There is a cause for concern when a colleague acts aggressively towards another. It is even more critical if such aggression is coming from a boss.

Sometimes, it is obvious a person is aggressive, and they come out straight firing some shots. On other occasions, detecting aggressiveness becomes not so straightforward. They may go unnoticed but still possess the potential to cause harm. So, imagine having a boss who is passively aggressive. That is quite a lot to deal with.

This is not a situation we wish for but unfortunately, it happens. We have put together tips to help you handle your boss if you notice subtle aggressive displays.

To be able to handle a passively aggressive boss, you need to first be able to identify the behaviours that preside the aggression. Here are some of them.

Sarcasm – Expressing thoughts through sarcastic comments with the aim to denigrate

Withdrawal – Refusing to engage or deliberately avoiding someone as a means to communicate displeasure.

Backend compliments – Comments that are sent as compliments but can be insulting.

Casual resistance – Stylising refusing to approve or give support to requests or demands by being uninterested or by showing no enthusiasm.

Read our article on Signs You May be Aggressive at Work to explore more signs of passive-aggression

Dealing with a passive-aggressive boss can be challenging, but there are some steps you can take to improve the situation.

Take note of the behaviour(s)

This is a very important first step. Now that you can identify the behaviours associated with passive-aggressiveness, you would need to note any incidents where your boss exhibits them. This can serve as a reference during a resolution or help you escalate to the appropriate authority if things get out of hand.

Do not personalise it

Do not see the situation as your boss against you, rather, see it as a case of your boss having some issues s/he needs to deal with. We admit that it is not impossible to have a situation where your boss is actually out for you, but granting the benefit of the doubt would provide the avenue to handle the situation like any other office challenge rather than a beef.

Stay calm and professional

Your boss may get on your nerves. Some of the experiences may push you. Regardless, we encourage you to remain calm and professional when dealing with your boss, even when they are being passive-aggressive. Do not try to make a point by reciprocating the treatment you are getting from your boss. This will only escalate the situation.

Attempt to resolve it

You can try talking to your boss about what you have noticed, but make sure to pick the right moment to do so and avoid being confrontational or disrespectful. Rather than point a finger of accusation, explain what you have noticed then ask if you could have a discussion to resolve it.

Escalate or get support

There are times all efforts fail. If things persist and are now affecting your mental health or job performance, you can either escalate to a more senior colleague or share with a mentor for advice. Your mentor can provide guidance and help you develop coping strategies while a senior colleague can intervene as a mediator.

In conclusion, dealing with a passive-aggressive boss can be challenging, but it’s important to note the events, stay calm while exploring ways to resolve it and if it lingers, get help.

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