Dealing with Passive-Aggressive behaviour at the workplace

Darryl Bachmeier
Aug 25, 2019

You are assigned a task which is very crucial for your next promotion. You take a lead and assign different parts to the rest of the team members. On the day of your presentation, one member doesn’t show up. Your presentation is ruined. Next day, he comes to the office; you expect him to be apologetic rather he turns out to be sarcastic and says he wasn’t given a fair share in the project.

The above situation is a perfect example of passive-aggressive behaviours and must have happened to many people at the workplace with a very little variation. The workplace is all about emotions and strong feelings. Some get promoted, others don’t. Some get pay raise, some don’t. Some are lucky enough to achieve their life goals easily while others struggle their entire lives and still fail to reach the desired level. Apart from this, the policies at the workplace often discourage people from speaking their hearts out and thus, everyone uses wise language to communicate, which leads to further issues.

Why passive-aggressive behaviour occurs at Workplace?

The workplace is indeed a perfect environment and ideal place for flourishing of passive-aggressive behaviours. It could be owing to different reasons, like:

Self-worth Perception

At the workplace, the perception regarding credibility, competency and talent are built. The same place is responsible for the building of emotions, both professional and personal. There are very few organizations which offer a proper venting system where employees could sit and discuss openly their workplace issues. In the absence of proper venting mechanism, the workplace remains susceptible to resentment and hostile attitude.

Relationships with People

It is natural to have passive-aggressive behaviour when dealing with other humans. Some people are not comfortable sharing their emotions or discussing with others, that lead to fixed feelings of frustration, anger and helplessness. The trait becomes one of the causes of the problem at the workplace.

Authority figures

When an individual assumes some authority, he/she is influenced by past behaviours and social interactions with different people. If you have had a bad experience with any of team member, then after assuming a leadership role, you tend to exhibit passive-aggressive behaviour with the same individual during different occasions.

Is passive-aggressive behaviour at workplace dangerous?

Passive-aggressive behaviour can be detrimental to the overall environment of the workplace. For effectively dealing with this behaviour, it is first required to identify what the concept is and why someone exhibits such behaviour. Following areas have been identified as probable causes of passive-aggressive behaviour among people:

  • People who are not willing or ready to bring positive change in their behaviours and lives
  • When an individual feel that he/she is victim to any negative outcome or circumstances and find them not able to control the situation
  • When a person has a fear of getting into any conflict, fear of confrontation

Addressing the issue of passive-aggressive behaviour

In case you have any colleague or co-worker who exhibits such attitude then there are certain steps you may need to take to address the issue:

  • You need to take some time and give that worker some time to calm down and compose.
  • You need to use specific terminologies and behavioural specific language to calm down the behaviour of your colleague. Never use any arrogant, aggressive language which could further spoil the situation. In case of any derogatory email, you need not reply and put anything in writing. Idea is to normalize the situation in whatever possible way you can.
  • Yet another essential point is to avoid getting public with your colleague. It means avoiding talking to your co-worker in an environment where other workers are sitting so your colleague doesn’t feel embarrassed. Otherwise, your colleague will feel bad and the situation will deteriorate rather improving.
  • For bringing improvement in the behaviour of such colleagues, motivation speech will work well. It involves talking to them in a friendly manner, be a listening side and try not to be hostile.
  • You may have to face the confrontation while addressing the issue. It is better to be aggressive and open than keeping the issue unresolved.

Catharsis; the solution to passive-aggressive behaviour

Humans are social animals and it is natural to have some level of passive-aggressive behaviour. The issue starts when such behaviours start to control us and influence our professional relationships and decision making authority. One needs to be open and direct when expressing their emotions and feelings with others. Never hesitate and focus on the thing which is bothering you.

Some organizations also have proper counselling sessions and human resource departments, which are responsible for bringing positive change and professional grooming in people. Apart from this, engage yourself in healthy activities, recognize your vulnerabilities and face your issues. Discuss and disagree with respect and never lose disgrace. The workplace is all about challenges and ups and downs. It is all about remaining composed and addressing issues with open-mindedness.

2020 © Zenbo Services Ltd. All rights reserved.