​Narcissistic managers, passive-aggressive employees and the bad habits of remote workers were among the most-read articles for people managers in 2021, with the top article examining what a manager's role should be if a workplace requires COVID-19 vaccines.

1. Managers and Mandated Vaccines

When this article was published about a year into the pandemic in February 2021, 40 percent of U.S. workers polled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said they probably or definitely wouldn't get the vaccine. Seventy percent of that group said they wouldn't get the vaccine even if their employer required it and their refusal would mean losing their jobs.

Those findings presented obvious challenges for workplace managers: They had to be armed with facts about the vaccine based on science, understand the legal issues of requiring employees to be vaccinated, and be prepared to listen to and counsel workers who were nervous about getting the vaccine.

2. Narcissistic Managers

A study from the University at Buffalo School of Management showed that narcissists can significantly damage workplace team performance.

The researchers defined narcissism as a "grandiose sense of self-importance" combined with a lack of empathy for other people—characteristics that can fuel negativity on the job.

"Narcissists prevent good things from happening," said lead author Emily Grijalva, assistant professor of organization and human resources. "Over time, lower levels of narcissism result in teams being able to fully capitalize on the benefits of getting to know each other."

Narcissism can be particularly toxic among company leaders. A study from the University of California revealed the short-term and long-term damage done by narcissistic managers—all the way up to the C-suite.

3. Passive-Aggressive Workers

One of your workers seems angry but always smiles. Another, who usually meets deadlines, has suddenly become a hostile procrastinator. And a third, who typically contributes valuable input in meetings, has fallen silent.

All are likely signs of passive aggression, experts say.

Passive-aggressive workers "are the most frustrating and obnoxious people in any workplace," said Nora Femenia, an instructor at Florida International University and an expert in conflict resolution. 

Fortunately, managers can learn to recognize the patterns of passive-aggressive workers, then deftly guide workers to change that behavior, Femenia and other experts said. In the process, managers can maintain workplace productivity and morale, reduce their own stress levels, and possibly help the passive-aggressive workers save their jobs. Here's how.

4. Bad Habits of Remote Workers

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many managers learned a great deal about themselves and their employees. They realized that even when their employees weren't at their traditional worksites, they could still remain highly productive via conference calls, video chats andphone meetings.  

What many managers also discovered was that some of their remote employees had developed bad habits.

Corporations dove into the remote-work world not knowing what to expect, and months passed before many executives realized they needed to develop a set of rules about "virtual" office decorum and engagement. Now that those rules are in place, it might be necessary to identify and address behaviors that can limit productivity or appear unprofessional. Check out these descriptions of five common personas—the recluse, the slacker, the poorly groomed, the juggler and the distracted—and find out how to help them break their bad habits.

Among the other most-read people manager articles in 2021 were:


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