Persistent workplace aggression is a problem that most administrators are unaware of.  Some know that their organization suffers from aggression and choose not to intervene. Other leaders do not know how to manage the aggressor. There are leaders that believe that their lack of involvement is in the best interest of the bully. They are under the impression that confronting the bully will only perpetuate the problem and leaving them alone is better because the bullying will stop eventually. However, this is a false misconception.  It is in the best to hold the bully accountable, no matter how difficult, because lack of intervention ensures that aggression will continue and it can harm the bully, too.

Administrators who do not hold aggressors accountable are not only making the environment worse, but they may be damaging the aggressor more than they realize. First and foremost, aggressors, especially those where complaints have been made, are most likely avoided and shunned by their colleagues. They may develop work relationships, but many of these are based out of fear and not on authenticity. Even for a workplace aggressor, this is hurtful and only increases the likelihood that a bully will lash out. This perpetuates the problem of bad work relationships.

It is the responsibility of leadership to review job performance and give suggestions to make professionals better. Supervisors who do not offer constructive feedback and stop aggression only encourage bad behavior. Lack of intervention shows the aggressor that bullying is more rewarding than following professional standards. This almost guarantees that the aggressor will continue to abuse others and solidifies that they will develop negative patterns of work behaviors. Aggressors often stagnate in their ability to improve their skills and grow professionally. Aggressors may do OK in their current work environment but their options for other employment may be limited based on their inability to rise to a higher standard of professionalism. They have most likely learned how to rely on bad behavior to get ahead rather than developing the skills that many agencies desire for their workers.

Aggressors become vulnerable when there are changes in leadership. Because workplace bullies have not developed positive professional behaviors, they will depend on their aggression to move forward. New leadership may hold the aggressor accountable to standards of professional behavior which the bully may not be able to do. As such, aggressors may experience sanctions at work or even lose their job as a result. Again, because they have relied so heavily on using fear and abuse at work to get ahead, aggressors may find new employment difficult to secure. 

It is always in the best interest of the organization and leadership to take persistent workplace aggression seriously and address it effectively. If not, everyone in the organization suffers, even the workplace bully.

If you or the organization you work for is experiencing persistent workplace aggression or need training on this issue, please contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there.

Persistent workplace aggression is a multifaceted issue that affects the overall organization and every employee. But, who is responsible for it? 

Many believe that targets have personalities that make them predisposed to being bullied or that they get abused because of the quality of their work. These workers are susceptible to being victimized in the workplace. As such, they are supposedly responsible for the persistent workplace aggression.

A participant in one of my workshops stated that as a supervisor she identified these types of workers. She was referring to those workers who she deemed as vulnerable to becoming a target of persistent workplace aggression. She told her workers that they were likely to be bullied and coached them on how they could avoid this. 

This is a victim blaming mentality and conveys that targets are responsible for the workplace aggression. If they would just change their behavior or personality, they would no longer be targeted. This is not true at all. There is no victim type or any way to predict that a worker will become a target of persistent workplace aggression. Anyone can be a victim and as such, targets are not responsible for being abused at work. 

Well, what about aggressors? Are they responsible? They are certainly accountable and answerable for their actions of abuse. They make conscious choices to actively go after targets. But, if the environment was not vulnerable to bullying, would aggressors be allowed to flourish? The answer is most likely not. 

It is really the organizations who are responsible for workplace aggression. They create the conditions that allow aggressors to get rewards instead of consequences for poor behavior. Organizations often ignore reports of bullying or mishandle them.  This only intensifies the bullying and encourages the aggressor to continue.  Organizations intentionally or unintentionally sustain bullying in the workplace.  

Organizations frequently do not receive proper training on this issue nor do they have policies or procedures to prevent or address workplace aggression. Organizations treat persistent workplace aggression like other conflict which is a highly ineffective approach. These tactics do not mandate intense interventions. In fact, they often end up re-victimizing the target and rewarding the workplace aggressor. Thus, creating an environment that promotes workplace bullying. 

Organizations are responsible for persistent workplace aggression including creating, sustaining, stopping, and preventing it. It is such a complicated problem and encompasses every aspect of the workplace that it takes organizational involvement to successfully manage and prevent it. 

If you or your organization is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there today.