Passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, all words that describe negative leadership styles, and all more closely associated with women than with men. Why?
The long and the short of it, is that women are walking a line. The old church says that women are to be passive, "let the men speak, just stay home and cook something tasty, won't you dear?" The new culture says "Stand up woman, don't take anything from anyone, I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR!" We Christian women are trapped in the middle. All too often, this war between passive and aggressive ends in passive-aggression, which leads to a whole lot of "of course, because she is a woman, she's passive aggressive," which leads to us being further driven nuts. We are fighting to find our place, and regardless of where we line up on the spectrum from extremely passive to overly aggressive, there are people offended by our attitude. If we end up in-between, we seem to offend everybody at once without even trying, and no matter what we are left with unhealthy leadership being trained into us, and no clue how we ended up here.
The solution lies with you.
You may never convince that one guy that you, in fact, can teach in church, or that one feminist that you actually want to be a mother and it isn't the patriarchy. You will never make everyone happy, but you can make the intentional decision to lead assertively.
Don't be passive, and don't try to hide what you want or need. Be direct, but be kind about it — yes, it is possible. You should not feel like your only option in the workplace is to be passive aggressive, and if you do, it may be time to consider searching for another employment opportunity. If you are trapped being a doormat, it is probably time to start looking for a job elsewhere. If you feel that you have to be extremely aggressive to get anything done, it is likely time to find a place better suited for making progress.
I'm not saying every lady that works the register at a grocery store needs to get assertive with the management — there are obviously exceptions to the rule. However, if you are working in a position that involves supervising other people, leading or managing projects, or mediating between groups, it is important to consider what kind of attitude you are using to lead the people around and under you. Are you setting a healthy, productive example of how to assert your own rights without stepping on those around you, or are you way too far toward one end of the spectrum? What do you need to do to improve your practices?