A Suburban Dad's Guest Blog: Fun with Passive Aggressive Techniques

By Rick Kaempfer

I remember what it felt like to be a teenager. Your parents have all the power, and it really feels like there's nothing you can do about it. You dream about the day you can finally do whatever you want to do without the stifling control of those horrible people that only want the best for you. 
In the meantime, you can't fight back without getting into trouble, so you resort to passive aggressive tactics.
I did it myself when I was a teenager. If I remember correctly, it's the reason I became a Democrat. Ooh boy, did that frost my dad.
"What?" I'd say innocently. "It's just politics, right?"
Well, now that I'm a father, and I have two teenage sons (and another on the way), I've been bracing for the inevitable passive aggressive attacks directed at me. I easily swatted away some of their ineffective early attempts, but my oldest boy Tommy probably delivered the first successful blow this past week when he said: "Hey Dad, remember when I told you that I was running out of room on my iPod? Problem solved. I just got rid of all the crappy Beatles songs."
After I pulled the knife out of my heart, I tipped my cap to the young warrior. The force is strong in this one.
But I feel like I should warn him that he's up against a former Jedi that has long practiced the dark side of the force. I even wrote a novel ("$everance", ENC Press, 2007) that took passive aggressiveness in the workplace to a new level.

I have to tell you, I never had more fun in my life than I did writing the passive aggressive warfare portion of that book. Some of the techniques used by my main character (and his rival, the boss) were very specific to their particular office situation, but others are more universal.
Would you like to hear a few of them?
Now I should warn you, before you go off trying these techniques yourself, remember that it's not as easy as it sounds. You must execute them well. The key to true passive aggressive genius is that a third party witnessing the event can't tell it's happening. Only the victim will know, and if you pull it off perfectly, even he or she won't be positive. 
Let's use your boss as your first sample victim. Here are a few techniques to get you started. 
*Praise the boss' rivals
Are there other Vice Presidents at the company on the same level as your boss? Start praising them every chance you get. 
1) "Boy that Dick Smith sure knows how to maximize those revenues. They must love him at corporate headquarters."
2) "Have you seen Dick Smith's house? Wow! Now, that's a palace."
3) "I was just talking to Gladys in Dick Smith's department. I can't believe the CEO calls him so often just to say hello."
You aren't criticizing your boss--you're complimenting a valued co-worker. You're all on the same team, aren't you? If your boss gets upset, I sure hope Dick Smith or his good friend the CEO don't hear about his petty overreaction.
*Call everybody in the office by the name of the Boss' ex 
And slap your head every time. "Sorry--I don't know what is wrong with me. I apologize." What if he or she doesn't have an ex-wife or ex-husband? Please. They all have ex-wives or ex-husbands. 
*Live up to the letter of the most ridiculous office policies
If you work in any industry that requires certain safety procedures, you're golden. You know they don't really want you to follow those rules--they just created them to legally cover their butts. See what happens when you really do it. 
*The Employee Handbook is your constant companion
Have your employee handbook on your person at all times, and open it to the page in question when the boss violates nit-picky company rules, and pretend you just happened to be reading it. ("Wow, I never noticed this inappropriate office language section before. Hmmm, this personal phone calls section must be optional. Now where is that section about using the postage meter for personal correspondence?")
*Start eating only his or her favorite baked goods
In a corporate environment, baked goods always seem to end up in a common area. Use this to your advantage. Find out which donut your boss likes best and grab it before he does. Make sure you tell your co-workers how delicious that pastry was within ear shot of the boss. He can't fire you for eating a strawberry bismark, now can he?  
Those are just a few easy ones.
I have many more. Many many many more.
I hope my boys know who they're about to go up against. On the other hand, I also hope it's not a genetic talent, or I could be in real trouble.
There's three of them.


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  • Love it. Does this one count:
    Me/Mom (to teenage son): Wow, you really do have some hair coming in there up top of your lip
    Son: Thanks, Mom. So do you.

  • Oooh. Ouch. Yup, that one counts.

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