Am I passive aggressive?
October 14, 2012 3:00 AM   Subscribe

Am I passive-aggressive? I've always felt that I am not, but more than one person recently has accused me of it, and where there's smoke there might be fire...

I suspect most of this might be around the fact that time and I have never had a very good relationship, which is obviously within my powers to fix but I never get around to it (zing). So I'm almost always a bit late to things like meetings, I tend to wildly underestimate how long things will take (and therefore miss deadlines I set myself) and I frequently take a lot longer to get around to doing things than I expect I will.

Some of this is I've always procrastinated, and feel some of my best work comes under intense time pressure. (I can see the other side, that this is, at best, an excuse.)

I also do that thing where you keep saying to yourself "well, five more minutes of [answering email, talking on the phone, soaking in the shower, whatever], and then I'll go" and before you know it, it's meeting time and you're fifteen minutes from being there.

Sometimes it's because I allow absolutely no margin for error and, of course, error happens. You leave the house on time if the roads are empty and you catch the light, but the county has trucks out to repair the roads and then you hit the five-minute traffic light just as it's turning red, etc., etc.

Other times it's because I genuinely lose track of things. I know something is due on Wednesday, but it doesn't occur to me that today is Wednesday, as moronic as that sounds. On something like a chore, I might think "well, I just did that x days ago, it can wait another day" when x is actually several weeks ago.

And I've always been awful at estimating how long things should take. If I say an hour, it's guaranteed to take two, and if I pad it and say a day it will take two days.

I know this is one of the most annoying things about me (and that's saying something), but I've never made much progress in battling this tendency of mine, annoying the ever-lasting crap out of a lot of people in my life. But it never occurred to me that I might be doing this from passive-aggressive motives. I definitely don't think of these time issues in terms of "your project is so special, eh? Let's see what a slipped deadline looks like" or "yeah, I said I'd do that, maybe I just won't get to it."

Are they right? Am I being passive-aggressive? I've read lists of what constitutes p-a behavior, and this is the only thing that seems to mesh well with what I do. It seems like true p-a behavior requires motive; if I have one it must be pretty deeply buried, and that's something I should probably see someone about if indeed this likely stems from that.

(It's also entirely possible I'm just a complete flake.)
posted by maxwelton to Human Relations (42 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Everything you described sounds like a different thing. How do you interact with people? Are your responses and actions passive aggressive? Do you say what you mean, take responsibility, and hit problems head on? Or do you take petty actions in lieu of dealing with issues, go out of your way to avoid them, or manifest hurts and angers in unrelated ways rather than addressing them directly?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:22 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you know what passive aggression is? Because what you are describing is not it.
posted by violetk at 3:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [21 favorites]

Well, whatever your motives, it feels like passive aggression to them.

To some extent you sound like you have an elastic sense of time, but mostly it feels like you are firm about doing things *in your own time* regardless of the cost to others. The motives for that probably aren't deeply buried or anything, more like, other people impose deadlines on you (making themselves the superiors and you the subordinate) and you "take charge" of the schedule somewhat by doing these things in your own time (making yourself the superior and them the subordinates who are counting on you).

I had a distressing thing happen a while back where somebody's forcible misuse of my time caused me serious damage, and for a long time after that I wasn't able to force myself to do things on schedule. It's complicated and I'm not explaining it very well, but passive aggression was definitely a part of my motivation, even though it wasn't all of it.

I appreciate that it is complicated to meet the world's demands, because although I'd always been a very punctual person, I reached a point where I had to make a rule that for the next 21 days I wouldn't be late for anything in a way that was my fault... Well, that impressed upon me the number of ways you can be late for things that aren't your fault. The first two days there were catastrophic problems on public transit, and on the third day I witnessed a hit-and-run while crossing the street. I was afraid to go outside on the fourth day in case a piano fell on me or something. But, your schedule has to allow for things going wrong in an ordinary way, or it won't work. You have to set out for an important meeting some time before you think you need to, and so on.
posted by tel3path at 3:37 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

This does not sound like passive aggression to me. This sounds like failing to have a functional work plan for the horror of corporate life to me. Just come up with an excel spreadsheet or a google task list. This has nothing to do with you as a human being, just maximizing your efficiency as a cog in the machine.
posted by twiggy32 at 3:38 AM on October 14, 2012

I don't think it's passive-aggressive, but it might come across as rude. I am exactly the same as you and assume that everyone factors it in when they make arrangements with me! Eventually a friend got mad at me for always being late, and let me know in no uncertain terms that it's not a cute quirky trait, it's actually dismissive of other people.
posted by superfish at 3:44 AM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

Did your friends cite your time management as an example of p-a behavior, or is that your assessment? If the former, then I'd say your friends think you're rude, not p-a. If it's the latter, then I'd imagine you haven't dialed in yet on what they're really getting at (and your time management is a separate problem that may or may not be getting under their skin, but you're clearly aware of nonetheless).
posted by iamkimiam at 3:53 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think the key is how you feel about the work that gets turned in late. If your favourite person in the world asked you to work on something you thought was really worthwhile, would you turn that in late as well? If the answer is yes, it's a time management issue, but if it's no, perhaps your lateness is a passive aggressive way of saying "F you". The bit I found particularly revealing in your question as that even if you pad out the estimated time a project will take, it still ends up late- this does suggest a bit of deliberate sabotage on your part, however unconscious.
posted by KateViolet at 4:12 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Procrastination and poor time management can definitely come across as passive-aggressive. From Wikipedia: a passive-aggressive person "passively resists fulfilling routine social and occupational tasks" and from the Mayo Clinic:
There's a disconnect between what a passive-aggressive person says and what he or she does. For a passive-aggressive person, true feelings are shared through actions, not words.

For example, a passive-aggressive person might appear to agree — perhaps even enthusiastically — with another person's request. Rather than completing the task, however, he or she might express anger or resentment by missing deadlines, showing up late to meetings, making excuses or even working against the task.
(There are also more deliberate forms, which is what's confusing people, where you deliberately and consciously do something to hurt someone but pretend that it's an accident, OR where you deliberately and consciously say one thing even though you mean another, "Of course I don't mind if your mom comes and stays with us for a week." and then later you complain about how you didn't want their mom to come and stay for a week. You should consider whether or not those things apply to you, too.)

But anyway, it does sound like you're passively avoiding doing a bunch of things. It doesn't sound like your primary motivation is aggression towards others, but the consequences can make it feel that way to them. It also sounds like you're at the point where you really need to find some ways to make your words and actions align which usually involves working on some underlying problems. For example, maybe you do have a subconscious resentment towards people, or maybe you have an underlying anxiety which causes you to seek control in this way, or maybe you just never learned good time management skills. It seems like you have a good handle on what you do, but dig a little deeper into why and that will show you how to fix it.
posted by anaelith at 4:20 AM on October 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've been accused of the same, but I'm the least passive-aggressive, or even aggressive, person ever. But I have, in the past, wrestled with the time control issues you mention. I still do sometimes. But you know when I do that? It's when I'm afraid of failure. One more cup of coffee, just a few more hours browsing metafilter, etc., a day when it will take two...

How much of this is other people's frustration at you not meeting their expectations? I had a big breakthrough on a visit to my mom in August - she started complaining about my dad (they're divorced, he was a pothead, couldn't hold down a job, forgot things, was generally worth being disappointed in while they were together; he's cleaned up a bit now, which I also saw on this trip), and I heard those same complaints, the head-shaking, tears barely held back, and "I just don't know about him...", "you know, your dad...he's just..." and it just CLICKED. But she was complaining about things that, had they not had such a convoluted history, would have been routine frustrations (he wanted to loan me a car, it was broken, then he couldn't get me on his insurance for various administrative reasons plus passing out after a long day at work).

I realized, "Holy crap, this is where I get that aversion behavior! I don't want to disappoint, so I avoid!" Underneath that, frankly, was a desire not to face my mom doing that, and the morass of responsibility and blame behind it.

Take a look at what people are expecting from you. Some of it is fair, some of it is not. On the second axis, some is necessary, some not. Look at your failures (and successes!) for the third axis, some of it is your fault, some not. Plot your position on the graph, then decide where you want to be, and figure out your path.

Just now, just, I got a call. They want me to edit subtitles for a movie tonight. I said "This will take 2 days." They said, "Can you please please please do it by 9 tomorrow morning?" I said, "Sure, I'll try."

Is it gonna be late? Maybe. I didn't promise. Probably, actually. But hey, they know I have other projects going. They know calling someone out of the blue and saying HEREDOTHIS isn't an ideal way to work. So here's what I'm going to do: have a coffee while I poke at metafilter, finish the article that I'm working on, then send a message to another client that says, "Hey guys, sorry, delay." Then I'm going to punch through this guy's thing. He knows and I know what he asked for are unreasonable, but I'm going to attempt it anyway, and get him something he can use. And that's what counts.

While you do the work of figuring out your motivations, remember that, like me, you deserve a coffee while you browse mefi. You do. And when you can't have it, tell people you don't like it!!! Look into things like Glympse. I am a translator, and I maintain a running "word count" on Twitter of my remaining workload. Can you do something on Google Calendar? Be as transparent as you can, and keep people updated about your progress. It works, especially because you're also holding yourself accountable. When other people see you doing that, they'll be a little more forgiving. And when people have unreasonable expectations, call them out.

You're not passive-aggressive, or lazy. You're dealing with mismatched motivations. Straighten yourself out.
posted by saysthis at 4:23 AM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think the part that would strike me as passive agressive is the bit where you know it's annoying and are essentially not giving a fuck.
posted by spunweb at 4:24 AM on October 14, 2012 [33 favorites]

Whether you want to label it "passive aggressive" or not, it sounds like you clearly know what the problem is, and it sounds like you clearly know it is a problem, and you sound like you have no intention of doing anything to solve it.

Which is itself the sort of thing that some people would label passive aggressive. Strictly speaking it's probably the wrong label, but so what.
posted by ook at 4:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [10 favorites]

Here's another possibility entirely, from my friend with the necessary degrees, who nearly jumped out of his skin when I read your question to him:

You have pretty much every single sign that you are a member of a club that I belong to as well. I think you may have adult ADHD. It is a cluster of patterns that's very different from what most people think of when of they think of a child with ADHD who runs around and can't sit still in elementary school.

Have you always been just a little bit "different" in very specific ways? Do you habitually find yourself focusing on what holds your attention, rather than doing what you know is in your best interest? Do you knock into things, break glasses, drop things, or lose your keys much more than other people? Has anyone accused you of laziness or being irresponsible? Do you have trouble tolerating boredom, to the point of it making you feel miserable? Is the future comfortable for you so long as it's "out there", but then you wait till the eleventh hour to get things done, and by then it's too late to get it done right? When you know you have to be somewhere, is it like you have a case of "one more thing-itis? If you think of your actual age, do you feel like you are much younger and not quite grown up?

Although my questions are clearly from someone who sees a lot of of the classic symptoms of the undiagnosed adult with ADHD, if anything resonates you might look further into this.

Do you feel like a "prisoner of the present?" Google "Russell Barkeley", and I think it will be a revelation for you.

/my wildly ADHD gem of a friend.
posted by tula at 4:54 AM on October 14, 2012 [30 favorites]

I'm curious. Are you late to social engagements, or is it just work things?

I think all your examples are work-related. If so, I think there's got to be a pretty serious problem if people are psychoanalyzing you to your face. Maybe the problem is with them or with you or some combination of the two, but basically they're suggesting that you have some underlying psychological problem, rather than just a work process that makes you run late at times. I'm guessing they feel personally disrespected by your lateness, which takes some doing in the workplace. Maybe it's something to do with the way you talk about it.

I agree though, "passive-aggressive" may not be the right term. You don't sound terribly resentful or anything. I think "p-a" is a term people use a lot without thinking that much about what it means.
posted by BibiRose at 5:03 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to get accused of passive aggression until I got my ADHD fixed, so there you go.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:35 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I didn't think "Oh, passive aggressive" while reading this. I thought, "Oh, classic ADHD!"
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:49 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Your time management issues are exactly like mine. I mean, I could have written that word for word (other than the fact that I've never been accused of being passive aggressive.) For me it's part of the package that comes with ADHD.

Time just gets away from me. 20 minutes goes by like 5 when I'm zoned out on the internet or into a good book or even picking up a few things at the store on the way to work. One minute I've got plenty of time and the next minute, holy shit I'm late!

Tula's friend's comment on ADHD is right on. I've never heard it described as being a "prisoner of the present" but that is a perfect description. Also look up the term "executive function". This is the part of your brain that allows you to plan and think ahead and it is haywire in people with ADHD. It is also related to impulse control. You know how some people have that thing where they considered the consequences of their actions and adjust their behavior accordingly? A person with poor executive functioning either literally doesn't make the mental leap necessary to imagine the outcome of their actions or if they can, it feels so murky and far away that they can't muster up enough motivation to overcome the more tangible reward of doing what they feel like doing in the present moment.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:55 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I read it I didn't think 'passive-agressive!' (And if you knew my family, you'd know I'm somewhat of an expert on that shit.) I *did* think 'self-absorbed and juvenile!' which isn't good, yeah, get that under control, whether it's by being treated for ADHD or just setting up more systems and reminders. Probably a combination.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:58 AM on October 14, 2012

i know you're asking the question "is this passive aggression?" but really i think you would be better served by asking the question "how can i help myself cut out this behavior that is so frustrating to others that i'm damaging my work relationships and friendships?" right now the point should not be to prove that they chose the wrong terms, but to see if there is something you are doing that you can change.

so yeah, ADHD. maybe medication? but whether you go down that road or not, you'll still have to re-teach yourself how to be on time for things.

i always add 5 minutes to the time i need to go anywhere, so i don't keep the other person waiting. consider adding 10 - worst case scenario, you're early. this will probably feel strange to you because you aren't used to waiting for others (i'm guessing) but it will feel great not to have someone already starting your interactions by being upset with you.

have you tried a calendar that syncs to your phone and gives you reminders? that could help you with the projects.

in general, telling yourself that you're doing these things to improve your relationships with people because you care about them might feel more rewarding than finishing a project on time (depending on how important others are to you).
posted by andreapandrea at 5:59 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

I know two people who are like this, and I'd categorize both of them as more depressed than passive-aggressive.

One person does not enjoy almost anything she's actually doing with her life, so she's constantly late in order to minimize the amount of time she has to spend doing these things. This seems to be so subconscious that I'd hesitate to think of it as full-on passive-aggression, but regardless of how you label it, the fundamental principle is the same: she wants things to be different than they are but is not asserting that outright. In this case, she's not even asserting that to herself.

The other person deals w/her depression by creating constant crises of minutiae. She never has to face her despair if she's always too busy doing things like, say, rushing back to the apartment because she forgot her laptop and rehearsing how she'll explain away her lateness as she walks into the meeting. Is this passive-aggressive behavior? Again, there's something in her life that needs changing, something that she's not addressing directly, but I wouldn't say it's passive-aggressive per say because her actions seem to be subconsciously motivated.

Personally I think this question is a red herring, a semantic distraction from the real question, which is: Why do you feel compelled to swallow all your time?
posted by january at 6:02 AM on October 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

I agree that it doesn't sound like classic passive aggression to me either. But I do agree that others, who might have their own passivity issues, might see it as passive aggressive. IE, they are the kind of people who would be late to meetings they don't want to go to, so when someone else is late, they must be doing the same thing.

Your behavior does sound like one of the symptoms of ADHD. But for it to actually be that, you have to think about what your motivations are. Are you constantly "just 5 more minutes" because you haven't planned your day? Or because you planned your day and then the plan broke the second the phone rang? Or because you aren't being honest about the amount of time things will take? Or because you feel that your 5 more minutes of work are more important than the meeting? Or because you can only really ever get anything done when you've got the pressure of the meeting to focus your mind to get something done?

And it could be passive aggression that you just aren't consciously aware of. That happens a lot. You don't like the meeting, or you might have some kind of anxiety, and your subconscious masks that by creating mini-crises right before you have to go.
posted by gjc at 6:55 AM on October 14, 2012

It's really worth checking in with your doctor about ADHD. It might also be worth your time to listen to this Philosophy Talk on procrastination. They talk about a couple reasons why people procrastinate, maybe there's something there that resonates with you. For me, procrastination, which can lead to out-and-out missing of deadlines, has to do with an inner perfectionist streak and fear of failure.

As for passive aggression... There's what you say and there's what you do. People tend to give more weight to what you do and if you do the opposite of what you say then you become untrustworthy. And when someone promises me something and they don't deliver and maybe it happens more than once, I start to wonder, 'hey, maybe it's me she doesn't like.' And while everyone has bad days or weeks where nothing seems to go right, if you're always giving excuses to someone, they will stop believing you. Even if the excuses are real. It's like, 'wow, how many flat tires, train crossings, dog ate my homework problems can one person have?' If you make your problems other people's problems, passive aggression is probably the least of the terrible labels someone might put on you.

Talk to your doctor. Work on this.
posted by amanda at 7:12 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

What you describe isn't related to the passive aggressive accusation unless your friend thinks you are purposely being late to annoy her as payback/punishment for something you aren't tackling head on. In other words, it sounds like she is mistaking your carelessness about dealing with procrastination/ADHD issues for more purposeful behavior you engage in just to hurt her. Like, "oh, I feel she was mean to me last night, but instead of talking to her about it I am going to make a plan to meet her and do something and purposefully make her wait for me for half an hour by herself."
posted by sallybrown at 7:22 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the very articulate posters above who explain how and why this looks just like adult ADHD.

People who are accusing you of being passive-aggressive are coming from a biased place and interpreting your behavior according to what they know. Maybe they had a passive-aggressive parent or sibling or best friend, or maybe they themselves have been known to be late as a way of letting everyone know they think this meeting is going to be a load of BS. This does NOT mean anything about YOU. You do not have to take other people's opinions of you so seriously (with the possible exception of your therapist, and in that case just temporarily, to see if she's right). I know it seems eerie that more than one person has come out with this line about you, but I'm always surprised how much of the population is down with a certain level of benign social manipulation instead of just saying what they mean. Basically, they are taking "omens" from your behavior personally in order to make themselves feel victimized, when if they just thought about who you are as a person, they'd realize that your scattered-ness has exactly nothing to do with them.

Here's a crazy idea from someone who has had similar time management issues: the motive you think may be so deeply buried probably has much more to do with your own sense that important work must FEEL urgent and important, and that if your subconscious tricks you into putting lots of projects in the "crunch time" box, you get positive feedback that your work is super-important because you did all this work in just an hour!!! (even though you could have done it in a leisurely fashion over the last week). Maybe find ways to get your adrenalin needs regularly met outside of work, and accept that work is boring, but calming.
posted by katya.lysander at 8:16 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a common bit of pop-psychology "wisdom" that says "Chronic procrastination and lateness are passive-aggressive behaviors."

(And, well, sometimes, for some people, they are.)

But the trouble is that coming from another person, it's an unfalsifiable claim, an accusation that there's no defense against. I mean, someone can say "You're being passive-aggressive," and you can honestly say "No, I really do care about this project, I'm not trying to sabotage it," and they can say "Ha! That's just what a really passive-aggressive person would say!" And around and around you go.

"Passive aggression" is a useful concept for some people to apply to themselves, if they find it resonates with them and helps them understand their own motives. But when someone applies it to you, without any understanding of where you're coming from, it's just a stigmatizing label that's hard to dodge — a slightly-more-scientific-sounding way of saying "Fuck you, you fucking asshole!"

So I'm with the other commenters here. The moral to take away here is "Huh. This problem of mine makes other people think I'm a jerk. I should look out for that in the future."
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:35 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

(And yeah, dude, get checked for ADHD. Might not be the answer, but it's sure worth looking into.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:36 AM on October 14, 2012

If I say this isn't at all passive-aggressive, what does it matter? (I have no idea if it is.) Several people in your life think you're passive-aggressive, and your tendencies towards lateness have, as you say, annoyed the ever-lasting crap out of people in your life, and the only way you're going to get them to stop thinking you're being passive-aggressive is to stop acting the way passive-aggressive people act because they cannot read your mind and know what is really in your heart.
posted by jeather at 8:42 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had a friend who was always late. Always always always very very very late. We'd make plans with her (her and her kids, me and mine) and she'd show up an hour late, or two hours. Who show's up to shit two hours late? Is it adhd? I don't know, but after a while, it feels so rude and dismissive, like, she KNOWS we're waiting (and waiting and waiting), and still she's showing up SO VERY LATE. It doesn't really matter why she does it, we just don't want to make plans with her anymore. We were so tired of waiting around for them. We were close enough that I tried multiple times to have relaxed, calm conversations about the issue, but nothing ever changed.

What everyone says. If you care about your relationships, professional and personal, give yourself a hard look.
posted by upatree at 8:56 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I used to be chronically late until I realized how much it was affecting those expecting me on time. It really took having a friend who was worse than me and too many times waiting around for him. I had an "aha" moment and am now early for everything.

Not sure if it is passive-aggressive, but it sure is rude and annoying. If it were me, and it once was, I would not say anything to anyone, I would just change. Run on what my football coach called Lombardi time. If you are not 10 minutes early, you are late. People will notice. Actions speak louder than words. Just change and let them see for themselves.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:23 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Many thanks for the ideas, responses and suggestions. I have always had an aversion to "mental illness" and hadn't really thought about how this might be a manifestation of something I could maybe get some help medically with, in addition to looking within myself.

I've "tried" to fix this several times over the years, but it doesn't stick very well.

(I completely agree it's jerkish behavior that should be drowned in the tub. This happens both socially and professionally.)

I'll look into adult ADHD. I know the internet is not my MD, but on this quiz I scored myself a 26 on the first part and an 18 on the second. I am definitely not a fidgeter.
posted by maxwelton at 11:03 AM on October 14, 2012

I think, as a few people pointed out, that the problem is that people you work with think this is passive-aggressive behavior. Which makes me think there's something else that they believe shifts this from the sort of amiable, absent-minded professor type of lateness into something they perceive as based in discontent. If you're enthusiastic, detail oriented, or apt to get carried away by enthusiasm into lateness, people are more forgiving. If they think you don't like what you're doing or are irritated by the work, they are going to think you're trying to communicate that by not putting effort into meeting deadlines. If you are, like me, a not very outwardly emotive person even when you enjoy something, this can seem quite unfair. However it's not too hard to make an effort to talk about your enjoyment of things, even if you're not the cheerleading type. On the other hand, perhaps you should ask yourself if there are reasons that people are attributing a less forgiving motive to your tardiness. It may turn out that the people in question are full of baloney, but at any rate, it would ultimately benefit you more than any of your workmates to get to the bottom of your chronic lateness.

BTW, timers have really helped me in situations like you described. I used to set the hour timer when I was working on projects with a tight deadline so that I could stop and assess my progress and shift gears if needed. You can set up a calender to send emails when talking about longer timescales. Put all the machines around you to work for you. you don't have to remember all the deadlines on your own.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:43 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know this is one of the most annoying things about me (and that's saying something), but I've never made much progress in battling this tendency of mine, annoying the ever-lasting crap out of a lot of people in my life.

It's not just annoying. The reason that kind of behavior bothers other people is because it affects them in real, concrete, practical ways. Other people rearrange their schedules/plans/days based on your word, and you're breaking your word.

You're not just missing a self-imposed deadline, you're affecting the next person in the chain's ability to get their part of the project done on time. You're not just sheepishly tipeoeing into a meeting late. Because they waited for you, a 1-hour meeting is now 50 minutes, which means presentations are truncated, agenda items are tabled, project updates are less detailed ... or the meeting then goes 10 minutes over because everything still needs to be covered, so other tasks get bumped, etc. You're not just blowing off happy hour. Somebody had to leave work early to drive out of their way to pick you up at 6, and you haven't even showered yet.

Whatever the reason you're flaking on things, you should keep in mind that your actions affect other people.
posted by headnsouth at 12:39 PM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Did the people who accused you of being passive-aggressive mention these behaviors as the reason for what they said?

In the question you said you suspect there is a connection between what they said and these behaviors, and it sounds like a legitimate issue with your time management skills that you've identified and ought to work on fixing, but I think that in order to truly answer the question, you need to ask the people who said this to you what precisely sparked them saying those words, and then consider whether the issues are the same or different.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:01 PM on October 14, 2012

I think, as a few people pointed out, that the problem is that people you work with think this is passive-aggressive behavior. Which makes me think there's something else that they believe shifts this from the sort of amiable, absent-minded professor type of lateness into something they perceive as based in discontent. If you're enthusiastic, detail oriented, or apt to get carried away by enthusiasm into lateness, people are more forgiving.

A thousand times yes. I have two co-workers who both gum things up a fair amount, causing delays and having to be reminded about stuff. One of them really seems to be doing this to express a resistance to just being there and having to work, and he annoys the crap out of me. The other is scattered and impulsive and I'm going to cry the day she leaves.
posted by BibiRose at 4:29 PM on October 14, 2012

I have a friend who's always late and I think it's a control issue. She likes to micro manage and focus attention on herself and imho making everyone wait for her is part of that. She always has some reason or excuse that you have to listen to even though, really, I don't care and half the time if you call her to see where she is she'll be with someone else and make some big deal out of how she's so busy and important that she has a hard time fitting us all in. And yes, I've stopped asking her to do stuff that's time dependent because it's annoying. I would never work with her.
posted by fshgrl at 4:53 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The first thing that occurred to me was ADHD. Not having the focus to realize it's actually Wednesday is exactly how my ADHD manifests, and my boyfriend is the same way. Going on antidepressants actually helped a bit but being treated for ADHD specifically was even better.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:56 PM on October 14, 2012

(Oops, I mentioned that last thing because sometimes people don't want to be on ADHD meds but antidepressants seem more manageable to them, and those can help too.)
posted by stoneandstar at 4:57 PM on October 14, 2012

I don't know if this is quite ADHD or not, but it sounds like you have no sense of time. I have a good one, but what I've seen on folks who don't have a good sense of time, they have no idea how long it takes them to do anything. Everything takes "five minutes," but realistically, not very much DOES take five minutes! Five minutes is walking about a block or maybe two if you're a speedy person. Five minutes is walking from your house to your car, putting your stuff in the car, revving up the car, and driving down your block. Taking care of one more e-mail, if you have to write anything short and compose things quickly, is probably five minutes.

I'd suggest (a) using a timer, a lot, to both remind you of what you need to do/interrupt your mental track and to teach you how long things take, and (b) assuming that everything you do should take twice as long as you think it should, since that seems to be how it works out anyway.

I concur with everyone else that passive-aggressive has nothing to do with this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:14 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Many good answers above, and previously, similar questions to this have made me want to find out whether or not I have ADHD. I quite like anaelith's answer, for making things match up.

I'd also suggest that you look up Chronemics. As a polychronic person myself, and married to a monochronic person while I'm at it, I've learned to have discussions with mrgood about managing our schedules, what we do on our time together, and to plan to do things that would bug him for when we're apart. (Guess which one of us makes a grocery list in the order that the store we're going to stocks them and only gets those things within the half-hour dedicated to shopping for them - and guess which one of us wanders every aisle because otherwise nobody else in the house would have remembered that we need light bulbs and compost bags too, because they weren't on the list but 47 minutes later everyone is very grateful for light and a clean fresh compost bin?! I believe it takes both kinds of people in this world. Or, this household.)

I have to say UFYH, which I learned about from MetaFilter has been the biggest, hugest most bestest way I have found to minimize a lot of what you describe you're doing. The 20/10s and organizing my morning at the end of every day means I leave earlier, and still have time for messing around on the internet or in the shower.

I don't think you're passive-aggressive, but if you're like me, you also need to learn how to craft or speak a decent and sincere heartfelt apology. And that means saying what you did wrong, why it was wrong, and how you're not going to do it again. And then you learn from each time, and you don't do it again, and that's how it gets better. "I'm sorry, I was wrong to believe I could make a 6 pm reservation. I ought to know by now I can't get across town in under 40 minutes on a good day, and I didn't plan well. In the future, we'll have to make plans for 7 pm so I don't leave you waiting. I'm really sorry." (or my latest "I'm sorry for keeping that so long. If work like that comes home with me, it seems that it moves down the priority list and that's wrong. How about I do it once a month in your office from now on, you pick the date and I'll make it work?") You may not change much over time, but you may also leave fewer pissed-off people in your wake.
posted by peagood at 7:44 PM on October 14, 2012

The book Never Be Late Again might be helpful for you. Not necessarily because it will help you fix your issues (though maybe it will!) but because it offers a lot of interesting insight into the various reasons for chronic lateness. Personally I have all of the same problems you do with deadlines and punctuality (I am the WORST and I hate myself just thinking about it), and it has nothing to do with being passive agressive and everything to do with depression, anxiety/OCD ("obsessional slowness," I think is the term), perfectionism, and--MeFi has me increasingly convinced--possibly undiagnosed adult ADHD to boot.
posted by désoeuvrée at 11:53 PM on October 14, 2012

I'm wondering if it's a slight misread of a Dr Phil comment about chronic lateness being arrogance is disguise. His theory was that you think time doesn't apply to you - that somehow the forty minute trip only takes half an hour for you. That being twenty minutes late is not an issue because it's you and you're worth waiting around for. That the rules of the road, the rules of science, the rules of etiquette do not apply to you - not in a concious way, but if you always always always get surprised that you're late, what are you refusing to pay attention to/believe?
posted by geek anachronism at 3:46 AM on October 15, 2012

You could stand to ask your friends what they mean; specifically, what do you do that's passive-aggressive?

Ask this in a friendly way, say that you're trying to identify these behaviors so's you can stop them.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:34 AM on October 15, 2012

As an update: I'm now taking generic adderall, taking a proactive stance when it comes to my time management and other ADD symptoms, am walking a couple of miles every day, taking a fish oil supplement, and just started seeing a therapist. Things seem a lot more positive; the medicine in and of itself I think made a huge difference in my outlook and ability to keep a bit more focused on tasks I normally would dread.

It's early days yet, and it will be interesting to see if this makes a more than passing difference. And I've got 40+ years of expectations on how things work to unwind, so it will probably take awhile.

Many thanks for all of the input and feedback. I'll endeavor to add some updates until this closes to note how it's going.
posted by maxwelton at 12:36 AM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

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