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10 passive-aggressive phrases you should avoid in the workplace

By: April Carson

Daily work communication for many employees happens mostly via email. Oftentimes, it's hard to tell what another person's tone is through a computer screen — and your emails might be coming across as overly aggressive.

If you're passive-aggressive in the workplace, (whether it's intentional or not,) others will feel uncomfortable around you. This tension could lead to problems at work and potentially get you fired.

A study from Your Dictionary, an online word search tool, looked at data collected from Ahrefs and Google Adwords to find the most-used passive-aggressive phrases in relation to work. Although these phrases seem pretty harmless upon first read, they can be quite damaging.

“For better or for worse, digital communication, whether it's via email or direct messages on platforms like Slack, does not allow us to observe each other's immediate responses, which is why we look for methods to convey dissatisfaction in a polite manner," WordFinder representative Joe Mercurio tells CNBC Make It. “As a result, employee unhappiness and misunderstanding are at an all-time high, with tone being misinterpreted a lot in email correspondence.”

The top 10 most passive-aggressive words and phrases in the workplace, according to the study, are as follows:

1. Please advise

2. Noted

3. Friendly Reminder

4. Will do

5. Thanks in advance

6. Per our last conversation

7. Circling back

8. As per my last email

9. As promised

10. As discussed

According to WordFinder, “Sorry to bother you again,” "Any news on this," and "I'll take care of it" are some of the most active-aggressive workplace phrases.

The difference in the delivery of these phrases, according to Mercurio, is due to timing and attitude. He also encourages staff to question whether they should send emails before doing so.

Try to avoid replying to messages or emails when you're feeling frustrated. Also, remember to always assume good intent, show empathy and encouragement. If you're unsure about how something might come across, pretend that it's being said to you.

Additionally, avoid sending long or detailed instructions in an email. If a task is going to take more than a few minutes to complete, it's probably best to schedule a meeting or phone call instead. This way, you can provide more context and avoid any potential miscommunication.

Finally, don't be afraid to confront someone about their passive-aggressive behavior. It's important to have honest and direct conversation in order to maintain a healthy workplace environment.

Good communication is key to a happy and productive workplace, according to BetterUp. Poor communication can lead to lowered morale, engagement, productivity, and satisfaction among employees. It can also hinder teamwork and coordination and negatively impact an organization's overall performance.

Mercurio strongly suggests that employees should treat others fairly and equally in the workplace when it comes to interactions and communication.

"If you're not careful, your words can unintentionally convey a message that's the opposite of what you're trying to say," Mercurio says. "When in doubt, choose your words wisely and always assume good intent."

“Treat others the way you want to be treated. Decide whether or not the request is better suited for an email or a face-to-face discussion. If it's something that may be conveyed via email, reread your message and consider things like tone and response. Overall, open, honest communication is the greatest method for people to collaborate.”

"In order to maintain a positive work environment and avoid potential conflict, it's important to be aware of the words you use," says Mercurio.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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