Deciphering the words of a passive aggressive boss | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 27, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 27, 2018

Deciphering the words of a passive aggressive boss

A boss is like a sensei in the professional world. He will teach you, guide you and most importantly, he'll sign your pay check. It's important that we keep the boss happy, preferably through our working capability, and by understanding their expectations from us. The understanding part can be a bit tricky if they happen to be an individual who relies on sending passive or indirect messages to their employees to get the job done.

Imagine you're Salman, a hypothetical employee of a cranky hypothetical boss. You're having a casual conversation with a colleague and your boss comes in and goes all,

“You know, Salman, if I were to pay you by the number of breaks you take in a single day, you would have probably owned the place by now.”

Followed by a forceful laugh he walks away.

No, Salman it's not a joke. It's just a subtle way of saying that he has noticed that you take too many breaks and it has certainly bothered him to an extent where he has to add a fake laugh just so you get the message.

Offices are plagued with projects that don't meet the deadline as scheduled. Like most plague victims, you walk in with your project a day after the deadline.

Your boss goes through what you've submitted. Slightly praises you but then in a sudden jolly mood he says something like, “Salman if you can answer this riddle, I treat you to a nice-cup of coffee. Name two things you can't meet in your life.” You reply in a confused tone, “There are many things, sir. I am not sure which two to state.” The boss replies, “The horizon and a deadline,” followed by the same forceful laugh.

Reality check, there wasn't any coffee in the first place. This was just another way of telling you to get your job done on time.

After a stressful and productive week of work you're leaving office, totally prepared to take on the weekend. Suddenly. your boss arrives. He has this little mischievous smile on his face and before you know it he is making conversation. At one point he asks “Salman, did you change your doctor?”

Unable to comprehend the sudden change in topic you reply, “No, sir. I haven't. But thank you for asking.” Your boss continues, “It's just that you did not call in sick this week. Not even a single day. Pretty impressive if you ask me." Understand that your boss is an experienced individual and he has subtly hinted that you need to be more regular and active when it comes to attending the office.

Being impervious to such subtle messages can be a huge setback for you in your working arena. So the next time your boss says something weirdly passive aggressive, make sure you read it right and act on it as it is portrayed.


Naveed is a freshman at BUP. Reach him at at

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