Working in a company requires interaction with people in your department and others. Most employees prefer a friendly relationship with their coworkers. Yet, sometimes you come across a passive-aggressive teammate who makes survival difficult for you. Spotting passive-aggressive workers within an organization can be challenging. If you do not understand this behavior early, it can cause grave trouble for you in the long run.
Passive-aggressive employees can be dangerous for your peace of mind and workplace integrity. They often exhibit their behavior by giving you a shoulder, ignoring your suggestions, or saying wrong things about you to the boss. Finding out and nipping this behavior in the bud is critical, or it may cost you your job or respect in the workplace. Here are a few ways to deal with passive-aggressive coworkers.
Understand their Behavior
Passive-aggressive people do not feel comfortable communicating directly with people. Instead, they work passively, whether for good or bad. Passive-aggressive people may be understood better as being angry as a person wholly. They might not feel bad about a particular matter but resent their life or workplace. Usually, these behaviors are embedded in the roots of employees over a long time. It may be due to their family environment or working in a passive-aggressive company. A survey by Booz Allen Hamilton shows that 1/4th of the 30,000 global participants think that they work in a passive-aggressive organization.
There are two types of passive-aggressive coworkers in any space:
These coworkers do not mean harm to an individual or company though they are just disengaged. They want to get along with people in the company like everyone else. Yet, they find it difficult to engage in conversations or activities. Researches show that disengaged workers unintentionally harm the company because of their improper communication.
The other passive-aggressive coworkers realize that they are causing problems for others but do not care about it. They want to manipulate your situation and convey wrong information to others. They know exactly what they are doing.
Identify Underlying Reasons
Once you understand if your coworkers exhibit disengaged or manipulative, passive-aggressive behavior, it is easy to devise a solution. Though identifying their triggers can be of immense help as well. For example, one of your coworkers is uncommunicative and avoids conversations, leading to problems in the department. On the other hand, some workers may exhibit this behavior for a potential promotion. Both these behaviors need to be handled differently, emphasizing the importance of identifying underlying causes.
Do Not Overreact
If you walk into the office and hope not to see that coworker having passive-aggressive behavior, we don’t blame you.
It is quite natural to feel angry at coworkers who often create problems for you. Overreacting may give you immediate peace of mind. Alternatively, you may choose not to overreact and rule out the problem eventually.
Passive-aggressive people work in a particular manner often to push you to react to the situation. Thus, it is vital not to lose your temper and overreact. Make sure to handle their behavior with due emotional intelligence not to affect your performance. A simple yet helpful approach is to feel like you are not a part of the setting directly. Detach yourself from the drama and communicate with team members clearly to avoid doubts.
Assess your Behavior
Passive-aggressive behavior cannot be justified by any means. But, sometimes, the person might not be able to express their hurt towards you. You might have said or done something they did not find good for them. The inability of passive-aggressive coworkers to communicate their reservations to you can elevate the problems. You can do your part by avoiding conflicts for your own peace. Talk to them to understand the issues. And if they are not a consequence of your wrongdoing, you know you will have to reason with them in another way.
If the passive-aggressive behavior does not go away after asking them about the problem, it is time to be straightforward. Giving in to your coworker’s behavior will only strengthen them. Try this three-step approach to tell them to mend their behavior.
- Communicate the problem softly to them. Tell them how their passive-aggressive behavior is causing problems in the department.
- Propose solutions that may help solve the issue. Suggest direct communication to the relevant person through email if they are not comfortable with face-to-face conversations.
- Warn them of possible consequences. Be firm and inform them of the consequences they will face if they do not improve their acts.
Implement an Open-Door Policy
Coworkers often build such behavior when they think you find yourself superior to them. They also avoid talking to you, following their beliefs about you. You can prevent passive aggression in the department by implementing an open-door policy. Encourage people to talk to you without the need for formalities. Building trust will push them to get out of their bubble and communicate their concerns better.
Do Not Adopt their Behavior
You might wonder, “Why would I?” But, sometimes people think that it is best to handle a person’s behavior by offering them the same. While you may try it for a short period, it is not ideal for a workplace. It will just add to the number of passive-aggressive employees in an organization.
Often you find your coworkers passive-aggressive. This behavior might not always be personal. Employees may adopt passive aggression from their environment when their management behaves the same way. Workers give back the same attitude when the leaders do not care to communicate with their employees. You can help your coworkers by motivating them and pointing the issues to HR for rectification.
The Bottom Line
Passive-aggressive behavior is common in workplaces. Yet, it is important to eliminate it to promote a healthy environment in the organization. Dealing with passive-aggressive coworkers requires understanding the root cause and triggers and being firm about the situation. You must not give in to their behavior and warn them of the consequences. However, remember that sometimes they might be trying but need help. Look deep into the problem to find a suitable solution.
Matthew is a Co-Founder at BusinessFinanceArticles.org. Matthew was a floor manager at a local restaurant in Wales. He lost his job after the pandemic and took initiative to make a team and start the project.