Have you ever had a passive-aggressive coworker who exhibits the following behavior?
You have a strong yet relatively civil argument at work with a coworker. After each of you decide to agree to disagree, the coworker throws in one last sarcastic verbal jab. If you were to respond, the argument would start anew. You decide to walk away, even though the last jab was insulting.
It was that last jab that irked you. This behavior may have been isolated, or it may have been the pattern of a passive-aggressive coworker.
Passive aggression describes behaviors that are aggressive, but in an indirect manner. Passive-aggressive behaviors typically occur when an individual is angry or disappointed. It is how the angry person expresses this anger that is the hallmark of passive aggression. She does not express feelings openly, instead, she chooses an indirect form of confrontation—one which keeps her honest feelings concealed.
In the case of the “last jab” story above, the passive aggression was found in the need to in the last word in. Notice how the aggression was not expressed outright in this example, but concealed. Passive-aggressive coworkers can definitely make your workplace very stressful.
Potential Behaviors Displayed by a Passive-Aggressive Coworker
Passive aggression is one of those concepts that is often better understood by examples than by definition. How many of these behaviors have you experienced? How many have you implemented? Passive-aggressive coworkers, may:
Avoid Certain Work Tasks
Passive-aggressive coworkers may fake illness, injury, or knowledge in order to get out of performing certain work tasks.
Push their Workload on to Others
Additional work is rarely assigned to a procrastinating coworker. Other employees inevitably pick up the slack.
Instead of addressing a problem with another employee, a passive-aggressive co-worker may simply resort to gossip or rumor-mongering.
Play The Victim
Passive-aggressive employees often believe there are malevolent circumstances beyond their control, shaping their “work destiny.” Instead of self-improvement and self-actualization, these people simply complain.
Say Yes When Meaning No
Some passive-aggressive coworkers will readily agree to a task in public, knowing full well they will find a way to sabotage their involvement.
Ways to Deal with a Passive–Aggressive Coworker
If you are attempting to cope with a passive-aggressive co-worker, here are four tips which may help. No matter how well you cope or try to change a passive-aggressive co-worker, change is unlikely. Even a health professional could have a difficult time changing this type of deep-rooted problem.
Seek Their Input
Ask for input from the passive-aggressive coworker. Oftentimes, feeling left out or voiceless can be a reason they feel compelled to be passive aggressive in the first place.
Always Keep Your Sense of Humor
Never enter their realm. They are professionals at this form of aggression. Let them know you are unaffected by their behavior by always keeping a smile.
In order to hold a co-worker responsible, document to-dos and have others present during discussions. Keep a record of actions, responsibilities, and timelines.
State the Consequences of their Behavior
Inform passive-aggressive co-workers of the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, well-documented, strongly stated consequences can force them to cease obstructing and begin cooperating.
A Huge Drain on Resources
Passive-aggressive coworkers are a drain on everyone and every business. Loss of productivity, loss of teamwork, and an increase in stress and anxiety is an amazing feat for one bad player. “Stating the consequences,” as outlined above, may lead to more conflict, not less. But as a responsible employee or manager or leader, it is your obligation to take this power away from a passive-aggressive co-worker and re-establish productivity and direct communication.