How to Deal With Passive Aggressiveness in Corporate America

Before we start, let’s clarify what passive aggressiveness means. It’s an indirect form of hostility and pettiness. As a Black woman who has had a few experiences in corporate America, I’ve experienced this from both Black and White colleagues/bosses. My first experience was at my very first internship where my supervisor would withhold information, would make subtle insults and ask intrusive questions in a public setting. Here are 3 Ways to Deal with Passive Aggressiveness:

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  1. Take Notes. At first, you might be trying to convince yourself that you’re overthinking or that nothing is wrong. If you ever feel uncomfortable or feel offended after a unprofessional comment or tone of voice- acknowledge it. People who are passive aggressive are good are making the biggest offenses in the most petty ways that can’t be traced by HR. Every time a comment is made or a situation takes place- write in down in a safe location with the date and time. Keep a record of all the incidences just in case you need to report it to HR.

  2. Remain calm and kill the ignorance with kindness. By all means possible, keep your cool. Passive aggressors are pros at getting under someone’s skin with the smallest tactics like questioning your competence, making it seem like what your saying is deviant or not sharing information with you to make you look unorganized in your next team meeting. Keep your cool, be respectful and say the right thing at the right time.

  3. Observe. If you notice that the passive aggressor is acting the same way to other’s around you be observant of that. I noticed that my boss at my internship was passive aggressive to most of the female interns (in which we allowed ourselves to not believe until HR got involved because we all underestimated our judgment.)

  4. Take action. Most people are afraid to address these situations in fear of loosing their job or being blacklisted but if it gets to a point where you dread going to work, something has to be done. Read the Workplace Intimidation & Discrimination statement in your hire packet, look up the incident report hotline and have your records ready to show proof. When I spoke to HR in my incident, I had emails, text messages, and dates of when incidents occurred which validated with the HR investigation.

  5. Speak up. When the passive aggressor says something in a negative tone or says’s “oh I totally forgot to send you the email to come in early for the team today” Respectfully say how you feel and send an email addressing the situation so there can be a record of what happened.

    In conclusion, remind yourself that you’re not crazy. Dealing with passive aggressiveness is a common issue that most people in corporate America have deal with. However, there’s a thin line that crosses over into harassment, workplace intimidation and discrimination all which are illegal in the workplace. After someone told me I should speak up at my internship, I did and after HR investigated I found out that I wasn’t crazy or overthinking. I was dealing with a case of discrimination against my ethnicity and gender which shed light on a number of other issues that the passive aggressor was getting away with. So speak up, be bold, take a record and gladly keep your job. No one, I mean NO ONE should get in the way of your paycheck or hard-earned career. *drops mic*

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