To start with there are four general intents that determine people’s reaction at workplace.

  1. Get the work done
  2. Get the work right
  3. Get along with coworkers
  4. Get appreciation from coworkers

According to them different types of people are formed. These are:

  1. The combative; the person who works against you behind your back or criticizes everything, sometimes threatening to permeate others work.
  2. The passive-aggressive; the person performing destructive attitudes at workplace, such as missing deadlines, showing up late or procrastinating.

“Passive aggression is a deliberate and masked way of expressing hidden anger” (Long, Long, & Whitson, 2009)

  1. The complainer; this co-worker who grumbles all the time. This kind of behavior can be the result of frustration, boredom, stress or being unhappy at work.
  2. The simply different: This colleague is just different to you. Indeed, difference can be a problem; less or more detail-obsessed than you; slower or faster than you; less or more social; better or worse in multitasking etc. A different colleague is a difficult colleague but not a negative, toxic one.
  3. The gossiper: Τhis person is always around your desk. He or she hovers in the lunchroom uncovering the latest gossips. The so-called gossiper is constantly trying to spread rumors.
  4. The slacker: Although looking busy, the “slacker” passes responsibilities onto other employees and still taking credit for them. Besides, it is not coincidence that leaders dealing with such employees, are said to give them concrete project goals and deadlines.

Get the best from toxic colleagues:

  1. Conquer your own negative thinking

“A person has 80,000 thoughts a day. 90% of these thoughts are repetitive and 80% are negative. “

Michigan State University.

Engaging with toxic people can cause negative thoughts which subsequently destroy performance and productivity by eroding confidence and resilience at workplace. If the aforementioned negative behaviors are not impacting you or your team, it is best for you to ignore them. If they do affect you, undermining or sabotaging your workload, make sure that you handle them right by:

  • Always thinking positive and being motivated
  • Developing your managerial skills dealing with this difficult challenge
  • Being a resilient person, always able to confront sabotage
  • Creating a plan to handle negative behaviors

Handle passive aggressive behavior at work

If organizational awareness is not in place to identify such behaviors, then you must fight back by:

  • Learning why passive aggressive behavior exists and what leads to it
  • Identifying the passive aggressive coworkers
  • Learning how to not to be controlled by passive aggressive behavior
  • Clarifying what activities, you are doing by yourself
  • Having support for those activities which can’t be done by you alone, when you can’t delegate on your passive aggressive coworker
  • Discover tactics to eliminate passive aggressive behavior
  • Create a plan to handle passive aggressive coworkers

Aggressive behavior damages an organization at all levels affecting also employees who aren’t targeted but feel unsafe. Dealing with aggressive behavior at work requires assertiveness and emotional intelligence in order to handle conflicts.

Addressing and fighting aggressive behavior at work should always be a task to be performed by the organization and not those victimized.



Apostolos is a Maritime Safety, Quality & Environmental Expert, Consultant, Trainer and Project Manager with more than a 20-year background in shipping as Technical, Marine, Safety & Training Superintendent and Consultant. He entered the industry back in early 90’s as Engineering Superintendent with a leading ship manager operating a mixed fleet of bulk and oil/chemical tankers. He then shifted to regulatory compliance and QHSE as superintendent and later as a Consultant and Trainer. Apostolos has successfully completed a wide range of QHSE projects including 250+ management system projects (ISM/ISO 9001-14001-18001/TMSA/MLC), 500 vessel and office audits to various standards and he has trained more than 8,000 people in a wide variety of QHSE subjects. He has also presented and chaired to more than 40 conferences. He holds Mechanical Engineering Bachelor and Master’s specialising in Energy & Environment and Master’s Degree in Maritime Business and Business Administration (MBA), all of them awarded with distinction. Apostolos is the Managing Director of SQE MARINE, SQE ACADEMY and Managing Editor of SAFETY4SEA.