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Managing Passive-Aggressive Behavior at Work

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

The average person spends 90,000 hours at work throughout a lifetime. During those hours, professionals interact with co-workers either in person or virtually. It is inevitable for personalities to clash, egos to swell and temper to be tested. Identifying and eradicating one of the most prominent issues, passive-aggressive behavior, will save the U.S economy over $37 billion (Fast Company).

According to an article from Medical News Today, "Passive aggression is a type of indirect aggression. It allows a person to express anger and related emotions without directly communicating these feelings." Blatant examples include blaming or rationalizing mistakes, backstabbing, backhanded compliments, the silent treatment, constant sarcasm and controlling through manipulation. Fortunately, three hiring professionals provided their perspectives on handling situations fueled by passive-aggressive behaviors and shared the following tips:

1) Nip it in the Bud - As a manager, if you notice or are experiencing passive-aggressive behavior, address the issue in a constructive and respectful manner. An early response to this behavior prevents misunderstandings and provides a space for honest discussions, yielding behavior change/adjustment.

2) Acknowledge & Be Aware - As an employee, we suggest keeping a record including dates, times, locations and specific instances to show your supervisor or HR. As a manager, provide a space for communication, encourage honesty and set boundaries letting the employee know their behavior is not conducive to a productive work environment.

3) Find Different Perspectives - Reduce the tension by providing a common ground for individuals to consider multiple viewpoints. Remember, there are three sides to every story, and you should challenge your own assumptions, biases and beliefs by hearing every side.

Passive-aggressive behavior can sour even the sweetest work environment. As managers, observe the behavior, set boundaries and hold employees accountable. As team members, document, address and communicate openly to encourage behavior changes.

DefinedTalent discusses this topic in our most recent podcast, now streaming on all major platforms. Click here to listen now.


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