The art of passive aggressive compliance

By: Scotty Douglas

Scotty Douglas finds his Zen and asks, When does compliance become dangerous?

The art of passive aggressive compliance
Scotty is finding his Zen.


It’s been widely documented that "I’m fine" is one of the most dangerous phrases that can be uttered in a relationship. Along with, "Just the three of us, it could be fun!" and "It was just one goat."

"I’m fine" is a passive aggressive ambush. If you were to respond with, "Okay then, I’m heading down the pub to meet up with the boys," you will quickly find out just how loudly a cup of tea can be made and how quietly a door can be closed.

It takes a Zen-like precision to make the dunking of a tea bag sound as loud as a fart in a crowded elevator. Or alternatively you may simply just get something heavy thrown at your head.

"I’m fine," is a quiet dummy spit, an inverted mushroom cloud of suppressed rage that manifests itself as doing things so f##king perfectly that it’s infuriating.

Of course "I’m fine" should be followed up with a question rather than denial. Something along the lines of, "You seem upset, do you want to talk?" Or "I just love post-modern interpretive dance, there’s a performance on Friday, we should go!"

Of course if I’m so goddamned smart I’d have a TV show like Dr. Phil and I’d be happily, smugly married and have one of those sickening Facebook profiles that features smashed avo breakfasts and thoughtful memes about sunsets and happiness rather than pictures of trucks and videos of awesome burnouts. And then I could make as many passive aggressive f##king cups of tea as I like in the vain hope that someone may finally ask, "You seem upset, do you want to talk?" Cue f##king rainbows and unicorns; shoot me later.

If you haven’t already stopped reading because you’re thinking that I’ve somehow blundered into giving ill-advised relationship advice, well; "I’m fine" and terms like "nothing" and "it’s okay" have everything to do with trucking.

Because these days, in many cases compliance has become passive aggressive. If you happen to be one of those unfortunate souls who has to deliver into certain DCs on a regular basis you will know that when asked how many hours you have left on your log book you will always make sure that you say that there’s enough to get the job done even if you don’t.

Nooo, make the mistake of saying that you’re nearly out of hours and you’ll be sitting for another 12 hours just to make sure that you’re well rested and very, very compliant before making your delivery. Your delivery will be the most f##king compliant delivery of the week. Which as you know, completely f##ks with the rest of your day and consequently, your week. And I haven’t even mentioned the hip pocket, especially if you happen to be an owner operator.

There’s a window of rational real-world compliance. The 12 hours work/12 hours rest isn’t a bad one, though it’s good to have the flexibility to break it up as needed.

But I really have an issue with transport companies that over comply. That’s when you make your slot or delivery and you’re left dangling unpaid for 15 or 20 hours with no idea when you’re going to be on your way on the next trip. And what really shits me is that anyone who does this is actually compliant in the eyes of the law!

You get the job done, have a sleep, have a shower and then sit around kicking stones until at some undetermined time in the future you’ll be on your way.

Often, by the time this happens you’ve lost the will to live and just can’t be bothered anymore. I actually think an over-compliant driver is actually more dangerous than a non-compliant driver.

Okay, I get that things can change at the last minute, I get that being held over sometimes happens. But there are some companies that just don’t seem to have their shit together when it comes to scheduling freight and keeping drivers moving.

Better to keep the paperwork tidy and be so f##king compliant that nobody can ever point the finger from a legal standpoint. 

Telling the boss, or customer, that you’re late because you’re tired has a similar effect. It’s a passive aggressive enforcement of Chain of Responsibility, saying you were tired will nearly always get you twiddling your thumbs waiting for a load.

The real reaction is, "Tired are you? Well we’re going to make so f##king sure that you don’t get tired again by sitting you on the concrete at Wingfield for 20 hours so you never get tired again!"

"That’ll teach you for getting tired!"

The irony being that if you ran late and pulled up for a nap because you were tired, you probably aren’t tired anymore. Because you had a nap. I think the official term is "managing your own fatigue."

A mate was recently doing some regional work delivering into a supermarket DC. After the first couple of days he became the most compliant, inducted individual I have ever met. He had pre-induction inductions to make sure that his inductions were induced for induction.

Then like a good little soldier ant he turned up at his time slot and parked on the dock. He handed in his keys and stood beside his trailers in a painted box for the next four and half hours as the speed limited forklifts occasionally removed a pallet or two as they wandered past. How is that in any way compliant?

Okay he wasn’t driving interstate but by the time he got back home he’d been away for 20 hours. According to GPS tracking and any paperwork however, he was extremely compliant. But he was still stuffed when he got home.

Needless to say, he told them what they could do with their job when he returned. I reckon drivers would earn more in this day and age if they were paid by the induction rather than the kilometre.

Anyway, I need a cup of tea. And I’m fine, really there’s nothing wrong, I told you I’m just fine!



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