Does Passive Aggressive behaviour really help?

Passive aggressive behaviour is essentially thinly veiled hostility, or snark. It’s not uncommon in the workplace for people to demonstrate some passive aggressive behaviours. I’m not proud to admit it, but I can be a bit passive aggressive at times.

One example from many years ago was I was temping for a company and the manager I was working for had been especially mean and dismissive of me because I was a ‘lowly administrator’. She give me a stack of letters and envelopes and told me to stuff them. While I was stuffing the envelopes I noticed several quite bad mistakes in the letter. Had she been a nicer human being I would have pointed the errors out, but I didn’t and she ended up getting called into HR for sending out these terrible letters. At the time it felt like something of a small victory for me, but in the grand scheme of things it was just a bit petty.

I have also been at the receiving end of passive aggression, the neighbour who was throwing a big party and left a note on the car asking us not to park outside her house so her party guests could park there (we didn’t have a drive). The snarky notes left on the fridge in shared kitchens at uni, or notes about milk use and fish storage in communal work kitchens. These days Twitter is a hotbed of passive aggression. Ever seen a subtweet and wondered who they were being snarky about? It’s all good clean passive aggressive fun! Honest.

Data Label have produced this tongue in cheek Infographic all about the art of leaving passive aggressive notes which I find quite funny

passive aggressive

Despite the fact that passive aggressive behaviour can be quite amusing, it’s probably not especially helpful. If you are tempted to be a bit passive aggressive at work, then maybe that’s not the thing which makes you promotion material. It’s so easy not to suffer fools gladly and to throw a bit of snark their way, but maybe going the extra mile to be actively helpful might win you more friends in the long run. Psychology Today have some helpful tips on dealing with passive aggressive people which might be quite useful if you’re on the wrong side of some snark.

Have you ever done anything passive aggressive? I’d love to hear your stories!

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