Passive-Aggressive – Tackle or run-away

29 March 2017
29 March 2017, Comments: 0


I was talking with some business owners recently about a passive-aggressive employee. While it is easiest to ignore the behavior, it takes a toll upon the organization. Here’s some of the advice I gave them:

What’s passive-aggressive behavior?

Employees could be passive-aggressive if they mask their anger or hostility by acting out in non-aggressive ways that are meant to sabotage or control others while taking the focus off themselves.

What do to with them?

  1. Be direct – Don’t let the behavior continue. Passive-aggressive behavior steals energy & resources, and wears on your staff. Allowing passive-aggressive behavior creates a negative culture, which is a downward spiral of employee absences and turnover.
  2. Work with that person – Talk with the person to find a solution that is best for everyone in the organization. If they deny there’s a problem, give them examples of how their behavior has cost the organization time & money – use facts. Be honest and compassionate. Focus on the future.
  3. Discuss consequences – Discuss the implications of their behavior not changing. Again, be clear on the possible next steps if they don’t change their behavior.
  4. Clarify expectations – Be clear on what is acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors at work. The more specific you are, the better off you will be in future discussions.
  5. Control your emotions – While you may be frustrated, remain calm and in control during all of your interactions.
  6. Monitor regularly – Set up regular check-in meetings to ensure the person is moving in the right direction. Recognize progress in the positive direction. Be consistent in how you react to and treat this person.
  7. Remember you can’t change others – Work with this person to get them to want to change. You can’t make anyone change.


Great leaders do not let passive-aggressive behaviors continue. They tackle the problem head on!

Do you have a passive-aggressive employee and need some coaching? Contact me:

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