Don't be a Passhole


Were you a Passhole today?

What's a Passhole? Let me explain with a story. It's made up but you'll recognise it.

Bob gets up in a fairly decent mood. He's just had a dream about scoring the winning goal in the world cup final and he's feeling powerful. He breezes through his morning routine, getting dressed while humming the Match of the Day theme. Bob is not a passhole…… yet.

Then he makes some toast and as he crunches his way through it, he picks up his phone. What's this? Three missed calls from the boss. Oh no, that's never a good sign. He texts: I see you were trying to reach me; what's up? 

Thirty seconds later the phone rings.

"Hello …… Yes I knew about the issues……… no it wasn't a priority…….. I did try to…… no I don't think I'm the…….. But I stayed late last week and worked on the weekend……. Of course I care…… but….. Right I will….. Yes, I'll tell them today".

Heavy sigh. Bob is sick of the snide comments about how he won't get anywhere if he can't 'look around corners and protect the department'. Damn! He has to hurry now or he'll miss the bus.

He missed it and now he's sweaty from the running to the stop. He eventually gets to work - early of course but that's what the boss expects. Sarah from accounts says a cheery good morning with a big smile but Bob doesn't even notice. He is flicking through emails on his phone as he walks by. Passive Passhole Behaviour.

He gets to his unit and look! Typical! Not one of them are in early today. 'Never there when I need them' he thinks. He fires them a text: Get in here now. Problems and I'm not happy.

Send to all. Indiscriminate Passhole Behaviour.

He opens the laptop. Tries his password three times. Locked out. Picks up the phone and lets loose on tech support "Well Kevin…… what?….. GAVIN then…. Well Gavin, some of us haven't time for your procedures; we have real work to do" Misdirected Passhole behaviour.

The team slowly get to work - just on time and already he can see them whispering to each other. How have they time to talk!

It's going to be a tough day so he gathers them together and gives them a 'motivational speech'.

"Do I have to do everything myself? Who was supposedly leading this case? No? Noone? There's no accountability in this team and that's the sign of a bad work ethic. It's time to care a bit more about your work and have a bit of pride. Working late doesn't mean working hard. This team needs to be able to look around corners and protect the department!" Active Passhole Behaviour.

The team are thinking Typical Bob, he's such a Passhole.

I think you get the picture. A Passhole is anyone that lets the behaviour of others negatively affect their mood and then mimic that behaviour with others who may or may not understand why that behaviour is being displayed. Or more simply, meeting a proper a-hole, letting them put you in a bad mood and then passing it on.

I have used an extreme example but you don't have to go into full active Passhole behaviour to affect the mood of others. You don't even have to say anything. The phenomenon of Emotional Contagion is well documented and you can practice it yourself if you want. Next time you're walking down the street just smile and watch the response you get from others. Not all of them but a lot of them will smile back. And it works the other way around too. If we frown all the time, those around us will unconsciously take part in behavioural mimicry and frown too. Where two people are present, communication is occurring - verbally, tonally, through body language and facial expressions. WE ARE ALWAYS COMMUNICATING!

The good news is that just by paying attention, with compassion, to the moods and behaviours of others we can prevent ourselves from becoming a Passhole. Paying attention to the body language and non-verbal expressions whilst actively listening and asking questions of others is a great antidote. If you pay attention, with compassion, the behaviour might remain in that person but at least it won't infect you and you won't become a Passhole too. Paying attention makes you aware and awareness is the first step toward self-regulation of behaviour.

So when was the last time you were a Passhole?

Stephen Naughton