Passive Aggressive In The Workplace

Passive aggressiveness in the office is a common thing, we all probably do it, and we all definitely hate it.

By nowproducerdave on June 25, 2018
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Let’s chat about something for a minute. Passive aggressive coworkers exist in every office. You know the type, they may leave an open note for the whole office to see, they may have a conversation with someone just loud enough so that the person they’re complaining about might hear, etc.

Rather than just having a quick conversation with someone like “hey, when you have lunch with onions and vinegar on your sandwich, the smell lingers for hours,” some people just “deal with it.” A simple “hey do you think you could eat that in the breakroom” conversation could be a simple and effective fix. Holding it in might seem polite, but it’s eating you up inside, I know it is. Other people might leave a note about the sandwich, but that causes other problems. Who left the note? What do you think the eater should do fo fix things? Obviously eat a less-smelly sandwich, but there are other situations that may not have such an obvious solution, of course. If you were the target of the note, wouldn’t you prefer someone just come talk to you anyway?

An interesting article makes several good points against the anonymous note leaving, and pro for having a conversation. One example they give is that when you don’t know who left a note, you’re not sure how much “weight” and credibility to give the note. Someone once was offered a job, and a day later someone wrote them a note talking bad about the company. The recipient wasn’t sure if it was an employee of the new company, or someone who just “heard rumors” about the company. Whatever the case, another employee they spoke with had nothing but good things to say about the company. What’s more, the interview process went well and no red-flags came up during the process.

Another example was that someone was claiming an employee was making unauthorized purchases on a company card. The person in charge of the cards did investigating, and couldn’t see anything wrong with statements or receipts. The problem here is that when someone “anonymous” makes complaints against someone, the person, innocent or not, is now under suspicion. And because the complainant is anonymous, there can be no follow up questions for evidence. If the complainant left their name, more questions could be answered.

What are some examples of passive aggressiveness have you experienced in your office? See some more examples here, and read about why notes should be replaced with real conversation. Do your co-workers get along well enough that they’re all on the same page?

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