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  1. Blog
  2. Culture & Professionalism

The Most Passive Aggressive Things That Can Happen in the Office, Ranked

We see you, Simone

women in an office
Photo courtesy of SHVETS production

There is nothing worse than dealing with a passive aggressive coworker in the office.

Yet the workplace is the perfect environment for passive aggressiveness to flourish. Think about it—promotions, raises, office romances...things like this can lead to tons of self-doubt and jealousy among coworkers. And how do those negative feelings manifest? Lack of good communication skills that opt out of direct (read: mature) confrontation and opt into nasty, petty passive aggressive behavior.

Some of these behaviors may seem silly (okay, most of them), but trust us, all of these little things can add up and lead to a super hostile work environment, and no one wants that.

10. When Mia keeps hiding the pens at your desk

Yes, we’re serious. Imagine it—every time you reach for a pen, they’re all gone. Every time you replace them, Mia hides them again the next day. Just three days of this alone, and we’d go crazy.

9. When Simone avoids face-to-face interaction via Post-It notes

You can’t remember the last time you actually spoke to Simone in person. Ever since you scored the promotion over her, she refuses to speak to you and only leaves Post-It notes on your desk when absolutely necessary, and they’re super passive like, I would have talked to you about this in person, but you’re never at your desk. Okay, Simone.

8. When Gabrielle invites everyone to drinks after work except you

You’ve known Gabrielle has had it out for you since your boss praised you endlessly for a job well done on your last project. So she retaliates every Friday by inviting everyone out to drinks after work—except you.

7. When Jasmine stops talking every time you walk into the room

Every time you walk into a room where Jasmine already is, she immediately falls silent and stares you up and down. Her mean girl behavior makes your cheeks burn and makes you want to shrink away until you’re invisible.

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6. When Marco keeps 'misplacing' your documents

Every time Marco is supposed to print out a proposal for you, he conveniently “loses” or “misplaces” it so you’re unprepared in the meeting when your boss asks for your input. Extra points for passive aggressiveness if he never includes your presentation file in the lineup for the team meeting.

5. When Lynn 'accidentally' leaves you off the big meeting invite

You know that big client meeting you remember your boss mentioning last week but then you never heard anything else about it? Yeah, that’s because Lynn “accidentally” forgot to cc you on the email invite and now you aren’t prepared. Not nice or necessary.

Read more: 7 Signs You're Dealing with Toxic Coworkers

4. When Alexis calls you out in the team meeting

It’s Monday morning, and your team is going over what’s on the week’s agenda. Your boss asks Alexis if she finished her article from last week, and then suddenly, she puts the blame on you and calls you out in front of everyone for not editing her piece on time—but she fails to mention she turned it in to you three days late.

3. When Gina cc's your boss

You and Gina, who you work with very closely, disagreed on how to manage a new project. She dropped the conversation at the time, but then sent you an email— with your boss cc'd —explaining why she thinks you should do things her way. The nerve. Now just imagine if she also meets with your boss to make sure everything goes to plan. Her plan, that is.

2. When Justin calls out sick on the day of your collaborative presentation

This is just a low blow. You edged out Justin to work on an important project, and he is not shy about showing his anger about it. You’ve worked together on a different presentation for weeks now, and on the big presentation day, he calls out sick. You’re forced to improvise on all of his sections and remain cool as a cucumber.

1. When Victoria steals your lunch

No, it's not a capital offense. But in our eyes, there is nothing worse than having your lunch eaten at work. You daydream about eating your leftover dumplings all morning long, and when it finally hits lunchtime, you open the office fridge only to find your dumplings gone. Devoured again by Victoria because your boss chose you for the raise instead of her. Bump that passive aggressiveness up to a 10.5 out of 10 if it happens time and again, even after you confront the thief.

How can you address passive aggressive coworkers?

Always, always keep your cool. It’s like the bully in middle school: If they get a rise out of you, they’ll continue their nasty behavior with sweet satisfaction. Handle it like the badass grown up you are, with grace and maturity.

First, try to understand where they’re coming from. Your success may be causing them to question their self-worth and they might not know how else to handle doubt. Pull them aside in a quiet place away from other coworkers, reassure them how integral they are to the office as a whole, confront them calmly on their behavior, and offer a resolution. Listen to their feedback and try to come to an agreement.

Read more: The 5 Conflict Management Styles & How to Use Them

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