Eliminate a passive aggressive coworker with these 5 steps

It can be tough to cope with a backstabbing coworker’s caustic tone of voice, backbiting, and avoidance. Their tiny symptoms of unhappiness are not only difficult to detect, but it is also quite difficult to convince them to acknowledge a problem. In a meeting, your coworker says one thing but acts another. Thus, the question that arises is, how to deal with a passive aggressive coworker?

1. A passive aggressive coworker’s telltale signs

how to deal with a passive-aggressive coworker

How do you tell whether a coworker is being passive aggressive and not just misreading the cues? How to deal with a passive aggressive co-worker? There are certain telltale indicators of passive aggressiveness that might help you identify it, even if you seem to be a leader in the workplace. Of course, you can never be sure of someone’s feelings unless you ask them.

  • Even if they put up a good front, they are criticizing you behind your back.
  • With their words, they convey one message, while their gestures, facial expressions, and voice tones convey a different one.
  • They persistently obstruct your attempts or subtly damage your working hours from your part-time work or full-time job.
  • When you confront them about it, they claim that nothing is wrong.

People who engage in passive-aggressive behavior at the workplace frequently are not always total jerks. It is possible that they lack communication skills or are intimidated by disagreement. People frequently use passive aggressive conduct to get their emotional point through without having actual, healthy disagreements. Additionally, it has selfishness to it.

They incorrectly believe that others should understand their emotions and that their demands and preferences are more significant than those of others. You just have to distinguish it for what it is, an unfertile manifestation of moods they cannot argue in a healthy way. It is important that the whole team can demonstrate its work and this behavior can diminish it.

There is a good chance that you are not entirely blameless here. Consider whether your actions are influencing the dynamic or making the other person passive aggressive. Also, think about whether you have displayed the same conduct; be aware of the warning flags. Even the finest among us might experience it when we are delaying or trying to avoid something. We could express our feelings in ways that are damaging to other people.

2. How to approach a passive backstabbing aggressive coworker while preserving your proficiency

So, you are pretty sure you are dealing with a passive aggressive employee. So, how to deal with a passive aggressive coworker? In this case, we have some guidelines that can help you progress and with a bit of luck resolve the circumstances.

2.1 Understand why people act passive aggressively

People who engage in passive aggressive behavior in workplaces do so because, for whatever reason, they do not feel comfortable expressing their feelings directly. It is easier for them to hint at their feelings than, to be honest.

People who rely on passive aggression rather than direct communication to display these emotions often grew up in families where such behavior was common. They may not have felt good communicating their feelings openly as children. But people can pick up this behavior as adults, too. You can do this to avoid a confrontation.

There are two different likely incentives for you know it all at work colleague:

  • They try to manipulate you to get what they want, which shows bad intentions and that they know exactly what they are doing.
  • Or they may simply dismiss confrontation and show that they have a good (if misguided) intention to get along with everyone. Many people do not realize that they are passive aggressive. The behavior may feel “normal” to them. Or they may think that this is the best way to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or something bad like losing their job.

In the latter case, your passive aggressive behavior could be the result of a job in which you do not feel psychologically safe. Alternatively, this could be due to low employee engagement.

And the passive aggression you feel may not be limited to that coworker; It could be a company-wide problem. In fact, more than a quarter of the 30,000 respondents said they work in a passive aggressive organization.

2.2 Avoid encouraging it

Try to maintain your composure at all times. It may feed the problem and get worse if you respond to passive-aggressive conduct with additional passive hostility or even blatant aggression.

Giving in to your coworker’s hints will reinforce their behavior if they are using passive aggression to obtain what they want. They will discover that their passive aggressiveness is a powerful strategy for achieving their objectives.

Even if they do not want to provoke strife, they are still unintentionally doing so. And nothing will ever change if the conduct is tolerated. Now we may go on to the next phase.

Even though it may be the last thing you want to do, try to put yourself in your colleague’s shoes. What underlying viewpoint or opinion is she trying to get through with her annoying comment? Analyze the viewpoint that the other person is attempting to convey to you. That way you can know how to deal with a passive aggressive co-worker.

Does she believe that your project management strategy is ineffective? Or does she disagree with your group’s objectives? Not everyone enjoys or is adept at expressing their opinions in public. You can proceed to solve the actual issue if you can keep your attention on the underlying business issue or query rather than the person’s mode of expression.

2.3 Model assertiveness

What can you do then to learn more about your passive aggressive coworker’s behavior? How to deal with a passive aggressive person? Set an example of the right conduct by being aggressive. Your coworker will realize that it is okay to express their thoughts out loud when you do this.

Here are some pointers:

  • Talk to them in private. Nobody enjoys being called out in front of others. A one-on-one conversation will make your coworker feel more comfortable.
  • Give specific examples of the conduct you have seen in them, and explain your interpretation to them. Do not accuse them of their actions and refrain from calling it “passive hostile.” They will only get defensive as a result of that word.
  • Pose straightforward queries to them. Give them a chance to elaborate on their feelings and what they think of different situations.

A perfect example could be this: “I have seen you have been late to five conferences on this innovative assignment and that you left the place before concluding your meal when our colleague brought up some opinions over lunch. I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that you do not believe this project is a good idea; I am aware that you did not vote for it. I am interested in your viewpoint and need to talk to you. Have you got a problem with this project?”

Your coworker could first deny that anything is wrong. Give them some time. Try citing a specific example if they claim you are misreading the circumstances. This is a good way to know how to deal with a passive aggressive co-worker.

Invite their honest expression of their sentiments to close the dialogue. You may comment, “I am so satisfied we were able to have a truthful conversation about this. It greatly aids me. I want you to know that you may come and go as you like.”

2.4 Enforce consequences in case the behavior does not stop

Eventually, your coworker should accept it, or at least stop the passive aggressive behavior. However, if things continue, it is time to take drastic action and let them know that their behavior is unacceptable. You can have an additional straight talk with them about the actions you saw, how they made you feel, and what will happen if they remain happening.

If he does not show improvement, it is wise to distance himself from this passive aggressive partner. If possible, evade working with them on jobs and do not talk to them outside of the workplace. Being around her will probably cause you unnecessary stress.

If this colleague continues to undermine your work, it may be time to contact a supervisor or manager to take appropriate disciplinary action. They will know how to deal with passive aggressive coworkers and at this point it is not their responsibility to fix anything.

Whatever you say, avoid labeling them as passive aggressive. That may work against you. Someone who is already on the defensive would become even more enraged as a result. Do not categorize or assess them.  Instead, talk about how some of your earlier conversations went while describing how it has affected you and potentially other people. If possible, demonstrate how the conduct is preventing your counterpart from achieving something they care about, like the team’s objectives.

2.5 Take care of yourself

As mentioned above, dealing with a passive aggressive coworker can wear you out, especially if you are actively trying to get him to break up. That is why it is important to take care of their mental health after distancing yourself as much as possible from them.

  • Talk to a friend who is distant from the situation. Evade voicing to your coworkers, as this can simply develop as workplace gossip and make things worse. Try speaking to your companion or a trusted friend who does not know the colleague and is not allied with your business.
  • Talk to a therapist. A therapist is a neutral, non-judgmental resource who is experienced in dealing with passive aggressive people.
  • De-stress after work. When you have free time, do something you enjoy. Take a walk by the lake, prepare your favorite meal, play with your dog or enjoy a good book. Avoid bringing the toxicity of this passive aggressive colleague into your home by messing with your mind after work.

Make sure you are keeping your obligations and timelines if your employment involves dependency. Keep track of particular actions so you may use them as examples later. Facts are difficult to dispute. Keep communication with the individual to a minimum and attempt to avoid working with them.

If you must collaborate, do it in a group environment where your coworker will probably behave better. Although you might not be able to change the person’s passive aggressive tendencies, you can manage how to respond to a passive aggressive coworker.

3. How to deal with a coworker that undermines you?

You can decide to disregard the poor conduct and make every effort to go on with your task to the best of your ability if your conditions are not severe enough to have an impact on your productivity or interpersonal interactions.

When you must engage with your problematic coworker, you may decide to be friendly, but you will eventually come to the conclusion that it may not be worthwhile for you to take the time to deal with them. You may maintain a cheerful outlook and just communicate with this person if necessary, particularly if you don’t have to work directly with them.

As soon as a coworker starts criticizing your job or making jokes about how poorly you performed, you may ask them what they mean. This can make them pause and reflect on what they said and how you might have interpreted it.

Remaining composed and professional can let your coworker react honestly to your query if you decide to seek clarification. They might not be aware of what they are doing, and if you point it out to them, your work relationship may improve as a result.

4. How to deal with mean female coworkers?

how to deal with a passive-aggressive coworker

Avoid adding fuel to the flames by taking the high road. Your employees may back off if you can kill them with kindness, and you will also come out as a lot more capable and professional. Although it could be tempting, resist the urge to act cruelly in return since it might work against you.

Do not provide anything that your mean employees may use against you. Your personal information will be taken by some cunning employees, who will then use it to discredit you or spread rumors about you. Avoid interacting with your passive aggressive employees; instead, talk about your work or something unimportant, like the weather.

Making friends at work can help you to tolerate your job a little bit better. Once you are aware of who your nasty employees are, avoid them and make friends with the better people. You do not have to become great friends, but having a conversation before work or going out for coffee with someone is a wonderful way to change things up and get you excited about going to work again.

5. It is never easy to deal with a passive aggressive coworker, but you can manage it.

These suggestions should be helpful if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of dealing with a passive aggressive coworker. Remember that it speaks much more about your coworker than it does about you if they do not improve despite your best efforts. They have a lot of rage and negative habits underneath their conduct. You are not supposed to mend them. Perhaps it would be best to retain your distance and concentrate on your work.

It is not uncommon to have mean coworkers. However, you need to find a way to talk about it without substantially damaging your professional image. Therefore, it will be useful for you to learn how to deal with a passive aggressive coworker.

One method you can use to learn this is to find a subject matter expert. Most likely, few companies know how to convey the understanding of the message. But there is only one in the Middle East that will really help you: The Talent Point. We can help you to know how to deal with a passive aggressive coworker.

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Kate Williams

Kate Williams
Kate is the Global Strategy Director at Connect Group. She is specialized in company formation, international business expansion and employee relocation. She studied in Southampton (United Kingdom) and moved to the UAE in 2014.