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Dealing With Passive-Aggressive Behaviour At Work

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Passive-aggressive behaviour involves indirect aggression and comes in many forms. Have you spotted some of the common signs of passive-aggressive behaviour in your workplace? Passive-aggressive behaviour may include:

  • Making sarcastic comments;
  • Giving out fake compliments;
  • Procrastinating or leaving tasks unfinished;
  • Gossiping behind others’ backs;
  • Giving the silent treatment;
  • Pretending to agree when they don’t;
  • Finishing emails with phrases such as ‘as per my last email’ or ‘do let me know if I misunderstood’ 
  • Refusing to communicate or cooperate with another.

Passive-aggressive behaviour in the workplace is highly toxic and can be incredibly hurtful to those who are on the receiving end. This type of behaviour can also have significant impacts on a businesses’ productivity, morale and could result in increased employee absenteeism if it is not appropriately addressed.

Common causes of passive-aggressive behaviour

Passive-aggressive behaviour can often stem from underlying feelings of anger, resentment, frustration and/or insecurity – and sometimes people who are behaving this way are not fully aware that they are doing it. It may also be used by a person as a means to achieve a result that they want and exert power and control whilst avoiding confrontation.

Many people use passive-aggressive communication because they don’t know how to express themselves more constructively.

How to deal with passive-aggressive behaviour in the workplace

There are several actions that you can take to address this type of behaviour in the workplace. First of all, make a note of specific instances of when passive-aggressive behaviour has occurred and the potential reasons behind it prior to arranging a private meeting with the person. During the meeting, calmly and respectfully share what you have observed, how it is affecting you or the other person(s) and what actions you would prefer that they take in the future.

This can be quite tricky because the passive-aggressive person will often ‘gaslight’ you with comments such as ‘ You’re so sensitive, it’s not a big deal’ or ‘boo-hoo, can’t you take a joke?” so be prepared to stand your ground and focus on expectations regarding future behaviour.

If things don’t change and you don’t have any managerial sway, seek support from your manager/HR department who may be able to provide more direction as to the next steps.

You could also organise for yourself and/or your team to undertake a training course. Here at JEM Training, we offer many informative and engaging training courses in Perth including courses on how to have difficult conversations, how to develop effective communication skills, how to manage different personalities, how to deal with difficult people and how to effectively resolve conflicts in the workplace. Please contact Jill today for further information or to book a session. Also, link Assertiveness at work which specifically covers this topic.

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JEM Management Training

JEM Management Training designs and delivers flexible, in-house management training courses to help  organisations in Perth engage their staff fully in the workplace.

As time is often limited, JEM Training offers flexible half-day management training courses which focus on a specific area of management expertise. These short courses build upon each other over a period of time, chosen by you, to provide ongoing management development.

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