Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. It has also been described as "sugar-coated" hostility. Of those who display it, there is an underlying fear and avoidance of direct conflict, yet a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness.
There is a disconnect between what a passive-aggressive person says and what he or she does. For example, a passive-aggressive person might appear to agree — perhaps even enthusiastically — with another person's request. Rather than complying with the request, however, he or she might express anger or resentment by failing to follow through or missing deadlines.
Passive-Aggressive behaviour can include:
Sabotage (intentional mistakes in response to others' demands)
Withholding of intimacy
Withholding of praise
Resentment to the demands of others
Not doing something that's asked of him/her
Frequent complaints about feeling underappreciated or cheated
How do you deal with passive-aggressive behaviour?
1. Identify the behavior for what it is: hostility. Once you recognize it's a sign of hostility, it emboldens you to deal with it.
2. Set limits -- and then follow through. Make it clear that you won't tolerate being mistreated.
3. Talk specifically -- not generally. If you're going to confront a passive-aggressive person, be clear about the issue at hand.
4. Practice assertive communication.