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How to handle a passive-aggressive colleague

Kathryn Vasel


It can be as simple as a snide comment, or purposely skipping over you in a meeting, or going above your head with an idea.

Dealing with passive-aggressive behavior in the workplace is not only frustrating, it can also be bad for engagement and productivity.

“Similar to any form of aggressive behavior, direct or indirect, it is contagious and can sink performance,” said Lindred Greer, associate professor for management and organizations at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

It can also take a toll on employee morale.

“It’s a violent breeder of resentment,” said Melody Wilding, an executive coach and licensed social worker. “The problem usually is that people don’t have the mechanism to deal with conflict. So the conflict goes unaddressed and things stall or implode because problems aren’t being solved.”


處理在工作場合上這樣的 「消極並且攻擊性行為」,通常都很累人和沮喪。 Lindred Greer表示 , 密西根管理商務學院的副教授 「相似其他形式有有攻擊性行為,直接或是間接, 會影響其他人和影響表現。」


Melody Wilding社福高階教練表示: 「這是一個暴力憤怒的苗。」 「問題是人們通常都沒有這樣的機制去處理衝突,所以衝突往往都不會被處理而且就卡在那或是失敗因為問題沒有被解決 。」

What does it look like?

Passive-aggressive behavior can take many forms in the office.

“It’s just latent or hidden anger issues that people have,” said Angela Civitella, founder and CEO of coaching firm Intinde. “It’s usually expressions that are masked. They can’t come out about what they are angry about.”

Examples of passive-aggressive behaviors in the office could include someone who tends to avoid responsibilities for tasks, isn’t good with deadlines and has a hard time committing to things, withholds information, disrespect lines of authority and can even try and sabotage and set you up for failure.

這樣的 「消極並且攻擊性的行為」 會以不同種的形式存在於辦公室當中。

Angela Civitella 公司Intinde創始人兼教練表示 「這只是人們會有潛伏期或隱藏那樣的生氣」。「通常是一種被偽裝,而且他們無法把生氣的點釋放。」


Get them out of the office

Often, passive-aggressive behavior is rooted in insecurity or unhappiness, so getting someone out of the office for a real conversation can help the person open up and talk more frankly about any issues.

“To create a safe conversation, you need a change of scenery,” said Greer. “Go out for a walk or coffee and be genuinely curious and engage in active listening and ask how they feel about work and what’s going on in life to find the source of tension.”

The idea is to find out the “why” behind the behavior, she explained.”What was your reasoning for going directly to the boss? And then probing the ‘why’ of the ‘why’ of the ‘why’ for that to unearth the real issue going on and get it talked about.”


為了建立一個安全的對話,你需要換一個場景。比如說散一下步或是喝咖啡和單純的對一個活動有興趣 傾廳和問他們對於工作的感覺如何和他們最近發生的來找到工作緊張的來源。

這樣的作法是要找出他們這樣的行為「理由」,他接著解釋說「你直接去找老闆的理由是為什麼?」 試探者去挖掘「為什麼」的「為什麼」的「為什麼」是真正的狀況然後在去討論這些事情。

Push back

Being overly negative about other people’s ideas or resisting change is a common form of passive aggressiveness, but a simple way to combat it is to ask open-ended questions like: “What suggestions do you have?” said Wilding. This makes the conversation more productive and shifts away from the negative behavior.

“That question helps inspire more open-mindedness and optimism, moving the person from seeing everything as a problem to seeing solutions instead,” she said.

Passive-aggressive people often think they are being so slick that no one detects their behavior. Calling them out can make them back down.

“If you are aware, the game is over,” said Civitella. “They lose potency.”

Let’s say the person skipped over you in a meeting, Civitella suggested asking yourself three questions before taking any action: was it self-protective, unintentional or malicious? If you decide the move was intentional, she advised confronting the person in a neutral yet assertive tone of voice. Say something like: I could be wrong, but did you just go over my head during the meeting? Make sure to maintain eye contact to help show sincerity and stay calm.

“Let them know everyone noticed what they did. Passive-aggressive people hate being exposed so this will decimate their need to be the aggressor toward you,” said Civitella.

對他人的想法過於負面或是拒絕改變是一種很常見的 「消極且攻擊性」形式。 不過一個簡單可以去面對方法是問開放性問題像是: Wilding 表示 「你有甚麼樣的建議?」, 這會讓對話更有效果而且會轉移負面的情緒。 她表示「這樣的問題有助於啟發開放和樂觀並且將人們從看到所有的事情都是問題到專注在解決方案。」

消極且具攻擊的人們常會想他們是夠圓滑的所以沒人察覺到他們的行為,然後指出他們的行為會讓他們退縮。Civitella 表示 「如果你知道他們在玩甚麼把戲,就玩完了,沒有效力了。」

比如說有人故意不來開會,Civitella 建議 在採取任何行動之前直接問自己三個問題,第一 自我保護,無心的還是惡意的。如果你的決定是出於無心,她認為要用中立可是堅定的語氣直接面對。像是: 可能是我誤會了,可是你剛剛是不是沒來會議。要確保自己用眼睛表露出誠懇或保持冷靜看著對話的人。

Civitella:「讓他們知道每個人都注意這件事 『消極且具攻擊性的』 人討厭自己被曝露在目光下因為這樣會重挫他們對你具有攻擊性這件事。 」

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries is key to dealing with passive-aggressive behavior, Wilding said.

While you can’t control other people’s behavior, you can control your reaction and how much you are willing to tolerate.

For instance, she suggested saying: I’d like to make a request that you contact me before roping in the supervisor. Or: I’m focusing and I’d rather not have a conversation about that right now.

Wilding 說設立底線是重點並且可以應付這些「消極具有攻擊性的行為的人」。


舉例來說,她建議可以說”我想要要求你在跟主管聯絡前先跟我溝通” 或是 ”我現在正在專心或是我現在不想談到這些對話。 ”

Leaders: Set the tone

Bosses play a key role in setting the tone in the office, which means leaders shouldn’t be afraid to show vulnerability and admit mistakes.

“When leaders and followers are able to show emotion, it decreases the power distance and increases trust and teams perform better,” said Greer.


Greer說 ”當領導者和跟隨者能夠展現情緒,這樣可以降低距離和增加信任感也會讓團隊表現更好”


Practical Phrases






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