Passive Aggressive E-Mail at Work


Hilarious YouTube clip on passive aggressive e-mail exchanges between co-workers.  I use this in all of my Angry Smile workshops.  It’s funny because IT’S SO TRUE!

>What Not to Say At Work


>In many workplace settings, where adults spend the majority of their waking hours and corporate hierarchies inhibit the direct expression of feelings, a passive aggressive employee is able to sabotage everything from individual deadlines to organizational productivity.  It is critical for employers to be able to recognize passive aggressive behaviors in the workplace before these covertly hostile acts can create a negative impact on morale and decrease organizational productivity. 

Is there a sabatueur in your office?  Keeps your ears tuned for these common, telltale office phrases:

I’ll Get it to You Tomorrow

The passive aggressive employee often feels underappreciated and expresses his underlying anger through temporary compliance.  Though he verbally agrees to a task, he behaviorally delays its completion, by procrastinating, “forgetting” important deadlines, “misplacing” files, mis-using sick days, and arriving late.

No One Told Me

For the passive aggressive co-worker, it is more important to express his covert hostility than to maintain an appearance of professional competence.  He uses intentional inefficiency to complete work in a purposefully unacceptable way.  Look out for employees whose work is consistently at or below minimum standards, who insists “no one ever told me,” and who personalizes any confrontations from authority, playing up their role as victim.

You Weren’t Here, so I Just Asked Your Boss
Sabotage is the name of the game for the passive aggressive employee.  Beware of those who consistently engage in office gossip, incessantly complain about their boss, thwart workplace hierarchies, and withhold important information.

I Just Left a Message Because You Had Left for the Day
Direct, assertive communication is a skill that the passive aggressive employee has never mastered.  Sound the passive aggressive alarms whenever you notice an employee who goes to great lengths to avoid face-to-face confrontation, fails to respond to e-mails, leaves sticky notes on office doors just when they know a co-worker has stepped out, and returns phone calls only after the workday is over.

For more information on passive aggressive behavior in the workplace and how to effectively confront this destructive office dynamic, check out The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.

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