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How do you deal with passive aggression?

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Question: "My boss is generally nice but makes a lot of passive-aggressive comments when things don't go just right. For example, if a mistake is made, he'll say something like, 'Well, I guess I just have to learn not to be surprised when people screw up' or 'I try to look for the best in people, but oh well, I suppose I'll always be naive that way...' He has that way of criticizing where he makes it seem like he's just hurt that he has to suffer so much. How does someone respond to that kind of passive-aggression when I can't even say his comments are directed at any one person?" - Bea, Property Management Assistant

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

KS March 28, 2019 at 11:53 am

I would respond with comments like “maybe it’s the process and not the person; what we can do in the future to prevent this from happening again?” It would be even better if you came up with a solution and suggested it. It’s worth a shot anyway. Otherwise, I guess it’s status quo.

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DJB March 25, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Put him in his place, gently. Point out that maybe the mistakes are made because he is not clear about what his expectations are from his employees. He needs a lesson in communication and patience. If he were to say these things to his employees or they were to hear him, he would lose valuable, capable people.

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Leigh March 22, 2019 at 11:12 am

I agree with Thea. I worked for an individual for 15 years who has narcissistic personality disorder and very little came out of his mouth that wasn’t passive aggressive. He had to pay his employees extremely well to put up with his behavior. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to change or affect that behavior. You can either learn to let it go or move on. My situation got so bad I had no choice but to leave.

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Thea March 21, 2019 at 5:40 pm

To me, this sounds like a situation that calls for restraint. You’ve recognized your boss’s personality type and know what to expect now, and since it’s extremely difficult to change someone’s patterns, it might be best to just brace yourself in the future and take confidence in knowing that you’re a little more mature. You could create a real conflict if you make a confrontation and he reacts poorly. It’s one thing to “get into it” with someone, another thing to “get into it” with a supervisor who you have to deal with every day to keep your paychecks coming. I say it’s okay to warn others about his personality and just accept that it’s one small part of who he is.

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DH March 21, 2019 at 4:13 pm

I would let it go maybe a few times, but if it continues, and you say it has, I would confront him. Ask him in the most pleasant and concerned way possible to tell you what the mistake/problem is and explain that you want to try to prevent future mistakes by learning from his feedback.

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