If you have ever had to work with a colleague who seems to be manipulative or obstructive but never actually confronts you face to face, then this sort of behaviour is known as passive-aggressive.
The person will appear to agree with you on the surface (passive) but you’ll pick up that they’re not happy from their body language, tone or later actions (aggressive).
They may cause you problems by undermining you with little comments or ignoring what you asked or sidelining you. Perhaps they undermine you in front of your boss or take credit for your work.
Most of us have been unlucky enough to work with someone whose passive-aggressive like this, including me.
I once worked with a passive-aggressive colleague who never actually criticised or disagreed with me face to face. Instead, she made life difficult and incredibly frustrating for me. She’d agree to actions to help me in a meeting and not deliver on them. In front of senior managers she’d be very supportive, but away from them she’d not even give me a good morning.
What I found most annoying was the way she’d put in little digs at my ideas and achievements in front of others and never backed my suggestions.
I thought the best way to deal with her passive-aggressive behaviour was to confront her and ask whether there was a problem. But, instead of opening up a discussion, she reacted by suggesting I was oversensitive and imagining it. That left me feeling stupid and petty – not the result I was hoping for.
People who behave in this way aren’t usually the toxic individuals we think they are. Usually their behaviour is coming from a place of fear and insecurity. they may struggle to express their emotions and avoid getting into conflict. There can also be an element of self-centredness, assuming others should know what they want. That their feelings are more important than yours.
How do I deal with passive-aggressive behaviour?
Rather than responding to a passive-aggressive person from the hurt and frustration you’re feeling. Think of them instead as someone who is suffering and unable to share their emotions constructively.
1. Listen to what they’re not saying rather than how they deliver it – what is their underlying opinion and emotion? Can you understand why they might be unhappy?
2. Do you have any role in the situation? Reflect on how your behaviour could be contributing, even if it’s just your emotions ‘leaking out’ especially if you don’t like the person. You can’t change their behaviour but if you change yours it might get a different reaction.
3. Have a calm conversation with them. Use your emotional intelligence and ask questions to uncover their concerns or issues. Give specific examples to back up your points. Ignore any toxic elements to their delivery and keep the focus on the content
4. Try to avoid having an emotional response to their comments – as not only is this not productive but it may feed their behaviours.
5. Join with them to find a solution or discuss a compromise. They may just want to be heard and be open to options or have misunderstood your intentions.
6. Maintaining good working relationships with your colleagues is very important to your happiness at work, but sometimes whatever you do, it’s not possible. In those situations make sure you protect yourself by asking for help, getting support from other colleagues, recording any incidents and ensuring your work performance isn’t affected.
If you’d like to know how you can confidently deal with similar issues in your work then do book a free call with me at www.speakwithjo.com and I’ll share with you some successful strategies.