The passive-aggressive organization: Converting consensus into action

Published: August 18, 2004

Introduction

So congenial as to seem conflict free, the Passive-Aggressive Organization breeds a culture of simulated compliance where “everyone agrees but nothing changes.” Building a consensus to make major changes is no problem; it’s implementing the changes that can prove impossible. Entrenched, underground resistance from the field often defeats Corporate’s best efforts. Lacking the requisite authority, information, and incentives to undertake meaningful change, line employees tend to ignore mandates from headquarters, assuming “this too shall pass.”

Do you recognize this organization? Or worse, do you work there? If so, you are not alone. The passive-aggressive organization is the most common organizational profile among the seven we’ve identified in decades of client work and research (see “Seven Profiles”). More than a quarter of the 21,000 respondents who have completed Strategy&’s Org DNA Profiler® assessment tool describe their companies as passive-aggressive. It doesn’t matter whether the company is big or small, a manufacturing or a service concern, European or American . . . passive-aggressive profiles dominate the corporate landscape around the world. This reality is particularly sobering, since passive-aggressive behavior is inherently unhealthy, inviting inaction and, ultimately, competitive marginalization.

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Seven profiles

Passive-Aggressive is one of seven organizational DNA profiles developed and tested by Strategy&. Of the seven types, three are healthy (Resilient, Just-in-Time, Military), while four (Passive-Aggressive, Outgrown, Overmanaged, Fits-and-Starts) are unhealthy and cannot effectively execute their strategies. For more information on Org DNA or to determine your own organization’s profile, visit the Org DNA Profiler® at www.orgdna.com.

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The passive-aggressive organization: Converting consensus into action