Working with people every day that you might not necessarily get along with can be challenging. It can often prompt people to feel annoyed with one another and to want to say something to that person. 

Oftentimes when people do not agree with someone else about a project or with work, they might make a passive-aggressive comment. However, these comments hardly ever help you feel better and are often not productive when it comes to solving the problem or amending a relationship.

Making a passive-aggressive comment to an annoying coworker might be slightly satisfying in the moment, but it is hardly conducive to making you feel better overall. Knowing when someone is saying something passive-aggressive is the first step to helping you solve it. Here are the most common passive-aggressive comments that people make in the workplace. 

“As I mentioned before…”

Saying phrases such as “As I mentioned before,” or ‘per my previous email’ are passive-aggressive ways to say that the receiver missed something you said before. These phrases can make them feel dumb and can make it seem like you look down on whoever you are talking to. 

If you are tempted to write these phrases, think about why you are writing them. Consider that your previous statement or the previous email may not have been as clear to them as it was to you. It is easy for us to understand exactly what we mean when we read our own writing, but other people might not have the same thought process or understanding as you. 

Think about how some things might be confusing or how things might get lost in translation when you are about to write these phrases.

If someone does miss something that you had already said, the best thing to do is to approach them with understanding and respect and explain to them the information again. Try to avoid getting defensive and frustrated when you have to repeat yourself.

“I am CC’ing my boss…”

When you choose to send a copy of the letter to your boss when it is unnecessary, it implies that you do not trust the person you are speaking with. The recipient will most likely feel this sense of distrust from you which can harm your relationship with them. 

Oftentimes people will CC their boss because they either distrust the recipient or because they don’t think the recipient will prioritize the email otherwise. Both of these instances are a red flag to the receiver. Another way to handle this situation is to ask that your message is prioritized or request a timeline of when you can expect to hear back from them. If there is an issue with the recipient, you can speak to your boss about it on your own.

“A lot of us think that…”

When you write, “A lot of us think…” to management or a coworker, it can make the recipient feel ganged up on. It also suggests that you and other people have been talking behind their back. 

Another problem with this statement is that it does not identify who “us” includes and who it doesn’t include. Since you are not saying who thinks this way, the boss cannot approach these people to see why they feel this way and work to solve the issue. Some others who did not agree with your statement may be grouped into it and may get angry when they hear what you said. 

The best thing to do is to make the statement for yourself and not include others in it. It is best for each person to advocate for themselves so the recipient knows exactly who feels this way and how they can fix the problem.

“Obviously…”

Starting your sentence with “obviously…” or “clearly…” can come off as very hostile to the other person. It implies that they are dumb and don’t know something that is obvious or that they should already know.

A better way to phrase this is by saying something like, “I’m not sure if you knew this already or not…” and then telling them what you want to say. This can allow the other person to feel like it is okay to not know something and it shows that you do not look down on them for it.

“No offense…”

When you say “no offense” to someone and then say what you want to say, it shows that you know they might be offended, but you rather say it than not risk offending them. It is also condescending and shows a lack of respect toward the other person. 

Try to say, ‘I am worried this is offensive, but I wanted to know if it was okay if I gave you some feedback…” This shows that you don’t want to hurt their feelings and genuinely want to help them.

The best way to prevent passive-aggressive behavior among your workers is to build trust with them. Everyone should trust and respect one another in the workplace, even if they don’t necessarily like them. Another reason that people make these sorts of comments is that they often do not know what it is that they are really upset about. Helping them identify why they are feeling a certain way can help ease these feelings. 

Passive aggression can arise when a person does not feel comfortable with being honest with the other person, so creating a workplace that is safe and trustworthy is the best way to create open communication between workers.

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