According to the medical practice and research group Mayo Clinic™, “Passive-Aggressive people tend to express their negative feelings harmfully, but indirectly. Instead of dealing with issues, they behave in ways that veil their hostility and mask their discontent.”

There are always different types of people in the workplace. People with different characters, behaviours and even mindsets. Every employer needs to deal with every employee in the best way possible to be able to get the best from them.

There are some employees that are introvertive while some might be extrovertive which all play a vital role in the way they work. 

There are several actions that people exhibit which every manager has to learn to recognize. Some exhibit behaviours that are characterized by a pattern of passive hostility and an avoidance of direct communication. Some respond to conflict by shutting others out and giving them the “silent treatment,” rather than addressing issues head on. Or maybe they pretend to accept responsibility for tasks, only to come up with excuses for not doing them later.

As as employer you may not immediately recognize these actions as aggressive because everyone thinks angry people typically use harsh words, lash out or argue. However, those are examples of passive-aggressive behavior.

Who are Passively Aggressive People?

These set of people are those that prefer to keep things inside and instead of expressing their emotions out like those who are actively aggressive who would prefer to vent their anger out.

Passively Aggressive people prefer to shut their emotions in, when they are angry they would prefer not to say they’re angry. They deny what they feel and refuse to be emotionally open, they shut down further communication and refuse to discuss the issue.

Passively Aggressive people would also prefer to procastinate when confronted with tasks they don’t want to do. 


What are the causes of Passive-Aggressive Behaviour?

Passive-Aggressive behaviour can turn out to have consequences to relationships between friends, family and even in the workplace. Behaviours like this are usually caused by the following:

  • Upbringing
  • Situational characteristics and
  • Taking the easy road.

The causes of Passive-Aggressive Behaviour are not entirely limited to the ones listed above.

Passive-Aggressive Behaviour

How do you identify Passive-Aggressive Behaviour?

Despite that passive-aggressive people try to mask and hide their feelings and say they’re fine, there are still signs to that can help you identify those behaviours. Some of the behaviours are listed below:

  1. Sulking.
  2. Clamming up. 
  3. Being sarcastic to the boss or co-workers.
  4. Being hostile to the boss or co-workers.
  5. Making excuses or blaming others for shortcomings.
  6. Being late for deadlines or the workday.  
  7. “Forgetting” a meeting or deadline.
  8. Avoiding face-to-face, telephone or Zoom discussion of issues in favor of notes or e-mails.
  9. Needing to be in control of projects instead of being a ”team player.”


How to Manage Passive-Aggressive Behaviour


When you notice some of the signs, there are ways you can manage the behaviours.

1. The first thing to do is to identify the behaviour

These behaviours cannot be ignored. If you notice them in someone in your workplace, he or she must not live in denial of it. It has to be dealt with immediately so it doesn’t escalate and become disruptive. 

2. Don’t Become like Them

Because the person has decided to keep things to his or herself doesn’t mean you should withhold what you’ve noticed from them. When you withhold, you become like them which is not productive and wouldn’t help them get better.

3. Communicate

Communicating with them is very important but you must be very conscious of how you communicate with them and you just avoid using words that suggest you’re just trying to protect your business or complaining.

You have to sound in a way that would make them comfortable discussing those behaviours. You must be truly concerned about their personal welfare and also show a desire to help them out. You can also try to engage them in a conversation and also allow them talk.

In your conversation with them, you must ensure you stay calm. You may make the situation worse if you react emotionally, he or she may feel threatened, withdraw further, and become even more entrenched in the negative behaviors.

4. Hold Them Accountable

After communicating with them, it is important you show them that they’re responsible and accountable for all their actions. You can tell them you expect better from them which would push them to want to do better. Give such person positive reinforcement for previous good work and then be prepared to constantly supervise for a while but not hover over them.

When you supervise in a caring way, such person would know he or she has your confidence and would be ready to make better changes. But if the behaviours continue, you might have to up your game and be more direct.

Some passive-aggressive people may not be aware or care how much their behaviour angers others. Let them know how damaging their continued passive aggression is to co-workers and even to their job.

5. Wait for Results

Over time, the employee may realize that the behaviours are bad and doesn’t work. He or she may even learn that expressing anger in a productive way has benefits.

As a manager or employer, you must also apply this to your life because it’s important to be aware of the signs of passive aggression. If you realize that you engage in these behaviors, step back and try to figure out why.

Then, take immediate steps to correct it. After all, your team members likely look to you as a role model for how to act in the workplace.

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