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Mean Girls…Mean Boys: What ya’ going to do when they undermine YOU?

Posted on Oct 04 2013 under Blog Posts

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE-COMICHave you ever been a target of passive aggressive behavior in the workplace? Or maybe, you don’t feel you really have a voice or a safe way to express your thoughts, feelings or opinions without using passive-aggressive actions. Reflect on how these types of behaviors impact you or how it makes you feel. Employees, front line supervisors, leaders and people from all walks of life use passive aggressive behaviors as a way to communicate unmet needs. Unfortunately, this type of behavior is negative, destructive and can be a form of bullying.

Workplace bullying is defined by a series of repeated behaviors with the intent to hurt you mentally, emotionally and sometimes, physically. These types of behaviors create an unproductive environment. Imagine that you repeatedly send your co-worker important emails but he or she rarely responds due to some unresolved conflict. This is an example of passive aggressive behavior in the workplace. Passive aggressive behavior is subtle with the clear purpose to undermine or deceive the targeted co-worker. The targets of passive aggression do not always recognize that they are actual targets. Ongoing passive aggression in the workplace negatively affects your work performance and your physical, mental and spiritual health.

Further, the Mayo Clinic, defines passive aggression as behavior that is more persistent and forms patterns of negative attitudes behind a person’s back. In this case, your co-worker or your boss hides their anger or frustration with you instead of being open and transparent about it. According to kickbully.com your co-worker may use his/her passive aggressive behavior at work by giving you the silent treatment, excluding you from workplace social interaction and refusing to engage you in team projects.

Examples of passive aggressive behavior in the workplace are…

  • Ignoring your supervisor’s phone-calls or emails.
  • Refusing to actively communicate with your co-worker.
  • Purposefully missing deadlines on a joint project with your peer.
  • Misplacing your co-worker’s important files.
  • Responding with phrases such as “It’s not my job, you do it!”
  • If asked if you are good with a decision or direction, you respond “I’m good with it.” and then immediately complain about the      decision behind the person’s back.

Tips to prevent passive aggressive behavior in the workplace:

  • Take the high road. Prepare and initiate open communication with the co-worker with then intention of clearing up any    misunderstandings.
  • Be curious. Don’t make assumptions about the co-worker’s behavior. Ask questions to clarify their intent towards you.
  • Speak out! Speak Up! Be courageous and report your concerns to your supervisor or Human Resources personnel.
  • Discover and learn the existing policies your workplace organization has in place to prevent or intervene in cases of aggression.

To maintain a safe and healthy work environment, any form of bullying, passive or right-in-your-face aggression must be addressed and resolved constructively. To find out more on how to prevent workplace passive aggressive behavior visit Working Mother, Kickbully.com and WorkPlace Bullying Institute.

By Tierra Henry


3 Replies to “Mean Girls…Mean Boys: What ya’ going to do when they undermine YOU?”

  1. The tips are useful. Controlling our instincts and taking the high road is wise. No need to pour gas on the fire. Being inquisitive might unearth significant details that can help you avoid the degree of passive-aggressive behavior you’re getting now. Being courageous, I’ve found, is critical unless you love the status quo!

    However, my recommendation is to not go to a supervisor or the HR department until you first try to work things out with the other person. Maybe try adopting the Bill Eddy B.I.F.F. approach with a high conflict person. Brief, Informative, Friendly and Fair. Set limits and boundaries in your mind and if you have any authority, express these with the offending party, with courtesy.

  2. Hi Michael Toebe!

    I am Tierra Henry, a student intern currently attending University Baltimore to obtain my Masters Degree in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog. I think you made a great point regarding B.I.F.F. and I too agree that it is important to set limits and boundaries. However, many people are not always comfortable in approaching their co-workers regarding conflict.

    I recommended the tip regarding supervisor and HR department for those employees who may not feel comfortable approaching their co-worker. A supervisor or someone from HR department can be used as a third party intervener.

    Thanks again for you commenting and sharing great tips!

  3. Thanks Michael for supporting our radio show and blog; and thanks Tierra for writing our guest post. I agree trying to work directly with the person you are in conflict with is the first thing to do; and yet, most of us who are conflict averse will do anything other than talk to the person. For some, it is as painful as going to the dentist. But, we still have to go to the dentist or suffer the consequences of plaque, cavities or if it goes really far gingivitis, lost teeth or a more serious disease which means a lot of intervention. The key is to do something…something constructive to address the problem. Pattie

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