Workplace Bullying Awareness: Train to Spot Passive Aggressive | #Leadership #HR

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: Spot Passive Aggressive & Aggressive Behaviors

Workplace Bullying Awareness: Train Everyone to Spot Passive Aggressive & Aggressive Behaviors.

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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 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!

  • 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.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Post:
Lead These Positive Interactions to Lead Morale
21 Reasons Team Members Don’t Automatically Get Along
16 Human Trust Breakers & How to Prevent Them

©2021 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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2 Responses to “Workplace Bullying Awareness: Train to Spot Passive Aggressive | #Leadership #HR”

  1. M. says:

    Ms. Nasser, THANK YOU SO MUCH for putting a name to what I experienced with my last supervisor. Reading your article was -as ‘they’ say- an Ah Ha! moment. As I’m not a “people person,” I never understood why I could say the exact same words as a favored co-worker and my supervisor would look at me as though I were speaking a foreign language. She also used to send daggers my way with her stares (to presumably indicate her annoyance with ‘something’ I did), and, on one occasion, she got upset with me when I did not immediately stop what I was doing when she suddenly appeared at my desk and I said, “can you give me just a minute?”. So when I went to her desk approximately a minute later, she completely ignored me until _she_ was ready to talk and I had no idea why.

    Yes, you are exactly correct on your “it’s not me!” point because _she_ would never believe, or admit, that ‘she’ did anything wrong.

    One of the sad things is that Even IF she took training on this issue, it wouldn’t stick and she would revert to her old habits within a month if not two. However, IF she had taken training, she would have grandly advised all that the training was fantastic/wonderful and from that point forward these were to be the preventative steps being put into place. Which, unfortunately, would not be followed up on.

    So . . . when this P-A bullying is identified/named AND is coming from a supervisor (who also, in this case, was the HR dept) and seemingly endorsed by higher management (in this case, friends of the supervisor), what is a lone employee to do?

    For me, the answer was a departure from that employer. Because I knew that the behavior was not going to change and there was no one to whom it could be addressed.

    Ms. Nasser, thank you, and _please_ keep preaching to the choir re this. Some employers are _not_ paying attention and “seem” to have no (actual) understanding as to why someone is always leaving their employ.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi M,
      I am always interested and very grateful when people share their first hand experiences on a topic like this. It is so very difficult to deal w/ passive aggressive behavior and sadly people often leave as you did. I am humbled and honored that this post still helped you and I hope that all my blog posts give you information that you can use.

      Lastly, I share one people skills tip with you: It’s generally not a good idea to say to your boss “I’ll be with you in a minute.” Better to say, sure coming right now.

      My thanks,

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