laptop during meetings, and when given feedback, would just pack up and leave the room. He would take calls during "No phone calls" meetings. He would miss most of the team meetings we invited him to. Finally, he was insubordinate with a manager working for me, and I took all of our O3 notes to management along with a bulleted summary of bad behavior, and I finally flushed him out.

I should have done it quite some time ago. I waited too long, and I put up with too much for too long.

It's a hard thing to do to fire someone. But when called for, IT IS MY JOB.

dad2jnk's picture

Just got back from another meeting with Mr P-A. Luckily I had just listened to the Peer Feedback podcast on the plane. I used the model, he apologised to the team for his behavior in the last meeting. One of the team members popped a joke and we all had a good laugh to break the tension, then we moved on. As it turned out, we were very efficient and went home a day early! When was the last time that happened?

Thanks to everyone for their input. It really helped. These podcasts are great.

All the best, Ken

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I'm sorry for my delay in responding. I regret my absence.

First, I love it when a community works together!

Second, the next time someone makes a joke like you did about weapons and management, the post will be removed and the member will be giving a final notice regarding completely egregious and unprofessional, beyond the pale behavior.

Third, I was surprised about the comment, "how is this your problem?" Wow. You're in a meeting with someone, and they're keeping the meeting you're in from being effective - that's your problem. Maybe you're not the best person to address it..but it's still a problem for you. Management responsibility for directs is not abdication of corporate effectiveness.

Well done US41 for suggesting peer feedback. Until you've done it - and US41 is as good as anyone I've seen do it - don't knock it.

CC, I'm glad you shared thinking about it from this person's point of view. That said, the behavior was clearly unacceptable. If he holds onto his point of view but changes his behavior, we're a step closer to being effective and efficient. TOO many managers make the person's intent important enough to lose focus on the problem, which is the behavior.

The meeting leader was doing a terrible job. Don't let this happen to you.

It's good to be back.


Mizzle's picture

In the podcast Handling Peer Conflict Part 1 @ 4:54 a joke is made about killing a senior manager.

Only bring that up because I just listened to it, and it was strange to see you call that guy out based on a joke about killing a disruptive meeting member.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

No offense, but this is not "calling a guy out." This is:

1. Enforcing standards in the forums, and

2. Protecting a member (and by extension all members) from the danger associated with inappropriate public comments. Every instance has an impact on the culture of these forums.

And, I have made many of the mistakes that we recommend members guard against, including this one. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

I regret my joke, and it won't happen again. Wrong is wrong.


arc1's picture


Could I suggest that one problem here is the use of "egregious, unprofessional and beyond the pale" when perhaps a single descriptor such as "completely inappropriate" might have sufficed.

But more importantly - please, please, PLEASE, don't allow this exchange to result in you guys "watching your words" and removing what humour there is from the casts. I doubt that was Mizzle's goal in posting. It would be an awful shame. You and Mike aren't the world's greatest comedic talents, but man some of your exchanges make me laugh. Nothing makes me feel better about my miserable, soul-destroying train journey each day than chuckling out loud and getting weird looks from my fellow sufferers.

Cheers, Chris

dad2jnk's picture

Hi All,

Lets close this one. My comment was certainly in the heat of frustration and was, in hindsight, inappropriate and unprofessional. Having said that, I too thought Mark's comment was a bit heavy handed, but it is their forum and I have seen many other fora decline into rant columns which is not effective. I accept the feedback and have put it to use.

Don't stop the humour. I makes us all human. As with the distruptive team member: feedback, change behaviour, a touch of humour, move on to better productivity.

All the best, Ken

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge


Wonderfully professional follow up. Thank you.

I agree that I would prefer to have this type of feedback out loud for all of us to use to avoid having our forums fall into flame-war ruination. This group has grown exponentially in the year I've been around!

lazerus's picture

As managers, we hold ourselves and each other to higher standards. I think the word "egregious" is an apt descriptor. As a long time member, I was a little taken aback when I first saw this post! I think there is a difference between the violence implied by "a .22 hollow-point" and joking about wanting to kill someone. I appreciate Mark taking a stand like this. We need to have a more rational management vernacular.

jhack's picture

And there is a very significant difference between a generic reference and a reference to a specific individual.

Context is critical.

dad2jnk, Please let us know how things work out in the long term. You're facing something many of us run into, and we can learn from you...


agreen's picture

It is good being a part of this place ....

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

- Sigh -

Some days, the low pay and 2 am forum post reviews just don't make the hard stuff worth it.