How to handle Passive Aggressive in the workplace

Have you ever encountered coworkers who were passive-aggressive, like being tardy, uncooperative, or complaining about everything? 

In this article, Recruitery will delve into exploring “what is passive aggression” and how to effectively deal with passive-aggressive behavior in the workplace. Understanding passive aggression is the first step towards fostering a more productive and harmonious work environment.

What is Passive Aggressive?

definition of aggressive

Passive Aggressive? Passive aggression is a form of conflict in which the person with this attitude does not directly express dissatisfaction or displeasure but rather through negative actions, such as being persistent, postponing, refusing, or criticizing. People with this attitude often do not want or dare to face the problem but only want to avoid or secretly retaliate. This is an unprofessional attitude and can negatively affect the work environment and work performance.

Signs of Passive Aggressive

recognize aggressive

After learning what Passive Aggressive is, you should learn the signs to recognize when dealing with passive-aggressive coworkers:

  • Do not say what they want or need, just hint or talk in circles.
  • Refuse to do what is asked or assigned, do it late, do it wrongly, or not do it well.
  • Often complain, criticize, or complain about other people or work.
  • Often express dissatisfaction, annoyance, or anger by grimacing, shaking their heads, sighing, or saying bitter words.
  • Avoid eye contact, communication, or conflicts with others.
  • Use sarcasm, mockery, or indirect insults towards others.
  • Do not take responsibility for their own mistakes but blame others or circumstances.

How to handle passive-aggressive co-workers

So how to deal with people who are Passive Aggressive? If you have to work with people who have this attitude, you can apply the following ways to minimize tension and conflict:

Professional attitude

  • Maintain a professional and polite demeanor when dealing with passive-aggressive people.
  • Focus on work and common goals.
  • Don't be too irritable, arrogant, or conservative when faced with their reactions.


  • Talk to passive-aggressive people directly and in a friendly manner.
  • Listen to what they have to say and try to understand the reasons for their behavior.
  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to express their feelings and opinions and use feedback to show interest and empathy.
  • Avoid criticism, judgment, or threats, but instead use praise, encouragement, or suggestions.

Focus on work 

  • Focus on what needs to be done and set clear and reasonable expectations for passive-aggressive people.
  • Assign tasks specifically and clearly and require them to report progress and results.
  • Monitor and check their work and provide timely and objective feedback.
  • Reward them when they do well and remind them when they do wrong or are late.

Ask for help

  • Ask for intervention from your superiors or the human resources department.
  • Provide concrete and objective evidence of their behavior and ask for help to improve the situation.
  • Avoid making the problem personal, but consider it a general organizational problem.

How to improve if you are a passive-aggressive person

improve aggressive attitude

If you already understand what Passive Aggressive is and realize that you have a passive-aggressive attitude, you can do the following to improve:

Increase awareness

  • Be aware of the negative consequences it has for you and others.
  • Question why you are passive-aggressive and what keeps you from expressing your feelings or opinions directly.
  • Learn about the psychological or environmental causes that can cause a passive-aggressive attitude and find ways to overcome them.

Change the way you express your emotions

  • Learn to express your feelings politely and honestly, not through indirect or negative behavior.
  • Express what you feel or want instead of insinuations or criticism.

Give yourself time to improve

The final step to improving passive-aggressive behavior is to give yourself time to improve. You cannot change your behavior overnight; it takes practice and practice. You should remember that:

  • Do not blame yourself or have low self-esteem when engaging in passive-aggressive behavior. You should realize that it is a natural human reaction when faced with difficult situations.
  • Don't give up or give up when encountering difficulties or failures. You should see them as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Don't be afraid to apologize or ask for help when needed. You should know that everyone has flaws and no one is perfect.


In conclusion, Recruitery has provided valuable insights into “what is Passive Aggressive” and how to effectively handle this behavior in the workplace. Recognizing the signs and employing professional strategies when dealing with passive-aggressive coworkers can lead to healthier and more productive work relationships. 

Additionally, for those who may exhibit passive-aggressive tendencies, Recruitery offers guidance on self-improvement, emphasizing the importance of awareness and positive change.