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Q.
My co-worker often leaves passive-aggressive notes about cleanliness in our company's break room. How do I let her know that the missives are insulting to me and condescending to others?

A.
"You'd totally win 'The Hunger Games' if passive-aggressive behavior could kill," asserts a popular greeting card. But such sentiments, expressed via a note or email in the office, are no laughing matter. If left unaddressed, they can fester in the workplace like an open wound.

Whenever possible, all sensitive work-related issues should be communicated face to face. In this case, you need to show your co-worker that approaching you directly, instead of posting a note that can incite dislike and provoke distrust, is much more likely to get a satisfying result.

The way to approach this problem is actually straightforward: Go to her in person and say, "I found your note and would like to talk with you about it. I share your concern regarding the cleanliness of our common areas, and I'll be happy to work with you so we can get these problems you identified addressed right away."

Once she acknowledges this, tell her that when she leaves such notes, there is too much room for people to misunderstand her intention. Ask her to come see you directly from now on so that you can work together to get the resolution you both desire. By modeling the very behavior you want her to follow, you help ensure that she'll be less passive-aggressive and more pleasantly assertive. E



Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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