Let me describe the situation:

My wife has been having issues with a certain employee at work...long story short, this other employee now goes out of her way to try and exclude/snub/cold shoulder my wife.

Yesterday, this employee ordered pizzas for basically the entire company, then proceeded to walk around and distribute pizzas to every department except for my wife's.

I told my wife what she should have done is gone up to her later and said (as genuinely as possible)

"Thanks so much for not bringing me pizza, I'm really trying to watch my weight so I appreciate you looking out for me". I basically told her, "don't give her the satisfaction of getting under your skin".

My questions are:

1) How would you describe the employee's behavior? I searched around on here last night and "cold shoulder" resonated with me to a degree, but I feel like there's a word/phrase out there to describe someone explicitly ignoring/excluding someone else in an attempt to annoy them/hurt their feelings.

2) How would you describe the reaction I told my wife she should have had? I'm looking for a word/phrase that means "turning a situation around on someone" - this employee was trying to get under my wife's skin so she should have "turned the situation around" and made them think she was actually doing her a favour.

  • 1
    Like “passive aggressive”?
    – Jim
    Jul 21, 2016 at 17:26
  • 2
    1) passive aggressive 2) turning the tables,
    – Slepz
    Jul 21, 2016 at 17:47
  • I was thinking of passive aggressive too, and I think that works here...but turn the tables is more in line with what I'm trying to say. I like that, thanks!
    – afman916
    Jul 21, 2016 at 19:01

3 Answers 3


Forms of aggression

1) The behavior of your wife's co-worker, though certainly a form of aggression, is often, mistakenly lumped in with what has become the default term at hand, 'passive aggressive'. I could have easily left it at that, it is doubtful that many would challenge this ascription. However, I feel that the term, as it applies in this case, overlooks the insidious nature of this predatory, personality. This behavior is a form of 'covert aggression'.

See the difference:

Covert aggression – when the aggressor attempts to conceal aggressive behavior and nefarious intent to increase the odds of gaining advantage over a target.

Passive aggression – when the aggressor fails to do, resists doing, or refuses to do something as a way of frustrating a target.


I loitered for a minute as I read the the question, after that, the consensual response, and then moved to the next question, nodding in agreement. Something irked me, possibly a note of frustration; a familiar encounter I once had; not sure, but it compelled me to return, and reconsider. Once I had realized my mistake, it shamed me a little.

The research on spontaneous inferences (Krull 1993, Krull & Dill 1996, Uleman 1987), employed a state machine to represent the analytical thought processes of aggressive personality types; motives, and the predictability of altering behavior (General Aggression Model). Also, super dry reading, save for the scant, salient points.

The Point?

The passive aggressive retreats, into a defensive posture. They are reactionary, motivated by perceived injustice, stemming from a low self esteem. They will attempt to sabotage, in order to frustrate their target.

The covert aggressive is a bully; intelligent and calculative, this is cognitive affect, and arousal, which drives the underlying appraisal and decision processes, with intent.

2)'Turning the other cheek', overtures of goodwill, and delicate affirmations, can, and often do, satisfy the justice demands of a passive aggressive.

However, be cautious with a covert aggressive. They will interpret these as exposed weaknesses, and exploit them in order to sate a narcissistic appetite.

Anderson, Craig A., Bushman, Brad J. Human Aggression, Department of Psychology, Iowa State University. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2002. 53:27–51

Simon, George K. Dr. In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. April 1, 2010


Some phrases come to mind, which might be more or less helpful;

Ostracize: to avoid someone intentionally, or to prevent someone from taking part in the activities of a group: His colleagues ostracized him after he criticized the company in public.

Freeze out: to make someone feel that they are not part of a group by being unfriendly towards that person, or to stop someone from being included in an arrangement or activity: I felt I was being frozen out of/from the discussions; He believed that organizations like theirs were being frozen out.

This also works as a noun; Freeze-out: an exclusion of a person or organization from something, by boycotting or ignoring them: they gave him the freeze-out

To leave out in the cold:

  • Merriam Webster - to leave (someone) in a bad position : to not give (someone) the rights or advantages that are given to others: The changes benefit management but leave the workers out in the cold.
  • Macmillan - to deliberately not include someone in an activity or group: If Britain does not work with the rest of Europe, it could be left out in the cold.

That's regarding the behavior of your wife's colleague, who has it in for her/ persecutes her/ makes life miserable for her/ gives her a hard time; As far as your wife's reaction, I'm hard-pressed to find anything better than what you cam up with.


Look at this please- "cock a snook at" used in mainly journalism-- to deliberately do something that insults someone or that shows a lack of respect for someone or something. vide Free thesaurus definition of to insult or offend someone from the Macmillan English Dictionary - a free English dictionary online with thesaurus and with pronunciation from Macmillan Publishers Limited. 2] Premeditated and unwarranted insult.

  • 1
    Some copy/paste problems here!
    – k1eran
    Jul 21, 2016 at 18:10

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