Service with an Angry Smile: Passive-Aggressive Behavior in SRE

Friday, 2017, September 1 - 11:0011:30

Lauri Apple, Zalando


Awareness and discussion of psychological safety as a key ingredient for productive and successful teams has grown recently, thanks to media coverage and pioneering research by companies and scholars. While flagrant forms of disrespect like angry shouting and insults obviously threaten psychological safety in teams, so too can passive-aggressive behaviors such as complaining, pouty silence, “forgetting” to complete tasks, and stubbornness.

In the SRE context, passive-aggressive behaviors can have disastrous consequences. These include outages and incidents that could have been avoided with better preparation or notification; narrowly focused quick-fixes instead of systemic, long-term maintenance efforts; blame instead of solutions-oriented post-mortems, and refusal to share knowledge. In many cases, few or no words are spoken; silent resistance is the hostile act.

This talk will bring attention to passive-aggressive behavior as a set of hostile acts that one can (and should) identify, manage and overcome in the tech/SRE environment. For context, it will draw upon psychological research, history, a bit of pop culture for fun, and anecdotes from SREs. And for guidance, you’ll hear some tried-and-true agile and communications methods for managing or eliminating passive-aggressive behavior in your teams and interactions.

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Presentation Audio

@conference {205570,
author = {Lauri Apple},
title = {Service with an Angry Smile: Passive-Aggressive Behavior in {SRE}},
year = {2017},
address = {Dublin},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},