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8 Ways to Deal With Passive-Aggressive People at Work

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You know this coworker—the one who can never just give you a straight answer and always has underlying hostility. Unfortunately, you have to deal with them. Most of the time you just want to do this:

But this face causes lip wrinkles—or at least we think it might. So, instead, may we present you with eight tips for dealing with the passive-aggressive type at work:

1. Be assertive.

You have to be clear about what you need from this person, especially if it has to do with a work assignment. Keep everything about business and leave emotions out of it. And because tone can so often get misinterpreted over email, try your best to speak in person.

2. Don’t take it personally.

It may seem like this person is saving all of her passive aggressiveness for you every darn day, but that probably isn’t the case. Again, leave emotions out of it. That’s basically your overall mantra for dealing with this person.

3. Keep your distance.

You may just be bearing the brunt of this person’s attitude because you’re the first person in his or her pathway. Although it might feel like extra work for you, minimizing your interactions with this person may save you a lot of stress and anxiety in the long run.

4. Don’t sink to this level.

If you’re forced to work closely with this person (you’re on the same team, sit right next to each other, etc.), of course you’re going to fantasize about a snarky comeback of your own from time to time, but try to resist. It will help absolutely nothing—and you’ll just end up feeling silly.

5. Try to empathize.

OK, this one is probably asking for A LOT, but try to understand that this person could be dealing with his or her own issues and is just taking them out on you. You know that old saying—you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.

6. Remember that you can’t “fix” a person.

It would be great if we all had Oprah’s power and could make people change during one 60-minute interview, but most of us don’t. Though you should try to be a little empathetic, don’t try to become his or her therapist over lunch.

7. Keep a record.

If the problem persists, start filing documentation. Keep a paper trail of important e-mails and follow-up on all meetings and conversations with an e-mail stating what you agreed upon. If you eventually decide to go to HR or your manager, these docs will help tremendously.

8. Ask questions, calmly.

When this person gets heated, always try to direct the conversation back into a calm place. Maybe avoid, “What is frustrating you?” But instead ask, “Is there something I can help with to make this better for you?”

Photo: Hero Images / Getty Images

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