Dealing with Passive-Aggressive Colleagues

The most effective approach in dealing with a passive-aggressive colleague is to ignore the behavior and pretend you don't notice it. Telling your colleague does not work well.

Here are some other tips:

  • Create a safe environment. If you need to confront passive-aggressive behavior, let the person know it’s alright to say what’s really on their mind.
  • Use empathy. Acknowledging the passive-aggressive individual’s concerns, however trivial, can help break down barriers that person may have put up.
  • Don’t cave in. Passive-aggressive people may use these tactics because they increase feelings of security, stability, power, and control over a situation. If these tactics stop producing the intended result, it could help that individual realize they should adjust their approach.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Expressing appreciation when someone with passive-aggressive habits makes an effort to be direct can encourage them to continue the good behavior.


Jocelyn Herrett, DSW, RSW

Senior Mental Health Clinician

Walmsley, EFAP