You might need to stop being passive aggressive
Part 1: Or, some thoughts on how you present in this question
According to wikipedia1:
Passive-aggressive behavior is the indirect expression of hostility, ...
With that in mind, what Telastyn &i take away from this is that the original title of this question is passive aggressive.
Going further, and looking at the body of the question - your last paragraph, for example:
He seems to want to assert his authority over me, and wants me to say " Yes boss!" to everything. But he won't explain, often asks me to do tasks for stuff that currently can't be done or sometimes will go a whole day without assigning me anything. So I never know what he wants me to be doing. How do I tackle this guy?
From this, do note a few things
- You say he wants "to assert his authority" over you, but you give no evidence of it. Asking you to do things isn't asserting authority - it's his job.
- You didn't give an example of impossible things your boss has asked you to do.
- He might not assign you work in a day. I don't know what your job is, but I've always found it useful to ask what to do when I don't have anything to do. Your boss might not know you don't have anything to do!
- You shouldn't be "tackling" humans unless you play professional contact sports. You can tackle problems, but please don't be the person who says "people are problems" - they're not, people are people. You should be endeavouring to work with your boss.
For whatever reason, to me, you haven't composed a well thought out, elegant question that details your issues. This makes it appear (to me, anyway) as though you have this notion - my boss is a passive-aggressive type who is keeping me down, man - and you want people to take your side against your boss. And that, my friend, is actually an example of passive-aggressive behaviour, as used in common parlance.
Part 2: Whereby I answer your explicit question
Your question is how do i tackle this guy - I don't know if that is the "right" question, because if you really are displaying some passive-aggression, then it is really "you" that needs "tackling". But that's not what you asked.
- How did you respond to his listing times you were passive aggressive? You don't mention, but as a first step, you should talk him through this list.
- For each entry, apologise for being passive aggressive, and say you didn't mean to come across in that manner.
- For each entry, say what you were trying to get across in each instance. That last sentence is key, and you should express it in a way that enforces your desire to be collaborative and to work with your boss.
- To be clear, don't mention, raise, blame or otherwise insinuate deficiencies in your boss' style/capabilities. Instead, blame yourself. It's not "the boss wasn't clear" its "I didn't have a firm understanding on how to go about this task".
- Once you've done this, suggest that you both work on some project/task together - at an appropriate time. Maybe immediately after, maybe a day later, I don't know, that's something you need to decide.
- The task isn't important. From steps 1-4, you'll have an idea about what the issues are that make your boss think you're passive aggressive. Be blunt, let him know this task isn't about "the task", but about creating a more wholesome work environment.
- Tell him that from that list, you are aware that a, b, c might occur. Tell him - in the spirit of creating a positive relationship - about how you're going to mitigate that happening on this task. Ask him to let you know if it happens, or anything else happens, or if any issues were mitigated.
- If something happens, add it to the list. If you mitigate something, note it as a "solution" to one of the issues.
- Going forward, try to work out solutions to this items on the list, until it's just a list of solutions!
- If this doesn't improve things after a few months, you should consider new employment.
Over the next many tasks, you'll get an idea on how to resolve everything. I think that would be an excellent way of showing that you're a team player, you're dedicated to making your boss look good, and you'll improve the relationship because you are bending over backwards to help out. And every boss likes that. That is why the apologising is key - you're showing you can and will work under him, to help him.
You want to fix this ASAP, because you always want a good relationship with your boss - the best way to get promoted? Get your boss promoted. He'll want someone to fill the void, and who better but his trusty lieutenant?
Also, not getting along with your boss is the number one reason for getting fired.
Part 3: Whereby I answer the question you asked in the title
On the other hand if you are right (which would mean I am wrong, a sadly common occurance), then you have some difficulties. I would still go about the steps above, but I wouldn't expect any improvements. You should start looking for new work, because you (not you-you, everybody-you) just don't want to work under a passive-aggressive-type. Its not fun, and it will eat away at you. There's no harm in pursuing happiness in a different company.
If this trend of a boss being upset with you continues into the new workplace, then, uh, well, you're either passive-aggressive OR really unlucky.
1: Wikipedia also says
Workplace conflict is a specific type of conflict that occurs in workplaces.
So take what you will from wikipedia.