Business Culture & Lifestyle Relationships

How to Handle Passive Aggressive People at the Workplace

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Tips for dealing with passive aggressive people at work

Dealing with people who are passive aggressive is one of the toughest challenges in our social lives and at the workplace as well. Regardless of how subtle the behavior is, passive aggressiveness can be exhausting and annoying to say the least.

So what defines passive aggressive (PA) behavior? And how can you deal with it calmly and professionally at the workplace? Read more here to find out.

What is passive aggressiveness?

It is a subtle way of expressing hostility and other negative behaviors. It can involve deliberate inefficiency, procrastination and learned helplessness. However, it could also manifest through stubbornness, contradictory behavior and resentment.

Although passive aggressive behavior is expressed in different ways, it typically involves non-verbal aggression. These non-verbal cues can easily manifest into negative behavior.

Here are a few examples you might recognize at the workplace:

  • Getting a yes or no answer to an either or question.
  • Deliberately forgetting to complete a task such as sending an email.
  • Avoiding communication when an issue needs to be resolved asap.

But what makes such behaviors very challenging? The answer is simple: it is usually impossible to know what you did wrong to bring about the passive aggressiveness. This makes living and coping with the situation both hard and confusing.

See Also: How to Identify Burnout & How to Deal with It

Passive aggressive behavioral traits:

Passive aggressiveness usually manifests in the following behaviors and traits

  • Withdrawal
  • Silent treatment
  • Off-line criticism
  • Sacrasm
  • Indirect violence

Moroever, PA can be detected through acts such as constant complaints about being misunderstood, argumentative moods, frequent criticism of authority, expression of resentment towards others as well as toggling between hostility and contrition.

Why do people use PA behavior?

Below are the main reasons people use PA behavior:

  • They understand that showing anger is socially unacceptable.
  • They feel that passive aggression is easier than assertiveness.
  • Revenge is sweeter than mature confrontation.
  • PA behavior is easy to rationalize and convenient when trying to avoid a fight.
  • PA behavior is a powerful tool for channeling anger.

See Also: Smart Tips for Handling Negative People 

How should you deal with PA behavior?

Dealing with PA behavior is not easy, however, it is doable. First of all, you need to recognize it when it happens. Secondly, you need to notice how you are behaving and how you have been dealing with it. This means figuring out how you might actually be contributing to the passive aggression. Thirdly, make sure you do not allow yourself to be manipulated by the aggressor by staying calm and avoiding to engage in the same PA tactics. Finally, try to disarm passive aggressive people by being honest and direct with them. Open communication can really help diffuse the situation and tone down the aggression.

One last thing I will add here is that you should never expect to change the person with the PA behavior. What you need to do is find some common grounds and normative parameters to help you better interact with him/her.

Are you dealing with a passive aggressive person at the workplace? What are you doing to help neutralize the situation? Don’t hesitate to share with us your tips and insights in the comment section below. 

About the author

Beirut Abu Hdaib

Can be bit of a monomaniac. My lust for word manipulation is insatiable. An often doleful #writer with a flair for #marketing & #socialmedia :)


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