Tell me if this scenario hits close to home. You find yourself working with someone whose underhanded, behind-the-scenes efforts to derail, control or thwart your hard work and high performance seem harder to peg, and thus harder to confront.

Maybe it's me, you think to yourself. This coworker just doesn't come right out and say no to a task or assignment. Instead, he might nod and then flat out not do what you've requested or agreed on as a team.

Have you been there? It gets worse.

When questioned, he might give an excuse, such as not knowing you expected something, or that something else required his attention. You might hear something like, "Well, if some people would stop wasting my time, I'd be able to do it."

Since this person is holding things up, you might lash out by doing the task yourself out of pure frustration.

Dealing with this master manipulator

This is an example of a person most of us have worked with at one time or another -- the classic passive-aggressive.

This individual is a master of manipulation, using what he doesn't do and doesn't say to get a sense of power (and get out of doing what he fears to say or do).

The effects of their toxic behavior are often very counter-productive; it can drain morale and momentum and cause effective employees to turn off or head elsewhere.

These are tough cookies to deal because their behavior is what makes them feel secure and in control.

Here's what to do

A good rule of thumb is to first check whether your filters or communication style are adding to the problem, yet be sure to never take responsibility if your coworker is displaying passive-aggressive tendencies. 

Also, focus on the behavior, rather than your frustration at the coworker. Understand that the passive-aggressive has succeeded acting out in this manner because others rarely, if ever, call him on his behavior.

Lastly, try to be frank and direct in your approach to calling him out. For example: "You know, Stan, the way you're acting strikes me as passive-aggressive. We have a deadline to meet for our top client. I need to ask you, when are you going to finish with your assigned task so we're delivering this on time?" 

This forthright approach requires the passive-aggressive to make a clear choice, though he may try to deflect responsibility back to you (that's how he operates, keep in mind).

If he deflects with more of his tactics, simply restate the point, and stress the importance of someone in his position and role being willing and able to pull off the task to complete the job on time.

If all else fails, identify people willing to step in and take over, then ask the passive-aggressive point blank, "Are you going to complete it or not? And by when?"