Horrible Boss? Fight Back with Passive-Aggression

Getting screamed at in the office? Well, if you can’t quit, fight back—on the sly.

A study published in the Journal of Personnel Psychology has a suggestion for dealing with a nightmare boss: act passively aggressively. Not only will it make you feel better about yourself, but it’ll make you feel better about your job and your company.

Researchers surveyed 169 people, asking them about how often their bosses acted in a hostile manner. Hostility didn’t necessarily have to be directed at the employee surveyed, and was defined as a boss who intimidated, ridiculed, or yelled at employees. The survey also asked how often the participants fought back with passive-aggression, such as playing dumb when criticised about something, ignoring their bosses, or doing a half-assed job.

The participants were surveyed once more seven months later, this time about job satisfaction and psychological state. Employees who worked for hostile bosses but did nothing felt worse than employees who fought back with passive-aggression; in fact, those who fought back were more likely to report better psychological health, higher job satisfaction, and more commitment to their companies.

According to lead author, Bennett Tepper, “The best situation is certainly when there is no hostility. But if your boss is hostile, there appears to be benefits to reciprocating. Employees felt better about themselves because they didn’t just sit back and take the abuse.”


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