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Passive-Aggressive Example
Co-Worker's "Joking" Criticism

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The following is an example from website readers of passive-aggressive encounters they have experienced. The suggested responses are not personal advice as a full evaluation of the situation is not available. Also, the suggestions may not work in every situation but are to give you an idea of possible ways to respond. For more, read: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People and 7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Question: My coworker has on five occasions commented on me never being at the office. I work at home one or two days a week as do others. However, he seems to want to point out that I'm never at the office. It always seems to be a joke. For example: I would compliment him on his attire and he would say "I always dress like this. You would know if you were here." Not sure what to say back to him....help?!!

Response: This is a good example of a passive-aggressive way of making an indirect criticism and causing defensiveness in the other person. However, as indicated in the article "Crazy-Makers", the purpose of passive-aggressive behavior is to create a reaction without having to be responsible. So, in this instance, if the woman would respond defensively, "I have permission to work from home" he would know he had achieved his goal of creating a reaction but would deny responsibility by stating something like "I was just teasing you." If she were to be more direct and say "Stop hassling me about working from home" he would somehow place the blame on her "Wow! Aren't you sensitive? I didn't mean anything by it."

The best response to this situation is for her to be non-defensive as if she didn't even hear the underlying criticism. For example, she could respond with a laugh, "Yes, isn't it great that I don't have to be here everyday?!" In this way, his attempt to irritate and create a reaction is undercut. As a result, he doesn't achieve his goal and he is less likely to continue especially if she continues to respond in the same way to his passive-aggressive comments.

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