5 Ways to Deal with a Passive Aggressive Boss at Work

passive aggressive boss
Mark Angeles
Written by Mark Angeles

We’ve all had that one boss who can never seem to express their feelings directly and honestly. The passive aggressive boss is a type of supervisor that many of us have encountered at least once in our lives, and it can be quite a challenge to navigate. If you are dealing with a passive aggressive boss, you know how difficult it can be to handle such a person. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to manage the situation more effectively. In this blog post, we will discuss five ways to deal with a passive aggressive boss at work so that you can improve your working environment and get the desired results.

What is Passive Aggression?

Passive aggressive behavior is expressing anger in a non-assertive, indirect way. It can manifest as sullenness, resentment, procrastination, or other forms of resistance. Passive aggressive people often withhold information or purposefully do things to make others feel incompetent.

While it might seem easy to avoid conflict, passive aggression usually ends up causing more harm than good. It can damage relationships and create an atmosphere of mistrust and frustration. If you’re dealing with a passive aggressive boss at work, there are some ways you can try to resolve the situation.

frustration at work

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Some tips for dealing with a passive aggressive boss include:

– Try to open up communication channels and get them to share their feelings directly with you.

– Encourage assertiveness by setting clear boundaries and expectations.

– Don’t tolerate abusive behavior – if your boss is consistently crossing the line, it’s time to speak up or take action.

– Try to find common ground and work together towards mutually beneficial goals.

Examples of Passive Aggressive Behavior in the Workplace

There are many examples of passive aggressive behavior in the workplace. Here are a few common ones:

1. Your boss constantly interrupts you or cuts you off when you’re speaking.

2. Your boss gives you the silent treatment when you’ve done something they disapprove of.

3. Your boss belittles your ideas or suggestions in front of others.

4. Your boss assigns you tasks that are outside your job description or makes you do tasks that are beneath your skill level.

5. Your boss takes credit for your work or fails to give you credit when it’s due.

If you’re experiencing any of these behaviors from your boss, taking action is essential. First, try to have a direct conversation with your boss about the behavior and how it’s impacting your work performance and morale. If that doesn’t work, talk to HR about the situation and see if they can help resolve it.

Identify the Signs of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Boss

A passive aggressive boss may exhibit several signs of behavior that can be difficult to deal with. Here are some common signs to look for:

  • They avoid giving clear answers or instructions
  • They procrastinate or make excuses
  • They withhold important information
  • They play favorites or make unreasonable demands
  • They micromanage or over criticize

If you’re dealing with a passive aggressive boss, it’s essential to be aware of these signs to adapt your behavior best to deal with the situation.

passive aggressive demands

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Avoid Reacting to Their Behavior in a Negative Way

When dealing with a passive aggressive boss, it’s essential to avoid negatively reacting to their behavior. Doing so will only escalate the situation and make resolving it more challenging. Instead, try to stay calm and constructive when addressing the issue. This will help you develop a solution that everyone can agree on.

Try to Have an Open and Honest Conversation With Your Boss About Their Behavior

Assuming that you have a good relationship with your boss and feel comfortable enough to have this conversation, it is essential to have an open and honest discussion about their behavior. They may be unaware of how their actions impact you and others, so they can make changes by bringing it to their attention.

Start the conversation by expressing your concerns and explaining how their behavior has affected you. Be specific in your examples and avoid making accusations or judgments. Instead, focus on how you feel and what effect their behavior has had on your work. For instance, “I’ve noticed that when I give you suggestions, you often dismiss them without considering them. This makes me feel like my opinion isn’t valued and that my work isn’t good enough. As a result, I’m second-guessing myself more and losing confidence in my abilities.”

Then, ask your boss for their thoughts on the matter. After they respond, continue the conversation by trying to come up with a solution together. For example, “Perhaps we can brainstorm ideas together before you make decisions? That way, I can feel confident that my input is being considered.” Suppose your boss is receptive to the conversation and willing to make changes; great! If not, then at least you expressed your concerns and allowed them to address the issue.

talk to boss

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Set Boundaries With Your Boss Regarding Their Behavior

When dealing with a passive aggressive boss, it’s essential to set boundaries regarding their behavior. This means that you need to be clear about what you will and won’t tolerate from them. For example, if they consistently make snide comments about your work, tell them that this is unacceptable behavior. Similarly, if they try to undermine you in front of others, make it clear that you will not stand for this. By setting these boundaries, you’ll be making it clear that you will not tolerate their passive aggressive behavior.

Seek Professional Help if the Situation Becomes Too Difficult to Handle on Your Own

If you find yourself in a situation where you are constantly being undermined or belittled by your boss, it may be time to seek professional help. This behavior can be complicated to deal with on your own and can hurt your mental health. A professional can help you to develop healthy coping mechanisms and communication strategies. If you struggle to cope, don’t hesitate to seek help.


Passive aggressive behavior from your boss can be challenging to navigate, but with the right strategies and techniques, you can manage it. It is important to remember that passive aggressive behavior is often rooted in fear or insecurity, so try to maintain an attitude of patience and understanding when responding. With a little effort, you can create an environment where you and your boss feel respected and understood.

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Mark Angeles

Mark Angeles

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