Dealing with a passive aggressive coworker may be one of the most frustrating experiences to have at work. One minute, he or she ignores you in the hallway. The next, they swear they don’t have a problem with you. It’s confusing, aggravating and distracting, to say the least.
This is not an uncommon situation. At times, your most trusted colleagues at work may make an insensitive remark here and there. However, if this type of behavior occurs consistently, it’s a sign that it may be time to deal with it. And while you can do your part to create a positive work environment, sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle.
Here are some ways to take precautions and address a passive aggressive coworker:
Don’t get defensive
It’s easy to get angry and defensive when faced with a coworker’s passive-aggressive behavior. Instead of firing back, do your best to remain calm. Be the bigger person and refrain from answering back. You don’t want to be blamed for losing your cool in a professional setting.
Question their motives
Have you ever asked yourself why this particular coworker is acting a certain way? It may be that they’re conflict averse, or don’t have the appropriate communication skills. Realize that in many instances, passive aggressive behavior masks unproductive emotions from people.
Take responsibility when needed
Ask yourself if you may have done, or may be doing something that activates your coworker’s behavior. Chances are, you may have to take some responsibility for the situation as well. Very often, we act in a passive aggressive way without even realizing that we’re doing it. Here are some signs you may be exhibiting passive aggressive behavior yourself.
Prioritize substance over form
Go one step further and analyze the underlying issue. What is this passive aggressive coworker really trying to tell you? Are they hiding behind snarky remarks to convey their dissatisfaction with your work? Are their snide comments hiding the fact that they don’t agree with you?
Consider actually asking them what they really mean through their comments. Put aside the negativity of their behavior and focus on the substance instead.
Boundaries are useful in any working environment to define what’s acceptable and what’s not. Consider rallying your team to set some clear behavioral guidelines. Try to keep each other accountable by assigning clear tasks and delineating responsibilities for public accountability.
There are extreme cases in which your colleague’s passive aggressive behavior can keep affecting you in the long-term. In situations when their attitude gets in the way of your job performance, consider asking for help.
Share the situation with your manager and be proactive about finding solutions. You can take it even one step further and consult with Human Resources.
Take measures to protect yourself
You should also to take precautions to protect yourself and your work. Consider copying others on an email or documenting your conversations and agreements. Keep a track record of passive aggressive situations to present to your manager or HR in extreme cases.
Additionally, always bring with you a “witness” when having meetings with your passive aggressive colleague. At the very least, keep contact to a minimum.
Do you have any other methods to deal with a passive aggressive co-worker?
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