Brit workers deal with passive aggressive colleagues up to four times a WEEK… and bad bosses are to blame, study finds | The Sun

WORKERS encounter passive-aggressive behaviour – such as sarcasm, 'friendly reminders' and backhanded compliments from colleagues – up to four times a week.

A poll of 2,000 employees revealed 44 per cent feel the problem is worse now than ever before.

Four in 10 (38 per cent) think these behaviours are caused by poor communication skills while 25 per cent blame it on bad problem-solving skills.

Although 36 per cent put passive aggressive behaviours down to a lack of leadership in the workplace.

The research, commissioned by e-learning solution Go1 found 35 per cent believe these actions suggests that person has a lack of empathy.

And 33 per cent believe such colleagues would benefit from improving their wider set of soft skills.

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Ashleigh Loughnan, a spokesperson from Go1 said: “Feeling stressed and lacking communication or problem-solving skills can all lead to passive-aggressive behaviours and as this research shows – reduce productivity and damage workplace culture as a result.

“Overcoming these behaviours at work starts with proper education and training.”

The research also found the most common form of passive-aggression in British workplaces is sarcasm, encountered by 37 per cent.

Another 36 per cent have witnessed someone dramatically rolling their eyes, while 31 per cent have received “friendly reminders”.

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But passive-aggressive behaviours can create a toxic work environment (43 per cent), which leads to harbouring negative relationships between colleagues (43 per cent) and decreasing productivity (38 per cent).

Despite it happening so often, only 25 per cent of employees would feel comfortable reporting such behaviour.


1.            Sarcasm

2.            Speaking negatively behind another colleague’s back

3.            Eye rolling

4.            Deep sighs

5.            A “friendly reminder”

6.            Constant complaints or signs of resentment

7.            Delayed responses

8.            Silent treatment

9.            Undue criticism

10.         Excessive sick days

However, this is much higher among those aged 18-24, with 40 per cent comfortable doing so.

The study, carried out via OnePoll, found further generational gaps between workers – with 47 per cent of 18-24-year-olds willing to ‘settle’ passive-aggressive situations at work, compared to just 23 per cent of those aged 45-54.


1. Identify the cause – this research shows that people recognise the behaviour can be caused by a number of factors, whether it’s stress or a lack of soft skills. Getting to the root of the problem will help identify a way to improve.

2. Stay calm – reacting emotionally could worsen the situation. Speak to a colleague in a measured tone and retain composure. Many of those who are passive-aggressive won't realise at the time, so an empathetic approach is most likely to defuse the situation. It is OK to be firmer, if a colleague is persistent in their behaviour however.

3. Offer the right soft skills training – as our new research shows, many believe these behaviours are caused by a lack of soft skills. Improving communication, stress management and problem-solving skills is likely to prevent passive-aggressive behaviours before they happen.

4. Open communications with HR and L&D specialists – HR and L&D specialists should have an open line of communication with their company’s employees and as a result, have an influence on a company’s culture and ways of working.

5. Be alert to it – it’s easier to spot passive-aggressive behaviours when you face them yourself, but some are more likely to speak up than others, so colleagues should be allies in identifying behaviours.

6. Think about your own behaviour – it’s likely that many of us have unwittingly been passive-aggressive ourselves. But by holding yourself accountable, you can lead by example.

Despite this, 30 per cent admit to passive-aggressive behaviours themselves, with 35 per cent claiming they know full well what they are doing.

But 34 per cent only become aware later that their actions may have been viewed that way, and they don’t mean to do it.

Ashleigh Loughnan added: “If people are better equipped with essential soft skills, such as communication or stress management, then it can help solve the problem before it begins.

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“For this to happen, we’re calling on companies to provide an open line of communication between their HR and L&D specialists and employees.

“They can implement strategies and share resources to reduce passive-aggressive behaviour and in turn, improve their company culture.”

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