One of the rare benefits to a year of pandemic-related lockdowns has been the reprieve from office irritations. A majority of workers would prefer to continue working from home for various reasons – mostly related to transport and work-life balance, but the quality of the coffee and the freedom from Phil from Accounts’ holiday anecdotes must count for something.
Nonetheless, as the world opens back up, more workers will be expected to commit to a hybrid working arrangement. Therefore, you may need to prepare yourself for sharing an office environment again – and for the inevitable frictions that may result.
Here, we’ll focus on passive aggression, a common behaviour easily managed if done correctly.
What Do We Mean by Passive-Aggressive Behaviour in the Office?
We’ve all met passive aggression before, whether receiving it or doling it out. A passive-aggressive act could be as simple as leaving a post-it note about a grievance instead of speaking to somebody directly, but it could also manifest as silent-treatment campaigns or hurtful language in work-related emails.
A study by roller banner specialist instantprint revealed that passive-aggressive communication was the second-most reviled trait in modern offices, with nearly 50% of women finding it the worst. Overall, almost 90% of marketing professionals see passive aggression as a symptom of a terrible company culture.
What to Look Out for in Passive-Aggressive Behaviour
Passive aggression in the office can be found most often, and at its most innocuous, in email chains. We’ve all received emails that start “as per my last email”, and we’ve all felt that pang of anxiety as we know exactly where this is going… but behaviour like this can get a lot more insidious in certain toxic environments.
Sometimes you might get purposely missed off important emails or memos regarding group projects, resulting in you seeming unprepared and unprofessional. Particularly egregious actors might ignore you completely in the office – or at the very least miss you off the tea run.
At its worst, passive aggression can not only affect your happiness but also your performance – hence, it is important to nip it in the bud.
How Do I Tackle Passive-Aggressive Behaviour?
As tempting as it might be, you must not respond to passive-aggressive behaviour in kind. Stooping to the level of your bully will not achieve anything and will only result in the proliferation of the behaviour and potentially somebody else getting hurt.
Instead, your first port of call should be direct, but polite, confrontation. Ask to speak to the aggressor in private, explain how you are feeling and ask why they are acting this way, and if they could see their way to stopping.
If this does not work, your next step should be contacting your Human Resources department. Be sure to collect any evidence of the passive-aggressive behaviour that you can and make sure to illustrate the effect it is having not only on your health but also your ability to work.