Are museum workers stuck in a passive-aggressive cycle?

Once, when I was unhappy at work, I was given this memorable piece of advice: “Just keep your head down and do your job.” I was told to stay out of office politics, let issues go without fighting them, and focus on getting some job success under my belt.

I found out that’s easier said than done, but I still passed that nugget on to others struggling with their workplace culture. (Sorry?)

Turns out what I should have done was not return email, “forget” to share a piece of information, or bring in smelly lunches for a week. I should have been passive aggressive.  And so should you?


When you have a jerk boss, you have several ways to deal with this problem. One option is to do nothing. Another is to be passive-aggressive. The blog Science of Us reports that a paper recently published in the journal Personnel Psychology finds getting back at your jerk boss through passive-aggressive behavior reduces your stress levels and actually gives you job satisfaction. 


Aren’t humans funny? My 2014 study on workplace culture in museums found that the majority of us are mildly to severely unhappy at work. Roughly 80% of those surveyed said they experience passive aggressiveness at work and poor management came up frequently as a cause of unhappiness.

So…are we unhappy with our bosses and taking it out passive-aggressively, causing unhealthy workplaces for all our colleagues?

Or…are the workers the problem, and our bosses are just trying to get our best work out of us, despite all this strange and unhealthy workplace behavior?

I tend to think it is a little of both. We are all human and tend to act selfishly from time to time. But try to keep this cycle in mind when you find yourself or your work buddy acting a little less than professional.

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