Passive Aggressive Diaries

Understanding passive aggressive behavior in families, schools, and workplaces

Passive Aggressive Behavior: Student vs. Teacher

How "Intentionally inefficient" behavior can undermine authority

Passive aggressive behavior is a deliberate but masked way of expressing angry feelings. From procrastination at home to sabotage in the workplace and hidden revenge among "friends," passive aggression can be expressed in many different ways, with the common goal of getting back at another person without having to confront or communicate directly. 

In the writing that follows, one university student describes an act of "intentionally inefficient" passive aggressive behavior, directed towards a teacher that she perceived as aurthoritarian and uncaring.   When passive aggressive persons use intentional inefficiency, they purposefully carry out specific tasks and requests in such a way as to not meet expected standards:

So my teacher, we don’t like each other let’s just make that clear. More specifically, she’s the reason I got suspended last year.

Just my luck, this year I had the woman for English. The hatred I had for her was like a fire that could not be extinguished.

The feeling was definitely mutual because she picked on me every chance she got. I was the rebellious, stupid girl, or at least that’s what she thought.

So this one time in class, she asked me to read the passage out loud. I don’t exactly like people, I hate conversations and crowds.

I didn’t want to speak up but I had no choice. But she didn’t make fun of my answer, she made fun of my voice.

She said I spoke too softly, she couldn’t tell if I was even there. While everyone else in the class laughed, I just blankly stared.

So I got back at this woman and best believe, I did it with excusable force. I yelled the answer at the top of my lungs like I was trying to make my voice hoarse.

That caught her off guard, she was startled and frowned. She told me to lower my voice but I stood my ground.

I continued to scream the passage and you can guess what happened next. The teacher asked me to stop reading and to put my voice to rest.

I got what I wanted, all it took was a little passive aggression. Nothing was more priceless than my teacher’s expression.

She knew she had started a battle but lost the war. She knew there was no point in trying to fight anymore.

So I smiled and said “I can’t wait for the next time I get to read.” The teacher and the rest of the class seemed to disagree.

Luckily for me, that was my last time ever reading. Since that day I’d walk into class and give her a very loud greeting.

The usual response I got was a hard, cold stare. Maybe it was her turn to be passive aggressive, but I didn’t really care.

To think I could put that teacher in her place, I myself was impressed. All I had to do to fix the problem, was to create a bigger mess.

 

Permission to share this example of passive aggressive behavior was provided by Samira Ashrafi.

For more information on the ways that passive aggressive behavior is acted out and strategies to change this self-defeating pattern of behavior, please check out The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed or visit www.signewhitson.com for online and live training opportunities.

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.

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