10 Common Phrases That Make You Sound Passive-Aggressive In The Workplace

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. It allows a person to express anger-related emotions without directly communicating these feelings. People expressing passive aggression often retain the ability to deny that they intended their behaviour aggressively. 

Examples of passive-aggressive behaviour include lateness, avoidance, and silence. This behaviour can damage relationships and make communication difficult. It is a concealed form of aggression, which can make it difficult to confront. 

Whether intentional or unintentional, being passive-aggressive in the workplace could make others uncomfortable, create tension and even put your job at risk

A recent study from WordFinder by Your Dictionary, an online word search tool, collected data from Ahrefs and Google Adwords to find the most-used passive-aggressive work phrases, most of which seem pretty harmless at first glance. 

These are the top 10 most passive-aggressive phrases in the workplace as revealed in the study.

1. Please advise 
2. Noted
3. Friendly Reminder
4. Will do 
5. Thanks in advance 
6. Per our last conversation 
7. Circling back to
8. As per my last email 
9. As promised 
10. As discussed 

WordFinder also identified some of the least passive-aggressive work phrases, including “Sorry to bother you again,” “Any update on this” and “I’ll take care of it.”

“As a result, employee frustration and miscommunication are at an all-time high, with tone alone being misinterpreted quite a bit in email communication,” says WordFinder representative Joe Mercurio.

The difference in the delivery of these phrases has to do with timing and attitude, Mercurio says. He also urges employees to think twice before sending their emails:

“To communicate effectively, employees should remember not to respond to messages or emails when in a state of frustration. They should also assume good intent, show empathy and encouragement, and avoid digital ghosting. As a rule of thumb: if you feel uncomfortable reading it directed toward you, try rethinking your approach.”

Communication is one of the most important parts of an effective workplace, according to BetterUp as it “boosts employee morale, engagement, productivity, and satisfaction.” Communication, not only enhances teamwork and coordination, it helps to ensure better performance for organizations as a whole.

Mercurio advises professionals to bring the “Golden Rule” into the workplace when it comes to interacting and communicating with others.

“Treat people how you would like to be treated. Start by deciding if the request is better suited for an email or a face-to-face conversation. If it’s something that can be relayed over email, reread the email and think about things like tone and reception. Overall, open and honest communication is the best way people can work together.”


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