How to Deal With a Passive-Aggressive Coworker

passive aggressive coworkerWe all have that passive aggressive person floating around in our personal lives. While it is best to limit your interaction with such people, you don’t usually have that luxury in the workplace.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior can be quite common in the workplace. In recent studies, 62% of participants reported that coworkers cause them more stress than a boss or manager. That is because many people find that delivering passive-aggressive behavior is more comfortable than confrontational behavior.

While the signs of a passive-aggressive coworker can be quite subtle, there are many behaviors that you should be aware of so that you can resolve situations in the office. Lashing out or retaliating against these types of people in the workplace is counter-productive.

Read on for some tips on how to deal with a passive-aggressive coworker.

Try to Understand the Underlying Issue

People react differently to different circumstances. Passive aggressive people aren’t necessarily complete jerks. Their passive aggressive ways may be a defense mechanism for not knowing how to communicate or fear of conflict.

Organizational change can often spark passive-aggressive behaviors. Especially if the employee’s feelings or input were not considered before making large changes in a work environment. In these situations, people who are prone to passive-aggressive tendencies may lash out with an unproductive expression of emotion.

While it may be difficult for you to put up with this behavior, understanding the underlying issue may allow you to develop more patience and empathy towards your coworker. While this does not excuse their behavior or actions, it will allow you to understand where it is coming from.

That being said, don’t try and diagnose or help your coworker for that could be quite a sensitive situation. By understanding, it will allow you to make a better decision on what step to take next.

Showcase Healthy Conflict Management

While passive aggressive behavior is definitely an unhealthy way of handling conflict, you don’t have to retaliate in the same way. Instead, think about how you can model healthy conflict management.

This may mean that you need to take some time and space to calm down before approaching the situation again. Approaching a conflict during the height of emotions is a sure-fire way for things to get out of control.

A common tendency of a passive-aggressive coworker is that they may pretend that nothing is going on or accuse you of overreacting during conflict situations. During these times, it is hard not to get angry and defensive. But do your best to remain calm.

Responding in an emotional way will likely leave the situation worse than where it started. This is an opportunity for you to be the bigger person. By taking time and approaching the conflict calmly and diplomatically, it will showcase healthy conflict management.

Focus on the Content, Not the Delivery

It might be the last thing you want to do when someone says something nasty to you, but try to see the situation from your coworkers’ perspective. What is the underlying opinion they are attempting to convey with their snarky comment?

While this may seem like a lot of extra work on your part, focusing on the content and not the delivery may help you get to the underlying problem much quicker. If you can focus on the underlying concern or question rather than the way your coworker is delivering the message, you can move on to addressing the actual problem.

Set Boundaries

Being on the receiving end of any sort of passive aggressive behavior is frustrating. While there are many ways of dealing with this sort of behavior in the moment, it is also important to think about how it will impact you in the long term.

Setting healthy boundaries for yourself and getting the support you need is vital. This may mean that you need to respectfully stand firm on certain matters. If the effects are very severe, you may need to find a way to exit the relationship altogether.

Making sure that you are taking time and space for yourself is critical to overcoming stress in toxic work environments. Some people find that taking walks, having a cup of tea, using essential oils, or CBD oils such as Healthworx CBD, can be helpful.

Confiding in a trusted person such as a manager or someone in HR may also be helpful as a long-term solution. These people are equipped with the necessary skills and experience to help both you and your coworker find a way to work more effectively together.

Make Them Aware

While this may seem outrageous to you, it is also possible that your coworker is not aware that they are exhibiting passive aggressive behaviors. Some people may not be aware how their comments are being perceived by others.

While you don’t want to stir the pot, especially in a professional setting, you also don’t have to undertake the burden of constantly being on the receiving end of passive aggressive comments.

Such behaviors create a toxic environment. Pushing back in a professional manner can sometimes let the other person know that their behavior is affecting others in a negative way. Keep calm and never take it personally.

Watch Your Language

Passive aggressive people often times are looking for a way to lash out. The last thing you want to do is provoke them and put them on the defense. Chances are, this will only make matters worse.

Often times, accusing someone of being passive aggressive is not a smart move. The word in itself is loaded and comes with a negative connotation. It can also make the person feel labeled and judged.

When confronting a passive-aggressive coworker, a good tip is to make sure you do your best to not make them feel personally attacked. Instead, shape your words so that it sounds more like you are both working as a team to achieve a similar goal.

Ready to Deal With Your Passive-Aggressive Coworker?

Going to work every day in a toxic environment is not good for anyone. It not only affects your performance but can also make a big negative impact on your personal and mental health.

People who emit passive-aggressive behavior can be hard to deal with, but there are ways that can make your exchanges with them easier. Remembering to take a deep breath and not take it personally can go a long way.

Check us out for more tips on productivity in the workplace.