Working with a Passive Aggressive Coworker

Working with Difficult Co-Workers

Is your co-worker passive aggressive?

Here’s how to tell:

It’s highly unlikely that everyone likes all of their co-workers, right? There’s always going to be someone who seems to clash with others, no matter what.

Unfortunately, in the workplace, we don’t have the luxury of parting ways and moving on without them. We’re stuck with them. And if they are passive aggressive, it’s even more difficult to try to find ways to make the work relationship work.

Here are some signs that you’re working with someone who is passive aggressive:

They are the Post-it Queen (or King)

While we’ve all sent out a flippant email or two, or left annoyed sticky-notes for others when we’ve been wronged, a passive aggressive co-worker will do this to the extreme, as a way of communicating anger, but avoiding face-to-face confrontations.

How to deal: stand back for a second and assess the situation. Is their grievance legitimate? Sometimes, people need to be called out on their behavior, like when someone leaves the microwave looking like a zombie died in it. But if it’s petty, it’s probably best to either ignore the notes and set up a time to talk to get a clearer understanding.

They selectively procrastinate

A passive aggressive co-worker will do what they’ve been asked by someone who’s angered them… eventually. This behavior is about control, and while they won’t complain about the task, they will take their sweet time to complete it.

How to deal: Some people are slow, no matter what task they are doing. Is this the case here? If the person in question is usually the type of employee who completes things in record time, and has suddenly changed, then you may be dealing with some passive aggressiveness. If their procrastination is directly affecting you, it’s time to calmly discuss the issue and try to work out an agreement.

They are a fountain of complaints

Venting is normal, and in a close work environment, extreme caution should be exercised. A passive aggressive co-worker will throw caution to the wind and complain about everything. The work. The company. The customers. It doesn’t matter.

How to deal: Again, you’re looking for a sudden change in behavior. If this person was fine up to this point, then something triggered the anger and they are lashing out. At anyone and anything. A passive aggressive person will not listen to you if you attempt to be rational and objective regarding their complaints. Let them know, “they have control over their reactions,” and move on.

They are the source of workplace gossip

Remember, a passive aggressive person doesn’t like confrontation. Therefore, they enjoy both creating and spreading gossip. Spreading misinformation or hurtful details about individuals adds to the workplace toxicity.

How to deal:  Let the person know you are not interested in gossip and move on. Without an audience, this person cannot spread the gossip.


Super Tip

Reading through the above situations, you may see a pattern - it is important to stay calm and not get sucked into any argument. The main strategy in dealing with a passive aggressive coworker is to avoid their displaced anger. Even though they will do things to provoke you, it is important not to take the bait.

Whatever is going on - you did not cause it, you cannot control it, or change it.

Practice gratitude breathing, listen to audio below, and get to a place of neutral, so you do not react to their behavior. Refuse to gossip. Resist rumors.


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