How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

We all have to deal with difficult people from time to time, and this becomes more frequent in the workplace, where co-workers are just as important as your actual job role.

If you want to stay sane and still keep your job, there are ways you can deal with someone who shows passive aggressiveness toward you, whether they're your bad boss or just an employee at work who happens to annoy you.

Let's take a look at how to deal with passive-aggressive bosses.

Why Is Your Boss A Passive-Aggressive Person?

Your boss is passive-aggressive because they are unhappy with something in the company or the work you're doing. It's possible your manager feels threatened by your skills and abilities. So, the manager wants to stop you from taking their leadership position. It's up to you to figure out what makes your boss unhappy and try to change it if possible.

Some people find ways of changing their situation at their company, but others choose to leave. If not, you can try talking to them and giving them feedback on how things are going. If you don't have any luck, consider whether it's worth staying with this company.

Meditate on what will work best for you!

Signs That You Have A Passive Aggressive Boss And How To Deal With The Situation

Passive aggressive boss in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

Your boss is passive-aggressive if they make employees feel:

  • Exhaustion from high expectations
  • Depression from sarcastic comments
  • Fear of conflict that will result in your unemployment
  • Unappreciated for taking job responsibilities
  • Anxiety in communication
  • Negative emotions from blame

Maybe it's time to move on. The key to handling a passive-aggressive boss is understanding that they're not going to change. You'll need to create boundaries for yourself, so you don't fall into the traps of their games.

Below are four methods to deal with a passive-aggressive boss that might work for you:

1. Know What Your Boundaries Are

It sounds simple, but so many people go along with things in the workplace just because they feel bad saying "no" or because they're afraid of hurting someone's feelings.

2. Create An 'Elevator Speech

Create an elevator speech in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

A one-minute response sums up why you won't do something - in advance so that when you're faced with a tricky situation, you won't find yourself at a loss for words. Say things like, "I'm sorry, I'm unable to give this task my full attention right now, or it would be challenging for me to complete it within your deadline." Don't expect them to be happy about it but know that you've done what is best for your own needs and happiness.

3. Make Yourself Indispensable

No matter how much your leaders get under your skin, believe that nobody will be able to replace you, and you'll always have value there. Offer constructive criticism where appropriate (once per quarter) and focus on showing initiative rather than slacking off.

You may not always have direct eye contact, but in the end, he will appreciate your efforts and think twice before trying to get rid of you.

4. Don't Confront Them Directly

When confronting your passive-aggressive boss, try talking through email instead of meeting in person. By keeping the conversation written down, you'll avoid emotional outbursts, making things easier for both parties involved.

Avoid sarcasm at all costs. Ask questions rather than make statements or accusations as well. Start with "I" words and finish with questions like "What do you think?"

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What Are The 4 Examples Of Passive-Aggressive Behavior In The Workplace?

Aggressive behavior in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

Passive-aggressive behaviors occurring in the workplace can be challenging to detect and even harder to handle. Examples of passive-aggressive behavior are:

  • Refusing to make eye contact
  • Giving you the silent treatment
  • Sarcasm
  • Sulking, whining, or being overly sensitive.

It is important not to retaliate with similar behaviors, as this will worsen the situation. Instead, it's best to stay calm and let your boss know what they are doing that bothers you.

Your boss may not even realize they are passive-aggressive, so calmly explaining what is happening will help them understand their actions more clearly and learn how to handle situations better.

What Are Examples Of Passive-Aggressive Comments?

Passive aggression in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

Passive-aggressive comments are often disguised as compliments. For example, someone might say I like your hair when you wear it up, but it's meant to mean I'm not too fond of how you wear it. Another example is when someone says I'll have my secretary get back to you when they're refusing help from this person.

Passive-aggressive behavior can be frustrating because sometimes there's no resolution, and it can make the person feel powerless. We must recognize these behaviors and know how to handle them to maintain good mental health. One way of dealing with passive-aggressive behavior is by using assertiveness skills.

Assertiveness is about standing up for yourself and your beliefs while respecting others' rights. Assertive people do not blame others or use sarcasm when communicating their thoughts, feelings, or opinions. These people don't try to convince others through guilt or manipulation and don't need approval from others before taking action.

How Do You Respond To Passive-Aggressive Behavior At Work?

Responding to passive aggression in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

If you are in a position handling a passive-aggressive person, there are some things you can do to avoid frustrating interactions. For example, if your boss is being passive-aggressive and it is coming out in their behavior towards you, they might be trying to communicate that they're unhappy with something.

1. Responding to a Passive Aggressive Boss

It might be best to find another workplace if your boss is too aggressive and threatening. If you are dealing with a passive-aggressive boss, here are some ways to handle it:

  • Remain calm. Don't get drawn into an argument.
  • You should set limits for when it's appropriate for the boss to contact you. For instance, don't answer emails or texts outside work hours unless urgent.
  • Find allies at work who will back you up if the boss tries to bully you. If there's no one else, ensure that someone knows where you are so they can help protect you if needed.
  • Finally, look for other opportunities elsewhere in case this situation becomes untenable. You can also read our Ultihow blog How To Be A Better Boss.

2. Responding to a Passive Aggressive Coworker

Passive aggressive colleague in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

It would help if you kept going and didn't bother liking everyone. Your occupation in life has no place in changing your colleague's behavior. So, your colleague's behavior is not relevant to your career. Treating others with kindness and respect is best without becoming overly empathetic.

If you want to know how someone feels about you, be aware of the tone of their voice and body language when speaking with you. If a passive-aggressive coworker is angry when they talk with you, it can be helpful to show empathy because it might help them calm down.

3. Have a Big Heart Towards Passive Aggression

Passive aggression usually comes from anxiety. Often passive aggression occurs when someone faces traumatic issues since childhood, and many are unwilling participants.

While your tolerant aggressive boss is probably a complete jerk at present, he was perhaps once a scared child. Passive aggressive people tend to be lonely, anxious, and filled with doubt.

How Do You Respond To An Aggressive Boss?

Responding to an aggressive boss in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

The key is figuring out the underlying issue before approaching them about it, or you risk them becoming more aggressive or even withholding information from you. Try asking yourself questions like:

  • Why did my boss seem so uninterested in this project?
  • What are they trying to tell me?

Then approach your boss when you have an idea. Be sure to choose your words wisely, but don't back down!

How Do I Deal With An Undermining Boss?

A difficult boss in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

An undermining boss can be tricky to handle. There are times when you need to stand up for yourself, but there are also times when you'll want to take the high road. It would be best if you didn't let an undermining boss get in the way of your work or make you feel bad.

Here are six tips on how to relate to an undermining boss:

1. Speak Up

Speak up if they're making fun of you or challenging your opinion or expertise. If your boss is not stopping after you speak up and it's getting worse, this should be dealt with through HR or another management team member. It can be frustrating, but things like this must be handled professionally to avoid unnecessary conflict.

2. Learn about Your Entire Organization Role

Be proactive about understanding what the expectations are for your position. Ask them questions about their vision for the role and have them walk you through their goals and deadlines. Understanding what you're working towards will help keep tensions low because it'll reduce disagreements over how best to accomplish those goals.

3. Take Notes In Meetings

Take notes in meetings in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

Keep detailed notes during meetings so that there's a written record of what has been discussed, agreed upon, and delegated by the boss or other leaders at the conference (this will prevent misunderstandings).

4. Show Transparency

Be transparent about what you're doing by updating them regularly on your progress - even if it means being blunt about mistakes made along the way (this will help ensure open lines of communication).

5. Decline Troublesome Responsibility

Be assertive but kind when rejecting requests from them. Say something like I'd love to do that, but I won't be able to finish my responsibilities. In cases where the proposal would require additional training or outside resources which aren't available, respectfully explain why without being confrontational.

6. Ask Other Leaders For Help

When dealing with a passive-aggressive boss, it might be wise to enlist the help of other leaders within the organization who know more than you about what exactly needs to happen. You can find more valuable information in 10 Brilliant Tips for Dealing With a Difficult Boss.

How Do You Deal With A Sneaky Boss?

Dealing with a sneaky boss in a post about How To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss?

Here are ten ways to handle a sneaky boss:

  1. Keep your cool; it's difficult to be aggressive when you're passive.
  2. Do not let passive-aggressive people know that their comments are under your skin.
  3. Understand what is happening in their thoughts by interpreting what they say and reading between the lines.
  4. Don't take anything personally. It might just be that your passive-aggressive boss feels insecure or threatened at work and doesn't know how to resolve it more constructively than being passive-aggressive toward you.
  5. Remember that your passive-aggressive boss is human too. Sometimes they might have had a bad day before coming into work, or maybe they've been feeling down lately, and taking out their frustrations on you doesn't make them feel any better about themselves either!
  6. If it gets too much and you need some space, politely tell them that you will get back to them later (or tomorrow) because you need some time to cool off.
  7. Use this time wisely and look for other employment if the company environment is unsuitable.
  8. Make sure to maintain professionalism and use these techniques as best as possible so that the office gossipers aren't allowed to live up to their negative reputation.
  9. It can be hard at times but try not to compare yourself to other people around you who seem to have it together because everyone has good and bad days - life isn't fair like that!
  10. You can consider finding a mentor within the company to avoid falling victim to the power struggles that could arise from working closely with someone who refuses to communicate openly with you.

How To Handle Passive Aggressive People In General?

Since passive-aggressive people can come in all shapes and sizes, it's essential to know how to handle them. One should keep a cool head, give the other person their personal space, and refrain from playing their games. Here are some more strategies:

  1. Don't accuse the person of being passive-aggressive or confrontational.
  2. Don't try to win every argument with this personality type because they will eventually outsmart you and prove you wrong.
  3. When managing an issue likely to cause conflict with a passive-aggressive individual, it is best not to discuss it when either one of you is stressed or angry, as this will only make things worse!
  4. If someone displays passive-aggressive behaviors, don't tell them how they need to change themselves or show emotion for others' sake (unless there is real danger). Please don't get into power struggles with these individuals because they enjoy nothing more than winning!

Final Thoughts

Passive-aggressive behavior can be challenging, especially when you don't know what is happening. Your first step should always be to talk to the passive aggressor, but if that doesn't work, then it's time to make some tough decisions. In many cases, your only option may be to quit your organization and find a new one where there are better people skills in the workplace.

In other instances, if you're just not getting along with your passive-aggressive boss or co-workers, it may not be worth leaving because the company is excellent in other areas. In this case, think about speaking up more at meetings and giving constructive feedback to your new boss about how he could improve his communication skills.


How should I talk to my passive-aggressive boss?

When talking to your passive aggressive leader, be straight and honest, but kind and gentle.


Why Is Your Boss A Passive Aggressive Person?

Medical News Today: 7 Examples Of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Signs That You Have A Passive Aggressive Boss And How To Deal With The Situation

Business Insider: 11 signs your boss is passive aggressive

Forbes: How To Handle A Passive-Aggressive Supervisor

Know What Your Boundaries Are

MindTools: Managing Your Emotions at Work

Create An 'Elevator Speech

Hubspot: How to Communicate Effectively at Work With Your Boss

What Are The 4 Examples Of Passive-Aggressive Behavior In The Workplace?

Verywell Mind: What Is Passive-Aggressive Behavior

What Are Examples Of Passive-Aggressive Comments?

Medical News Today:  7 Examples Of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

How Do You Respond To Passive-Aggressive Behavior At Work?

Havard Business Review: How To Deal with a Passive Aggressive Colleague

Responding to a Passive Aggressive Boss

HBR: How to Deal with a Passive-Aggressive Boss

Responding to a Passive Aggressive Coworker

HBR: How To Deal with a Passive Aggressive Colleague

Have a Big Heart Towards Passive Aggression

HealthPrep: Conditions And Causes Linked To Passive-Aggressive Behavior

How Do You Respond To An Aggressive Boss?

Workology: How to Handle Your Abusive or Aggressive Boss

How Do You Deal With A Sneaky Boss?

Chron: How To Handle A Boss On A Power Strip

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