It's probably healthier to distance yourself from any passive-aggressive people floating around your personal life.
But you don't usually have that luxury in the office. It's not like you can just part ways with the cubicle mate who's constantly leaving whiny sticky notes everywhere. You're pretty much trapped.
So you don't end up getting burned, it's important to keep tabs on this damaging behavior.
Though it's usually quite subtle, there are some clear signs that you're most likely dealing with a passive-aggressive coworker.
While your passive-aggressive coworkers should be able to speak up if something is bothering them, you can at the very least recognize these signs and take it upon yourself to help resolve the situation:
Listen, there are times when it's acceptable to leave an aggrieved sticky note or send out a vexed office-wide email.
For example, if your colleagues are always leaving the communal microwave looking like the aftermath of a gruesome and mysterious science experiment, I can definitely understand why someone would feel the urge to call people out.
But if you work with someone who's scribbling out elaborate memos over every tiny annoyance, watch out.
If you find yourself sharing a cubicle with a note-scribbler, consider whether or not their notes are reasonable. If they're pointing out actual problems, perhaps you should try to help out. But if they're just being nit-picky, you can ignore their messages or talk to them to establish an understanding.
They procrastinate when you ask them to do something
Whenever you ask your colleague to do something, they get to it ... eventually. They never complain, but they make their displeasure known by taking forever to complete the task.
Keep in mind, some people are just procrastinators; their delays aren't meant personally. Alternatively, you may be at fault here if you're over-asserting your position on a person of equal rank.
But all things considered, if they're perfectly competent and your requests are appropriate and reasonable, you're probably dealing with a passive-aggressive individual, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If your office procrastinator's laziness isn't impacting you, ignore it. But if it is, calmly inform to your colleague. If that doesn't work, document the procrastination and talk to your manager, recommends Alison Green in US & World News Report.
They're constantly griping to you
Venting in an office setting is usually pretty unprofessional, unless you're close friends with whomever you're venting to.
That doesn't seem to faze this particular coworker. They complain about everything. The boss. The clients. The other people in the office. Frankly, most of their issues seem pretty unreasonable to you.
This is a major red flag that you're talking to a toxic person.
If you can't get the office complainer to leave you alone, avoid nodding along to their litany of grievances. Instead, calmly express your disagreement, recommends Chrissy Scivicque in Forbes. Don't try to convince them, though -- you'll just provoke an argument.
They're masters of the office rumor mill
Passive-aggressive individuals rely on gossip to act upon their grievances. They're unable to take a more confrontational tack. They might use rumors to hurt rivals' reputations, spread misinformation, and even curry favor with the powers that be.
What should you do if you find yourself the subject of office gossip? Writing for Fast Company, Natasha Burton recommends mobilizing your work allies and making light of rumors.
They shoot down everything
This person's always a bit of a thundercloud at the office brainstorming session. No proposal is good enough for them.
There's nothing wrong with being picky about what ideas are accepted at work. However, passive-aggressive individuals tend to dismiss most plans out of hand, without providing constructive criticism or alternative solutions. At a certain point, it's less about any flaws with the ideas and more about their own bad attitude.
In Forbes, Kevin Kruse recommends turning the tables on Debbie Downers with cold hard facts: "Negative people often speak in extreme terms that match their worldviews. They talk about 'never' and 'always.' Your first goal is to switch them to fact-based statements."
They deal out backhanded compliments
Do your colleague's compliments always leave you feeling a bit gutted? That's probably because they're not really compliments. They're hostiles digs, sugarcoated in standard niceties.
Rather than acting overtly rude, passive-aggressive people rely on backhanded compliments to make their displeasure known and bring others down.
How do you deal with a back-handed compliment? It really depends on how bad the comment was. You can grit your teeth and ignore it or respond with a little humor, writes Amy Morin in Inc.
They're envious of your success
It's fine to feel a bit jealous over other people's triumphs. That's just a human reaction. Still, you can't let your disappointment mutate into envy. It's not productive, and it's just not a good look on anyone.
Passive-aggressive individuals often have trouble dealing with successful people. In an office environment, this might present itself as backhanded compliments, complaints about the merits of the successful person, or a general, sullen attitude when others are being celebrated.
They undermine you
Passive-aggressive people won't directly challenge you. That's just too confrontational for them.
Instead, they will take steps to undermine you at every turn, finding subtle ways to sabotage your performance and set you up for failure, like leaving you out of the loop on important projects.
If you feel like your coworker is undermining you, don't give them the opportunity to sabotage you in a major way. Your best bet is probably documenting and reporting their behavior.
They love office drama
Most of us aren't entirely immune to office drama. For most people, it's a bit like a daytime soap opera. It can be entertaining to tune in every once in a while. It would also be awful to have that be your entire life. (No one has time for evil twins interrupting your wedding day and whatnot.)
Unlike their plain old aggressive counterparts, passive-aggressive colleagues don't necessarily seize a starring role in office drama. Instead they stoke tensions whenever possible -- they're less like a prima donna and more like the show's producer.
Avoid getting cast as their lead and keep your distance.
They claim to be the victim
When you confront your coworker on their bad behavior, do they twist things around in order to come out looking like the victim?
According to "How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People" author and Psychology Today contributor Preston Ni, "blaming the victim for causing their own victimization" is a classic passive-aggressive strategy.
It's usually best to avoid this kind of passive-aggressive coworker. If you find yourself tangling with them, make sure to document their behavior so they can't turn things around on you.
Their words don't match their behavior
Passive-aggressive people rarely express their feelings clearly -- that's what makes them hard to spot, at first.
As Mayo Clinic expert Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin writes, "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."
If this sounds like your coworker and it's affecting your work, talk to them about what's bothering them. If they're too passive-aggressive to tell you, consider talking to your supervisor.
And always watch out if a colleague is telling you one thing, but their actions indicate something else entirely.
This post originally appeared on Business Insider.