Passive-aggressive behavior can be hard to deal with at work. Because it’s underhanded, you may not even realize it’s happening—only that you feel something is not quite right in certain interactions with a co-worker. You can learn to recognize signs of passive-aggressive behavior so it’s easier to identify and take steps to make it stop. Here’s what you need to know.
People who are passive aggressive have a difficult time being assertive, and so they seek subtle ways to make a statement. These can include:
- Giving you the “silent treatment”
- Making sarcastic remarks
- Ignoring you
- Being overly critical of your work
- Withholding information that could help you
- Offering to help and then not completing the task
These behaviors can make for an uncomfortable work relationship, but some can also get in the way of your progress—and even hurt your work performance. For these reasons, it’s important not to let a passive aggressive person get the best of you. The good news is you can take control if you know what to do.
How to Handle Passive Aggressive Behavior
If a passive aggressive person learns their tricks don’t work on you, they will likely stop attempting this behavior. You can try any of the following to make this happen:
- Be direct. If a passive-aggressive person is doing something that is upsetting you, gently pull them aside and call out the negative behavior.
- Be specific. Don’t speak in generalities. For example, “I noticed you ignored my suggestions during our team meeting this morning, and it bothered me. I think I have good ideas that will make our processes stronger.” Then, provide a follow-up action for when it happens again. You could say something like, “I know it can be stressful during meetings, and you may not realize you’re doing it. If I notice it again, I will let you know.”
- Follow through. If the behavior happens again, bring it up again. If the passive-aggressive person knows you are paying attention and are not willing to let it slide, he may be much less likely to attempt the passive-aggressive behavior.
What if You Can’t Remedy The Issue?
If you find you’re in a situation that’s causing your productivity to suffer, it may help to speak to your human resources department. If it’s a management issue, it may also help to change departments.
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