It’s probably healthier to distance yourself from any passive aggressive people floating around your personal life.
You don’t have that luxury in the office. It’s not like you can just part ways with the cubicle mate who’s constantly leaving whiny sticky notes everywhere. You’re pretty much trapped.
Even worse, passive aggression can be quite subtle. That’s why it’s so damaging in a professional setting — it can sneak up on you. It’s important to keep tabs on this damaging behaviour, so you don’t end up getting burned.
Here are nine clear signs that you’re most likely dealing with a passive aggressive coworker:
Listen, there are times where it's acceptable to leave an aggrieved sticky note or send out a vexed office-wide email. For example, if your colleagues are always leaving the communal microwave looking like the aftermath of a gruesome and mysterious science experiment, I can definitely understand why someone would feel the urge to call people out.
However, if you work with someone who's scribbling out elaborate memos over ever tiny annoyance, watch out.
Whenever you ask your colleague to do something, they get to it ... eventually. They never complain, but they make their displeasure known by taking forever to complete the task.
Keep in mind, some people are just procrastinators; their delays aren't meant personally. Alternatively, you may be at fault here, if you're over-asserting your position on a person of equal rank.
All things considered, if they're perfectly competent and your requests are appropriate and reasonable, you're probably just dealing with a passive aggressive individual. The Mayo Clinic lists procrastination 'in response to others' demands' as a sign of passive aggressive behaviour.
Venting in an office setting is usually pretty unprofessional (unless you're close friends with whoever you're venting to).
That doesn't seem to phase this particular coworker. They complain about everything. The boss. The clients. The other people in the office. Frankly, most of their issues seem pretty unreasonable to you.
This is a major red flag that you're talking to a toxic person.
Passive aggressive individuals rely on gossip to act upon their grievances. They're unable to take a more confrontational tack. They might use rumours to hurt rivals' reputations, spread misinformation, and even curry favour with the powers that be.
This person's always a bit of a thundercloud at the office brainstorming session. No proposal is good enough for them.
There's nothing wrong with being picky about what ideas are accepted at work. However, passive aggressive individuals tend to dismiss most plans out of hand, without providing constructive criticism or alternative solutions. At a certain point, it's less about any flaws with the ideas, and more about their own bad attitude.
Do your colleague's compliments always leave you feeling a bit gutted? That's probably because they're not really compliments. They're hostiles digs, sugarcoated in standard niceties.
Rather than acting overtly rude, passive aggressive people rely on backhanded compliments to make their displeasure known and bring others down.
It's fine to feel a bit jealous over others' triumphs. That's just a human reaction. Still, you can't let your disappointment mutate into envy. It's not productive and it's just not a good look on anyone.
Passive aggressive individuals often have trouble dealing with successful people. In an office environment, this might present itself as backhanded compliments, complaints about the merits of the successful person, or a general, sullen attitude when others are being celebrated.
Passive aggressive people won't directly challenge you. That's just too confrontational for them.
Instead, they will take steps to undermine you at every turn, finding subtle ways to sabotage your performance, like leaving you out of the loop on important projects.
Most of us aren't entirely immune to office drama. For most people, it's a bit like a daytime soap opera. It can be entertaining to tune in every once in a while. It would also be awful to have that be your entire life (no one has time for evil twins interrupting your wedding day and whatnot).
Unlike their plain old aggressive counterparts, passive aggressive colleagues don't necessarily seize a starring role in office drama. However, they stoke tensions whenever possible -- they're less like a prima donna, more like the show's producer.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.