There is a disconnect happening in the workplace today, widening the gap between productive workers and their unproductive colleagues. Snarky, sarcastic comments or critical, cynical remarks used just for the purpose of breaking someone else down cost companies billions of dollars a year in lost productivity and failed relationships. At the root of the problem is passive aggressive behavior. And it's not always what is said, passive aggressive behavior can also manifest itself as the silent treatment. No matter the behavior, the power struggle is real.
When a co-worker uses passive aggressive behavior to attempt to get what they want in the workplace, recognize it for what it is and take the following action:
First, it is important to recognize passive aggressive behavior is a form of control (or attempted control). Identifying this type of behavior is key before trying to "fix" it. You might recognize some traits of a passive aggressive perpetrator including consistent lateness, gossiping, always getting the last word and heavy sarcasm.
Do not become an enabler, it will continue until confronted. Most people that are passive aggressive know the right buttons to push to completely annoy you. Gently confront them, but be specific about the behavior that is creating a problem for you. If they deny the activity, point it out to them each time they do it until they either stop or take their passive aggressiveness somewhere else.
Have a positive approach to resolving passive aggressive behavior. People are generally good, their behavior is probably the result of how they were raised or because of other relationships in their life. Many people that use passive aggressive behavior grew up in a house with one very dominant parent, or they have a relationship with someone close to them who asserts dominance through passive aggressive actions. It's important to understand, they may not realize the destructive nature of their actions.
Look for the cooperative win. Fighting fire with fire with a passive aggressive person will only lead to deeper conflict. Giving someone the silent treatment because they are giving you the silent treatment lowers yourself to their level and will result in a lost relationship and major challenges at the office. Look for the win-win in every situation, this will require you to listen carefully, not point blame, have empathy and truly want to resolve the problems on a deeper level.
How do you deal with a passive aggressive co-worker? I would love to hear what you think in the comments section below.