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!

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Signs that you have a passive-aggressive boss and how to deal with the situation

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 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:

 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.

Create an 'elevator speech

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.

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?"

You can find the best books on communication in the Ulti Best Products Category The Top Communication Books.

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

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?

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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, making 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?

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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.

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.

Responding to a passive-aggressive coworker

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

Have a big heart toward 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?

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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?

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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:

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.

Learn about your entire organization's 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.

Take notes in meetings

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).

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).

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.

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.

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How Do You Deal With A Sneaky Boss?

Here are ten ways to handle a sneaky boss:

Keep your cool

Dealing with a passive-aggressive boss can be one of the most stressful challenges to face in life. Even if we're at our best, keeping our cool and remaining level-headed can be challenging when faced with criticism or manipulation. The best way to keep your cool is by focusing on how you react instead of what they say. Strive to remain calm and respectful while standing firm in your convictions.

It might not always be easy but when dealing with someone who refuses to take accountability, keeping a cool head is essential to maintain professional boundaries and not allow yourself to become drawn into negativity.

Ignore their comments

If you find yourself dealing with a passive-aggressive boss, it is essential to recognize their comments for what they are - a way to demean or belittle them and then ignore them. Responding in any way will give them confirmation that their behavior is having an effect and can lead to further passive-aggressive actions. Instead, it is best to practice understanding and compassion for why the behavior might exist but ultimately ignore them to maintain focus on your own goals and priorities.

Understand their perspective

Dealing with a passive aggressive boss is often an incredibly difficult task, no matter your experience level in the workplace. The best way to handle these types of situations is to take a step back and try to understand where they're coming from. In any given situation, bosses are dealing with higher-ups and pressure themselves, so it's important to remember that the context of their behaviors matters.

Communicate openly and assertively

Assertive communication is beneficial for dealing with a passive-aggressive boss since it expresses opinions without condemning or attacking the other person. It’s important to use active listening when dealing with a passive-aggressive boss, as this helps build mutual understanding and trust. Beyond just talking, demonstrating respect and assertiveness by keeping calm can prevent getting caught up in a power struggle.

Set boundaries

It's important to set boundaries and ensure that you are being treated with the same respect that you show others. Make sure that your limits and expectations are communicated clearly, but in a diplomatic way so as not to drive away the boss further.

Document everything

Every interaction with a passive aggressive boss has the potential for larger conflicts and complicate dealing with them in the future. It is thus important to document everything. Record conversations, save emails, and note promises made by your manager.

While dealing with a passive aggressive boss can be emotionally draining, keeping an accurate record of interactions will help you stay organized and understand their behavior better.

If it's too much, come back to them later

Dealing with a passive aggressive boss can be incredibly uncomfortable and stressful, especially if you're dealing with their outbursts and veiled insults daily. If it's getting to be too much, remember that you can step away.

Politely tell them that you will get back to them later (or tomorrow) because you need some time to cool off.

Seek help from HR

If dealing with a passive aggressive boss is getting to be too much, it might be beneficial to seek help from HR. Bringing the issue up with HR offers you an objective opinion and a third-party lens. They can advise you on how best to move forward and potential solutions for dealing with the behavior.

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:

Don't accuse

It's important to remember that it can be easy to feel accused and wrongly targeted. Don't let these feelings boil over, leading you to lash out and accuse your boss. Instead, take a breath and refocus on the task at hand.

Don't try to win

At times it feels like the only way to deal is to fight fire with fire and try to win every battle. However, that will only make matters worse in the long run and create an even more toxic work environment. A better approach is to focus on keeping the peace and understanding that any kind of confrontation will only lead to a stalemate or a defeat.

Stay calm when talking

When dealing with a passive-aggressive boss, it is important to remember that it's highly unlikely for you to find a resolution when either of you are feeling angry or overwhelmed. Therefore, rather than trying to discuss the issue immediately, it is best to waiting until both of you are calmer and in a more composed state of mind. Being mindful of the situation can help reduce any chances of further conflict and preserve the relationship in the long run.

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 with 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 a passive-aggressive boss, it is important to be direct, clear, and assertive in your communication. Use "I" statements to express your feelings and concerns, and avoid being confrontational or aggressive. Be specific about the behavior that you find problematic, and provide examples to support your point.


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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