How to Stop Passive Aggressive Behavior
in the Workplace:

Power Phrases for Dealing with Passive-Aggressive
Coworkers and Employees


He said it was a joke, but you’re not so sure. She acts like she’s helping, but her “help” creates more work. They gave you the manual but forgot to provide the password. She offers a lame excuse for being late (again) and acts offended when you tell her that lateness is a problem.

Are they as innocent as they appear? Or are these examples of passive aggressive behavior in the workplace?

Here’s your definition of passive aggression. It is indirect aggression that hides behind an agreeable face. It’s a hit-and-run (or hit-and-hide) communication tactic intended to silently stick the knife in and sabotage success in a way that makes it difficult for the injured party to respond. Passive aggressive behavior in the workplace is counter-productive, and can poison an entire office if allowed to continue.

It’s difficult, but you can learn how to stop passive aggressive behavior in the workplace by speaking up and speaking out with PowerPhrases.

Let’s start with listing what you don’t do:      

• Don't react with your own passive aggressive behavior.     
• Don't let your doubts silence you.      
• Don't believe words that contradict action.

Here’s what you do to stop passive aggressive behavior in the workplace:
• Do respond assertively. Use PowerPhrases to say what you mean and mean what you say without being mean when you say it. Let them know how they affect you.     
• Do ask questions about the true intent of their behavior.      
• Do hold them accountable for results, not promises.

What do you say? Here are sample PowerPhrases to stop passive aggressive behavior in the workplace based on the earlier example. Say:   

• "It may have been intended as a joke, but I found it hurtful, not funny."      
• "Is it possible that you’re not giving this your best shot in order to get out of the assignment?"      
• "Did you withhold the password because you don’t want me to see the material?"      
• "Whatever your reason for being late, I need to tell you how it affects me."

Passive aggression relies on silence about their mixed messages to be effective. When you let the passive aggressive person know you will not be manipulated by it, you can stop passive aggressive behavior in the workplace.

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Meryl Runion and Speak Strong (SpeakStrong) provides Power Phrases (PowerPhrases) and other tools to help you improve communication skills at work and at home. You can read more about her at

Meryl is the author of six books on communication that have sold over a quarter million copies worldwide, including Speak Strong, PowerPhrases!, How to Use PowerPhrases, Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisors, and How to Say It: Performance Reviews. You can reach her at 719-684-2633, or by email:

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