A passive aggressive business culture (PABC) is a challenge for stakeholders, leaders, employees, and their customers. Although the American Psychological Association (APA) does not recognize a diagnostic category for passive aggressive personality disorder (PAPD) in the DSM-V the construct yields some utility when evaluating a company’s competitive fit within its industry. A business’ resistance to growth, development, and to the acquisition of competitive competencies can result from both active and passive mechanisms.
Diagnosing a passive-aggressive business culture is aided by the research criterion suggested for PAPD by the American Psychological Association (adapted):
When the business conditions for a passive aggressive business culture to flourish it is not uncommon for feedback mechanisms to be underdeveloped. Projects, programs, and initiatives are produced without proper oversight and evaluation. The regulatory, legal, and contractual obligations are not fully integrated within the larger performance framework. Power is emphasized over that of competent oversight and leadership.
Mechanisms that are indicative of a passive aggressive business culture are both defensive and often mitigate organizational learning. Networks that reinforce existing assumptions frequently mitigate insight and innovation. Norms that entrench an informal status quo frequently mitigate agility and responsiveness.
Commitments that emphasize fitting in frequently mitigate dynamic analysis and creative out of the box thinking. Gossip, norms, and networks that reinforce the herd mentality (see Nietzsche for further clarification of this construct) mitigate constructive dialogue, agile leveraging of existing assets and information, and strategy execution across geographic, functional, and corporate boundaries
The DNA of Competition:
The DNA of the company determines how resources are allocated, prioritized, rationalized, and leveraged. The competitive competencies of corporate learning, agility, innovation, and dynamic analysis requires a corporate infrastructure that integrates culture, strategy, and human action. When these three pieces are not aligned with a focus on the external environment, but instead focus on the internal environment to protect current positioning and mitigate perceived risks, the company loses its competitive edge.
The company’s ability to overcome the unhealthy mindsets, networks, norms, and commitments that mitigate agility, responsiveness, and performance obligations (regulatory, legal, and contractual) will depend on its ability to recreate the corporate culture. The corporate culture represents the means through which information, relationships, resources, and strategies are leveraged.
The company’s culture and strategy must be aligned in order for the unhealthy mindsets, norms, and commitments to be unlearned. It only takes one key figure in the leadership team to mitigate corporate efforts. Change management efforts that address the environment, culture, and infrastructure is just the beginning. Unlearning of ineffective mindsets, networks, norms, and commitments is also necessary.
Building Employee Satisfaction into Company Systems
In order for employee satisfaction to represent a true company competitive advantage the issue needs to be explored whether these supported advantages are equal if not better to the competitive advantages of the company’s competitor. This can be easily evaluated by whether or not the company’s employees (once they left the company) are successful working elsewhere in the industry. If they are not, the strategic initiatives should be revaluated since the company’s employees, which represent a key competitive advantage (particularly in the knowledge and service industries), are being rejected by the company’s competitors.
When the value of (and opportunity that is represented by) employee satisfaction is not harnessed the company’s competitors are likely to help. For this reason it is critical that companies are emphasizing employee satisfaction in tandem with development, training, and growth. A company that attempts to develop employee key competencies without focusing on the employee’s satisfaction is not only leveraging resources inefficiently but is also likely producing outcomes that are rivaled by the teams of the company’s competitors.
Opportunities to improve employee satisfaction that are not leveraged (within a framework of competency development) by one company represent opportunities afforded, without strategic action required, by the company’s competitors. This remains true whether the missed opportunity is accidental (i.e., the need was not identified) or intended (i.e., the employee’s development was ignored).
The competitiveness of the company’s satisfaction and competency development framework can be determined by comparing a combination of the following metrics: employee satisfaction ratings, customer satisfaction ratings, retention rates (employee & customer/ desired vs. actual), and your company’s financial metrics.
The fact that employee satisfaction metrics are associated with employee financial performance measures emphasizes the importance of companies, their departments, and designated leadership to leverage existing resources to effect positive changes that impact these measures. Internal satisfaction rates impact external satisfaction rates. This means that companies must focus on internal satisfaction metrics to leverage higher external satisfaction metrics.
Employee competencies, which are only sustainably developed in an environment where employee investment, motivation, and relationships are built, require a competitive corporate framework to develop, support, and grow. The framework upon which this is built requires integrated strategic initiatives that emphasize the execution of resources, trainings, mentoring, leadership, and opportunities for the company’s employees and their professional and personal interests to be met. Aligning these integrated strategic initiatives with the company’s mission, vision, and strategic goals supports their success.
How is your company addressing passive aggressive traits in the business culture? Share your comments below.
Travis Barker, MPA GCPM
Innovate Vancouver is a business development & consulting service and technology startup located in Vancouver, BC. Contact Innovate Vancouver to help with your new project. Innovate Vancouver also gives back to the community through business consulting services. Contact us for more details.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5 5th Edition. (2013). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Sung, G., & Neilson, G. L. (2013, August 16). Is Your Organization Passive-Aggressive? Retrieved June 21, 2017, from https://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Is-Your-Organization-Passive-Aggressive?gko=ed975