Passive aggressive anger is often seen in the workplace, where work expectations and requirements are undermined on a regular basis. Sometimes it is reactive and healthy and sometimes ancient and toxic. An employee, boiling inside, may subtly thwart the efforts of co-workers, especially managers, to advance a company or an organisation. Let us take Jason as a good example of someone using passive aggressive anger against his bosses. His passive aggression was not toxic or core, but was a reaction to the bullying of his superiors, who tried to overwork him and sought to thwart his efforts to get an appropriately early train home. This is how he describes dealing with a toxic workplace.
My trainer still really intimidated me and I hated when he corrected my work. Because I was afraid to ask him questions, I would take risks with my work. I would be sick with worry, hoping that it would work out for me. On the days when things weren’t going well for me he would often come over and ask me for my work. It was code for hurry up, in my book. It just made things worse and in my rush to get things done, I would make mistakes. It destroyed me when he would call me over. I knew there was something wrong and I’d dread making the walk to his desk. He would ask me questions about the work, knowing that I wouldn’t know the answer. It was soul destroying saying I didn’t know as he looked in disgust at me. At the time I just thought it was all part of the job and it was all my fault. But as I grew more confident and competent with the work, I realised he was a bully.
I was under immense pressure one day when the Assistant Supervisor put me looking for meaningless ad hoc reports. I told her I was too busy with the daily stuff and they would have to wait. She said she didn’t care and ordered me to get them done. I told her that this wasn’t possible and reminded her of my timetable. There was 1 or 2 sick (probably due to the stress of the job) so I was doing 3 people’s work. She told me to talk to my manager if I wasn’t happy with the workload to start staying later. This angered me as we didn’t get paid for overtime and I felt I was giving too much of myself already. I wanted to tell her to back off, grab my coat and head for home. Again my natural instinct was to always to head home in times of stress. I went to management for a meeting and told them my grievances. They backed her up and maintained that I had to stay later to finish work if that’s what it took. I told them if they distributed the work more evenly that I would be able get the work done. I was adamant that because I was good at my job, I was getting punished with huge workloads. I would have been better off being no good I maintained, because such workers were given little work or responsibility. They eased my workload for a few weeks but things went back to the same story again. This wasn’t good for my mental health. As well as the fears and anxieties I already had, stress and pressure were being added to the mix. The final straw was when I was due a wage increase, but this wasn’t given to me as they maintained there was a freeze across the company on increases.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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DEATH OF A CHILD
ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE