How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker – 12 Smart Ways

Written By Aleena

It seems that no matter what you do, the coworker standing in your cube can’t work with you. Here’s how to handle a passive-aggressive coworker?

There are many styles of communication that vary from person to person. Most people will communicate their feelings with another.

However, some are passive-aggressive and choose to hold their emotions back.

How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker – 12 Smart Ways

A passive-aggressive coworker is challenging to handle. They will never confront you with what is bothering them.

Instead, they’ll speak behind your back or make snide remarks to other employees about you.It’s hard not to take offense at these types of remarks.

Instead of confronting them, try 15 ways to handle a passive-aggressive coworker:

1. Communicate With Them:

Start meeting with your coworker to discuss what is making them angry. Make sure to come prepared with a list of questions about their concerns.

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Communication is the best way to go to a resolution with your coworker. Tell them that you want to work in peace and would like them to stop their negative remarks.

Moreover, ask them what you can do to make things better. Communicate often with your coworker to ensure that you can work in peace.

2. How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker – Avoid Gossip:

Nothing is worse than having two coworkers pitting against one another. Gossip is talking wrong about each other behind their backs.

If you feel that your passive-aggressive coworker is saying negative things about you, confront them. Ask them what they were talking about.

Sit down and explain how gossip can ruin reputations at work and work friendships. You might be surprised if they were talking about you.

More often than not, those types of employees do not engage in such behavior, which might be an outside influence.

3. Don’t Curse:

Many people struggle with keeping their voices calm when faced with such a coworker.

If your coworker continues to make snide remarks, keep your cool and walk away. Don’t curse them out because it will only make things worse for you in the long run.

Cursing is a bad habit and it can ruin your image. Your coworkers might not respect you or treat you good when you curse a lot.

4. How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker – Ask To Be Moved:

If all else fails, ask to be moved into another department. If that’s not possible, ask them to move their cube away from yours.

Sometimes a change of scenery can do people good. It can allow them time to calm down before their subsequent encounter with such a coworker.

Remember, patience is a virtue. Trying too hard to convince a passive-aggressive person won’t work either way. They’ll never be happy with you no matter what.

5. Be Grateful:

If your coworker is still not working with you, walk away from your frustration on a positive note. Instead of complaining, be grateful that they’re not as bad as the situation could be.


Focus on what matters most to you. You might realize that there are plenty of other people who we’ll treat you with respect and kindness too!

You’ll forget about your difficult coworker and move on to more productive things. Don’t let one person control how happy you are at work.

6. How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker – Contact HR:

If all else fails, contact your company’s HR department. Although they’ll never make things perfect, they can guide you.

They can share tips on how to handle a passive-aggressive coworker in the future.HR can protect you and your coworker from further issues as well.

Do not hold to what’s bothering you. It can lead to significant health problems such as stress. Stress is never good for your body, and it will only build up over time.

Once the company looks into the issue, they’ll handle the situation professionally. They will ensure everyone walks away without any hard feelings towards each other.

7. Don’t Walk Away Angry:

If you feel frustrated with a passive-aggressive person, walk away. Please don’t say something that they could hold against you later on down the road.

Remember how you will determine how things turn out. Thus take deep breaths if necessary before responding.

Know that nothing productive will come out of an angered reaction anyway.

8. How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker – Nice To Your Coworker:

You may find yourself talking about your passive-aggressive coworker behind their back. However, remember not to say anything wrong about them in front of them.

They might mistake your kindness for something else. Hence they can lash out at you. Always keep the conversation professional no matter how much you dislike someone.

Remember, if there is a way to resolve the issue with your coworker, then do it. Otherwise, it will come back to haunt you later on.

A bad reputation equals terrible business. It means even if it’s difficult for now, staying calm and professional will benefit you in the long run.

9. Stay Away:

If none of these options work, it is time to move on. When your coworker continues to lash out and cause problems, stay away from them as much as possible.


Choose not to engage in conversation unless necessary. Walking away still keeps things professional.

Thus there’s no reason for anyone to get upset with each other. If you think staying away from someone will worsen things, think again.

If you refuse to engage with someone angry, they won’t be able to make things worse than they already are.

10. How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker – Keep An Eye Out:

It may become difficult. Try not to keep an eye out for mistakes on your part, so you don’t get caught up in their pettiness.

Just knowing how you would feel if you had to deal with passive-aggressive people should make it easier for you to walk away.

Please don’t feel the need to feed into their bad behavior. By keeping an eye out for your own mistakes, you’ll be able to move on to bigger and better things, such as work itself.

It may not seem easy at first. However, staying away from a passive-aggressive coworker is usually the best option. It is because they will never change.

11. Be A Model:

Try your best not to criticize your coworker. Stay positive while doing your best work, even though it might be challenging at times.

If you’re a model of doing things, then they’ll follow suit and change their negative ways. If not, chances are they’ll get fired anyway.

It is what they deserve if they continue to act this way towards others around them.

12. How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker – Keep Things Professional:

If you dislike someone or want them gone from the company, keep things professional. Do so when interacting with them, so you know where you stand.


It’s never a good idea to lower yourself to their level no matter how much they may try to provoke you.

Stay professional, as your reactions will determine your relationship with them.

12 Interpersonal Skills Necessary To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker

Passive-aggressive behavior is a communication style that indirectly expresses negative feelings. It may seem more polite than being openly hostile.

But this communication style is damaging to working relationships and professional success.

Here are 10 interpersonal skills necessary if you want to handle such coworkers:

1. Empathy:

It may not be easy to have empathy for a passive-aggressive coworker. Try your best to understand where they are coming from.

Someone passive-aggressive does want to resolve conflict with others. He is afraid of being open about it, so their feelings come out indirectly.

The longer you hold competition inside, the greater its power over you becomes. Take the first step towards resolving any differences between you and your coworkers.

2. Mindfulness – To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker

Take time each day to reflect on how you responded to situations. Being mindful recognizes any adverse reactions affecting work relationships.

It will allow you to make adjustments as necessary to be a better coworker. Mindfulness helps you become more aware of your adverse reactions.

It also allows you to shift focus from damaged work relationships. Instead, focus on how to improve going forward.

3. Self-discipline:

Passive-aggressive people have an easier time expressing their feelings by being indirect. It takes a great deal of self-discipline to not give in to their anger.

If they do, it can turn into outright hostility if left unchecked. If you feel yourself becoming angry with someone, shift away.

How To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker

Take some quiet time away from them. This way, you can respond without coming across as hostile or judgmental.

4. Focus – To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker:

While it may be easier for such coworkers to drag you into their dramas, you mustn’t let them.
Resist the urge to become defensive:

– If they try to confide in you about how difficult things are at work

– What a struggle dealing with certain people can be

Direct the conversation back towards positive solutions and ways forward, not backward.

Passive-aggressive people will do their best to drag you down with them. Avoid this unproductive type of interaction as much as possible.

5. Self-care:

If you want to handle such a coworker, you’ll need plenty of energy reserves to sustain yourself. Avoid burnout or becoming angry being around this person too often.

It would help if you took time for yourself. Engage in self-care activities such as exercise and spending quiet time alone.

With a better outlook on life, you’ll be better able to manage this coworker.

6. Delegation – To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker:

If you happen to supervise such a coworker, you may tend to do everything yourself. It will be because of how difficult they can work with but resist this temptation.

Passive-aggressive people will only drag you down if they have too much work. Instead of taking on all their extra work, delegate some of it back to them where appropriate.

They may complain about having more jobs added to them. Most passive-aggressive people prefer tasks to feel useless and unappreciated.

7. Patience:

Asking such people to communicate their feelings is like asking them to reveal a secret. Don’t worry when they avoid doing this at all costs.

If you feel impatient with this type of coworker, take some time off. Try self-reflection to determine if you can justify your adverse reaction.

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It would help if you remained patient. It will often take several requests before they finally begin communicating with you.

8. Humor – To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker:

The sense of humor of a passive-aggressive person can be challenging to understand. It can be even more challenging for you to respond to.

The effort will be well worth it. Passive-aggressive people have a dark sense of humor. If you find something funny in their comments or behavior, they will be more open to your influence.

9. Acceptance:

You won’t always change how passive-aggressive people behave and what they say. Instead of focusing on this, focus on accepting them for who they are.

Do so without judgment or resentment building up inside you. You may never understand why they behave the way that they do.

Being understanding increases the chances that they will reciprocate with acceptance.

10. Affection – To Handle A Passive Aggressive Coworker:

Some passive-aggressive people may have trouble expressing themselves. They can’t help but be negative in doing so.

They will still appreciate your support and affection indirectly. Showing this type of person that you care about them will improve their behavior towards you.

No matter if it’s at a snail’s pace compared to someone who is not passive-aggressive.

11. Communication:

Let passive-aggressive people know when their behavior isn’t working. Please keep it simple. State the exact problem you are facing how it affects your work.

them what they can do to resolve this issue for future reference. You may not come across in a helpful or less judgmental way than expected.

Remember that these types of people aren’t comfortable with conflict in any form. Be patient in regards to the response. Repeating yourself is often necessary with them.

12. Letting go:

Let go of trying to change passive-aggressive people constantly. Instead, let go of them if they are dragging you down.

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It will be challenging, but it’s for the best. It might happen after attempts to improve their behavior have failed over time.

Figure out what your life is beyond this coworker or employee. You don’t have to sever ties entirely but try doing so gradually instead of all at once.


There are different styles of communication that people use to convey their feelings. A passive-aggressive coworker is another one of these styles.

Talk with them about your concerns. Try to come up with a resolution so that all parties can work in peace together. If nothing else, ask for a change of scenery.

The worst-case scenario is to have your boss move them closer so that you can watch their behavior better.

Last Updated on 2 years by Shahzaib Arshad


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