Work can sometimes be stressful and frustrating. Even on the most cohesive teams, there can be conflict. And that’s when people can sometimes say passive-aggressive things. Passive-aggressive comments convey anger, and can cause friction to develop between coworkers.  

So, of course, you should avoid saying passive-aggressive things. Even if you’re feeling frustrated, it’s important to maintain a good, solid working relationship with your colleagues. But what, exactly, is considered to be passive-aggressive? Sometimes it can be hard to know what not to say. Luckily, Monica Torres has provided a list of five common passive-aggressive comments that should never be uttered (and has suggestions about what you should say instead):

  1. “As I said in my previous email” or “As I mentioned earlier” — These statements suggest that the person you’re talking to has missed or ignored essential information that you worked hard to provide. In other words, you’re suggesting that they messed up. It’s the kind of thing that could really upset the person you’re talking to. A better approach would be to simply restate the information, and maybe add a few additional pieces of information. This will serve as a justification for you talking to your coworker a second time. In addition, your coworker will benefit from being updated and fully informed!
  2. “I’m going to ‘CC my manager” — Unless there’s a really good reason why your manager should be pulled into the conversation, don’t do it (or threaten to do it). Try to work things out yourself.
  3. “Obviously” or “Clearly” — These words suggest that the person you’re talking to has overlooked something obvious (and they’re not very smart). Instead of saying “obviously” or “clearly,” just be kind and tell the person what you think they need to know.
  4. “Many of us agree that…” — This phrase suggests that you’ve been talking about the issue behind your coworker’s back. It also sounds like you (and your other colleagues) are ganging up on your coworker. Basically, it’s a pretty aggressive statement. Instead of saying it, you should just voice your own opinion. Let your colleagues speak for themselves (if they want to).
  5. “No offense, but…” — Whatever you say after saying these three words are guaranteed to offend. Saying “No offense, but…” does not soften the blow. If you have to deliver negative feedback, do it the right way. Check out this article for tips on how to criticize someone nicely.

Torres, M. (2021, October 12). The most common passive-aggressive phrases people say at work. HuffPost. Retrieved from: