Workplace Bullying Awareness: Train to Spot Passive Aggressive

by Nov 11, 2021

Train to Spot Passive Aggressive

by Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Many companies now have training to increase workplace bullying awareness. Certainly to end bullying, first you must be aware of when it’s happening. Yet, companies need to do more to help leaders, managers, and employees spot and address passive aggressive bullying. It is the more common type of bullying in the workplace.

Workplace Bullying Awareness: Train Everyone to Spot Passive Aggressive Behavior

Passive aggressive bullying is more common in the workplace than aggressive bullying because bullies have a sense that full-out aggressive bullying could lose them their jobs. So they use passive aggressive behaviors to do it in a more hidden less obvious way. It gives them the ability to say, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” However, these behaviors have a toxic impact on others and the workplace culture.

Train to Spot Passive Aggressive

Train Everyone to Spot & Address Passive Aggressive Behavior

  1. Watch for people who stand just a bit close to someone they have expressed envy, jealousy, or dislike for. They rarely let the other person alone. Yet it’s not aggressively close.
  2. Listen for sarcasm and/or backhanded compliments. Passive aggressive bullies will claim later they didn’t mean anything by it.
  3. Spot those who frequently make comments about one person’s appearance or behaviors thus invading that person’s mental space.
  4. See how a passive aggressive bully interrupts a specific person — not everyone — when that person is talking. Bullies use this passive aggressive move in the workplace to make sure the person they interrupt loses ground.

Steps to Address Passive Aggressive Bullying

    • Discuss the difference between aggressive and passive aggressive bullying. Use examples and illustrate with tone of voice, etc…
    • Explore the reasons people use passive aggressive behaviors. Envy, jealousy, fear, are just some of the drivers of bullying behavior. Discuss any leadership, management, and organizational issues that may be driving these behaviors as well.
    • Highlight how to ask for what you need and assert what you want without bullying. Many people do not know how to do this!


Train to Spot Passive Aggressive

Find Out What Employees Need From You

  • Find out what employees expect and need from managers and leaders to help them when someone is bullying them. Some managers and leaders tell those being bullied to “work it out themselves.” Wrong! Passive aggressive bullies will tell them “they didn’t do anything wrong. It’s all in their heads.” Bullied employees need your help. Find out what they expect.
  • Engage employees in creating the training program. Instead of leadership, management, and Human Resources, handing the employees yet another training program, tap employees for examples of passive aggressive bullying that exists in your workplace. When people have a say in the training, the real life examples almost guarantee participation and success.

In Conclusion

Workplace bullying awareness must include awareness of passive aggressive bullying. Don’t let the word passive make you think it’s unimportant. In truth, it is even more toxic because it flies under the radar. Meanwhile, targets of passive aggressive bullying become despondent because no one believes someone is bullying them. They often leave and find new jobs elsewhere. Don’t lose the talent you’ve hired because you refuse to see what’s happening to them. Passive aggressive bullying ruins your workplace culture, productivity, and morale.


Does your workplace take bullying seriously?

3Plus can help you improve with our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops.



Originally posted at ©2021  Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Kate Nasser Contributor
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ delivers workshops (in person and online), keynotes, coaching, consulting for superior customer service, teamwork, employee engagement, and leading change. Now in her 26th year in business, Kate energizes everyone with inspiration AND practical takeaways. Web site:
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