A passive aggressive boss can be really hard to deal with. Here we look at how to identify them and then deal with the situation professionally.
In any professional role you will need excellent communication skills, which is why, if you have come into contact with a passive aggressive boss it is likely to have caught you off guard by their bad communication habits. In the grownup and professional world of business, you just wouldn’t expect someone to be behaving in this way, but they do, and if you’re reading this article, I suspect you might already know that.
Perhaps they sulk, procrastinate and send emails or messages with an undertone. Maybe they agree to help you with something, then they don’t, and you kind of get the feeling they have been looking to get you in trouble with a more senior boss.
Perhaps they work in a semi-manipulative way, that you can’t quite put your finger on. Here are a few signs you have a passive aggressive boss:
- Your boss takes complete credit for the project successes making you and your team feel rubbish
- Your boss micromanages your project and continues to keep changing the guidelines or directions of the project
- Your boss withholds information you need to do well on the project
- Your boss agrees to a meeting and either shows up late or doesn’t show up at all
- Your boss undermines you in front of your team
- Your boss criticises you in public
- Your boss withholds praise for you
If these seem familiar, unfortunately you appear to have a passive-aggressive boss.
The cause of the passive aggressive behaviour is complex, all you need to worry about is how you’re going to work with this person because it can be stressful, difficult and at times, really upsetting, no matter how strong you are. People as manipulative as this can make you feel really down, and think your experience, authority, passion and skills count for nothing.
Here Are A Few Ways To Deal With A Passive Aggressive Boss:
Check It Is Not You
First things first, make sure it isn’t you that is the passive-aggressive one. It can be easy to point the finger at someone else when really it is your behaviour triggering theirs. Truly great people know how to self reflect.
Don’t Lose It
It can be really easy to start gossiping, obsessing and even reflecting the behaviour of your boss, none of which are going to help you. Keep your head down, maintain professionalism and focus on your team.
Be Sympathetic, It Really Isn’t About You
As easy as it is to think the passive aggression is aimed directly at you, remember there are complex issues behind this behaviour and your sympathy is really what is required.
Don’t Let Lines Be Crossed
You should always have your own boundaries for those above you and below you. You have boundaries with your team and should have them with your boss as well. A certain amount of behaviour can be tolerated but if they cross any professional lines, don’t let that slip. Depending on what has happened, discuss it with them in person or take it to higher management if you need to.
You might feel silly doing this, but if you end up reporting your boss, or if any larger conflicts happen or your boss actually tries to get you in trouble you need evidence. Keep screenshots of conversations, emails, logs of work you have done – everything.
Look To Work Elsewhere
This may seem extreme, but if you have explored lots of other avenues and this is making you unhappy, you need to look at taking a bigger step towards change.
If you love your job then it might be worth talking to senior management or HR about a way around this situation. Maybe you could transfer departments or to another section of the organisation. Alternatively you might need to look at working for another company.
Practise Mindfulness And Relaxation
When we become very focused on one negative thing it can seem much worse than it is. Practise mindfulness and relaxation strategies and consider getting some stress balls for your desk and maybe even a new hobby outside of work to focus on.
It Will Be OK
You never got warned about behaviour such as this, so it’s got to be really hard landing what you think is going to be a dream job and then dealing with such a horrible boss. Don’t worry, it will all be OK, it’s just a case of navigating the situation. True professionals are natural problem solvers, and are often emotionally intelligent, which means you have all the skills you need to work around this issue.