These 10 phrases make you sound passive-aggressive at work

For many professionals, the majority of day-to-day business communication happens through email. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to gauge someone’s tone through a computer — and your emails might be a bit aggressive.

Whether intentional or not, being passive-aggressive at work can make others feel uncomfortable, create tension and even jeopardize your job.

A recent study of WordFinder by Your Dictionary, an online word search tool, collected data from Ahrefs and Google Adwords to find the most used passive-aggressive work phrases, most of which seem rather innocuous at first glance.

“For better or worse, digital communication, whether through email or direct messages on platforms like Slack, doesn’t allow us to see each other’s immediate reactions – that’s why we looking for ways to ‘politely’ express our irritation,” WordFinder rep Joe said. Mercurio tells CNBC Make It. “As a result, employee frustration and communication issues are at an all-time high, with tone alone being quite misinterpreted in email communication.”

According to the results, here are the 10 most passive-aggressive phrases at work:

1. Please notify

2. Noted

3. Friendly Reminder

4. Will

5. Thanks in advance

6. According to our last conversation

7. Backtracking

8. According to my last email

9. As promised

10. As Discussed

WordFinder also identified some of the less passive-aggressive work phrases, including “Sorry to bother you again,” “Any updates on this,” and “I’ll take care of that.”

According to Mercurio, the difference in the delivery of these phrases has to do with timing and attitude. He also urges employees to think twice before sending their emails.

“To communicate effectively, employees must remember not to respond to messages or emails when they are in a state of frustration. They must also demonstrate good intentions, show empathy and encouragement, and avoid digital ghosting. As a general rule: if you feel uncomfortable reading directed at you, try rethinking your approach.”

Communication is one of the most important parts of an effective workplace, according to Better Up, because it “boosts morale, engagement, productivity and employee satisfaction”. Communication also improves teamwork and coordination and helps ensure better performance for organizations as a whole.

Mercurio advises professionals to introduce the “golden rule” to the workplace when it comes to interacting and communicating with others.

“Treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Start by deciding if the request is better suited for an email or a face-to-face conversation. If it’s something that can be relayed via email, read the email again and think about things like tone and reception. Overall, open and honest communication is the best way to work together.”


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