This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada, which closed in 2021.

Passive-Aggressive Behaviour Damages Your Relationships Long Term

"Embrace a willingness to deal with important things head on and with compassion — don't be sneaky."

Do you recognize when you are being passive aggressive? Do you realize the impact it may have on your reputation? Beware. Thankfully, recognizing your passive-aggressive behaviour is the first step to recovery.

Passive-aggressive actions are often meant to get others to do something... or to stop doing something. It's a form of subtle and covert manipulation. And, the actions of passive-aggressive people are almost always rooted in negativity. As we will see in examples below, passive-aggressive behaviour takes many forms, however the unique attribute is that passive-aggressive behavior doesn't influence directly... it tries to influence indirectly (passively).

Most self-aware passive-aggressive people believe this approach is less confrontational. Unfortunately, the offender likely doesn't realize the long-term negative impact they are having on their personal and professional brand.

Brand Impact Of Passive-Aggressive Behaviour

Passive-aggressive behaviour doesn't build trust and respect the way that direct, empathetic communication does. Most people who experience passive-aggressive people feel manipulated and resentful.

People feel loyalty and trust towards others who are inspiring, trustworthy, straight talkers with a clear vision. So, make it your ambition to be known for your integrity and your ability to share different opinions in an open and respectful way. Embrace a willingness to deal with important things head on and with compassion — don't be sneaky.

Examples Of Passive-Aggressive Behaviour

Passive-aggressive behaviour takes many forms and one of the most common is the passive-aggressive joke. For example, imagine Billy routinely arrives at the office at 9:15 a.m. Billy's passive-aggressive coworker might say:

  • "Oh look, Billy is in. It must be time for my mid-morning coffee break." Or....
  • "Good afternoon Billy."

If Billy does get offended and calls the joke offender out, the offender can say "Rude, who me? I was only joking." This puts the blame back on Billy, doubling the coworker's negative impact on him.

Here are 10 more examples.

  1. Imagine you have a coworker that loses track of time. As you walk by their desk on your way to a group meeting, you choose to not remind them of the meeting. As a passive-aggressive person, you let them be late.
  2. The team you belong to has agreed to work towards preferred path A. You believe it is inevitable the project will take path C. In response, you only half-heartedly (passively), try to meet obligations for path A, thereby assuring path C will happen. In this example, there is a clear disconnect between what you agree to do and your actions.

  • Similar to the example above, have you ever met someone who will not do something just because someone else says they should? I have a very good friend who is like this. When driving with him, if you suggest he take the next right, he is likely to take the next right... two more streets away. The funny thing is that he is the first person to start giving driving directions to others.
  • Instead of a direct conversation, you talk to everyone else. "Did you know..." is how the passive-aggressive person might start far too many sentences. The hope is that eventually their comment will get to the culprit and they will change behaviour.
  • Similar to above, instead of stating their preference, the passive-aggressive person openly blames a change request on someone else. For example, "We shouldn't go apple picking (they don't want to), because little Andrew is allergic to bees (even though the flowering season has passed and Andrew carries an epi-pen)."
  • Embrace a willingness to deal with important things head on and with compassion — don't be sneaky.

  • Staying silent and ignoring a problem is about as passive as you can get. Note: this may cause frustration until something really big happens and you, or the problem, explode.
  • Rather than say no, which may lead to an uncomfortable conversation, passive-aggressive people may avoid responsibility by intentionally performing poorly. Their hope is that they will not be asked again due to the substandard effort. While this is less common at work, many family members are very good at this when it comes to doing the dishes.
  • Your vacation partner says, "It will be great to spend the week with you but I'm sure you will be happy when you can be on your own again." It's especially passive aggressive if they are looking for you to reply with something like... "No way, you are the best travel companion."
  • When someone says "I don't like XYZ", and you say, "OH! That's how I do it... You mustn't like how I do things."
  • A very popular passive-aggressive action is the one-word answer. An example is when someone asks you "What's wrong?" and you curtly say "nothing"when it is obvious there is something wrong. This often puts the other person at a disadvantage, which increases the likelihood your objectives will be met at their expense.
  • There are many other ways passive-aggressive behaviour takes form. You simply have to watch for it in others... and yourself.

    We will all be passive aggressive from time to time. Passive-aggressive behaviour is a real problem when it becomes the default way a person communicates.

    Not every conversation can lead to 100 per cent agreement or satisfaction. But that is no reason for passive-aggressive behaviour. Instead, focus on building a trusting community in which we all have a safe and trusting opportunity to share our opinions, what each of us know, common goals and our feeling.

    Also on HuffPost:

    Suggest a correction
    This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact