Passive-aggressive Personality

How to Deal with a Passive-Aggressive Personality at Work

Are you working with someone that is passive-aggressive at work? They’re sarcastic, known for snide comments, prone to procrastination and giving you the silent treatment when they’ve been “slighted.” These are all traits of a passive-aggressive coworker and working with them can be a real challenge. So, what can you do to not only survive working with them but possibly even change the relationship? Here are the top tips for dealing with a passive aggressive personality at work.

1. Keep your emotions at bay.

Although it can be difficult, it is important that you do not have an emotional response. You have a right to be upset but do not immediately reply to a snide comment. Instead, take the time to process your emotions away from the person. Why? Well, there’s a good chance they are trying to upset you, causing you to lash out in anger. The result is you end up looking foolish.

At the same time, they may be trying to provoke you. Your irate response serves as a reward for their behavior. It encourages them to continue being passive-aggressive. Removing that satisfaction may help them keep their behavior in check. This is especially true if they are knowingly exhibiting the behavior. Walk away, collect your thoughts, and then decide how to proceed.

2. Don’t keep their behavior to yourself.

It’s important to inform others about the issues, specifically your supervisor and/ or the HR department. This can offer some protection if the situation becomes worse or the person tries to turn their behavior around on you. However, resist the temptation to make their behavior the topic of office gossip. This can make you look petty and spiteful which will weaken any formal complaints you lodge.

3. Don’t allow the behavior to be swept under the rug.

Once you’ve walked away and cooled down, you may feel compelled to just let it go. This is the wrong thing to do. By not saying anything, you’re condoning their behavior. Depending on the situation, you may feel comfortable approaching them for an informal conversation that addresses the conflict. If you are uncomfortable with an informal discussion include a supervisor or someone in the HR department. In either case, be honest about how you feel, but also be kind.

4. Consider telecoaching.

Telecoaching is a great option. Learning how to be more assertive, how to empathize, or just communicating more effectively will improve inter-office relationships and productivity. The benefits are tremendous whether you choose to do it on your own or with your coworker.

5. Consider the underlying cause of the behavior.

When someone is acting passive aggressively, they are indirectly expressing their negative feelings as opposed to openly addressing them. So, why are they doing this? It could be fear that is stopping them from being direct. This is particularly true if there are changes taking place at work that make them feel vulnerable. Take a direct approach and kindly ask them about their feelings. Knowing the reason for their behavior may make it easier for you to empathize and display a more restrained response.

6. Instead of following suit, model healthy conflict management.

Showcase your empathetic side with someone that is passive-aggressive. For example, say, “I hear what you are saying. Give me a little bit of time to think about it and then we’ll discuss it further.” If you aren’t sure what they are saying, ask questions, using phrases like “Help me understand what…” or “I’m listening…” Show them, through your words, that you can be trusted enough for them to share their true feelings and thoughts.

7.  Work on building a relationship with a passive-aggressive personality.

After your conflict has passed, it is time to start building a foundation that will help prevent issues in the future. As they begin to trust you and realize that you aren’t a threat, they’ll often let their guard down and feel more comfortable directly discussing their issues with you. Forming a good relationship is the best and most effective way to get rid of passive aggressive behavior or at least dramatically reduce the occurrence of it.

Working with someone who is frequently passive aggressive isn’t easy, but using the tips above, you can learn to better deal with their behavior. Interested in learning more? Contact us today.

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