I’ll take a crack head smoking in the bathroom, than a passive aggressive person by the copy machine.
Passive aggressive bullying is hard to track, and when it comes to passive aggressive bullying in the workplace, you can feel stuck.
I have experienced bullying my whole life. It started out in grade school when people would make fun of my skin. Teasing is a form of emotional bullying but not really passive aggressive bullying. Being called names was never fun but more manageable so, it didn’t prepare me for adulthood bullying.
I once worked in a job in Compton, CA that was mostly with black people, and they would call me “Barbie.” I’m white, tall, thin, whatever. It’s better than being called freckle face,or Shamu – the whale from San Diego Seaward – when I was going through “growth spurts.”
It bothered me but, name calling is one thing. Adult bullying is another thing.
When I worked in a predominately Latina community in East LA, I was the white girl from the Westside. They referred to be as the “1%.” That tended to bother me more cause very inappropriate things were said but, I just let it go. I was outnumbered, and I didn’t want to stoop to anyone else’s racist level.
But, when I have worked in passive aggressive work environments, it was the worse. At one time in my life, I shared office space with an angry, rude, and troubled person who exhibited behaviors of a personality disorder. Being educated in mental health, I would try to have empathy but found myself drowning in emotional bullying, and there seemed to be no way out.
The person would walk by my office space, and the energy was toxic. Passing by them in the halls was even worse. It got so bad that I found myself always carrying my cell phone to the bathroom, in the event I ran into the bully, and I would pretend to be on a call to avoid the uncomfortable energy. How do you deal with something that is in the air? Passive aggressive bullying can be a mean look, a cold stare, or being totally ignored.
When a co-worker exhibits passive aggressive bullying behavior it seems merely impossible to manage. I am not one to report issues to human resources, but, even if I were I wouldn’t even know where to start cause, like I said, how do you document angry energy? How do you show the mental scars? And what can you do.
Avoid, avoid, avoid. Similar to my fake phone calls in the halls, I would find myself keeping my distance as much as possible. Literally physically make as much space between me and the bully to avoid that negative space. It worked for me in that particular instance but then, I found myself in a job where I was forced to be in a car with a passive aggressive bully, so had nowhere to go.
Round two of passive aggressive bullying in the workspace.
That person would change the music to suit their needs, open and slam doors, play dumb when asked a work related question. It was awful. It got so bad that I mentally broke down and begged my supervisor to switch up the partners in the office. Be careful what you wish for but, I ended up getting a partner that I thought was manic or bipolar or something only to find out I was driving around town with someone on drugs all day.
Very dangerous, but, to be 100% honest, I would take an out of control manic drug user, to a passive aggressive bully every day, and twice on Sunday.