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How do you deal with passive-aggressive people?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from over 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How do you deal with passive-aggressive people?

  • I confront them directly when I see the behavior: 41%
  • I generally ignore the behavior: 47%
  • I behave passive-aggressively right back at them: 13%

Don’t stoop to their level. The majority of you either confront passive-aggressive behavior when you see it or you just let it slide. I’d venture to guess that the difference in those situations boils down to how egregious the behavior is (with the worse it is inviting more direct confrontation) and what the recipient’s bias toward conflict is (fight or flight). For those of you who get passive-aggressive right back, I ask you to consider the fact that bad behavior invites more bad behavior. You might be making your own situation worse by stooping to their level. The next time you consider doing so, try a different path and either confront the person about their behavior or just let it slide. The workplace might end up being more pleasant if you do.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”