Some organizations are plagued with persistent workplace aggression.  The research shows that there are some organizations that are in fact at-risk for workplace violence.  However, organizations often inadvertently create cultures of persistent workplace aggression when they fail to address this issue in the workplace by not ensuring that they have adequate leadership. 

Organizations are particularly at risk for the development of workplace aggression when the administration and/or leaders are the aggressors.  Many times leaders in the workplace believe that they have the ability to leader merely because they are in a position of power.  They may be unsure of how to use power in a positive manner and may fall prey to using power to harm others in the workplace.  Anyone who speaks out against them is likely to become a target.  Thus, the seed for a persistent workplace aggression is planted.

It is standard operating procedure for an organization to promote someone based on longevity or because they have a particular skill set geared towards the workplace, such as writing or math, not based on their leadership abilities.  These leaders really require training to develop their skills.  However, organizations frequently do not provide the necessary support or training to ensure that the administrators are trained appropriately.  As a result, leaders are at-risk to develop ineffective ways to deal the workplace.  This paves the way for persistent workplace aggression to start and continue.

Leaders often do not recognize their own bad behavior or how their leadership impacts the overall culture.  The assumption is often that if you are in a leadership position that you have the ability to lead.  Effective leaders are those that are willing to evaluate their own abilities and adjust them based on feedback provided by their workers.  Ineffective leaders continue to do what is in their best interest which many times is aggression in the workplace.  The impact that this has on an organization can be devastating because it provides the opening for continued persistent workplace aggressors.

Leaders who are aggressive in the workplace role modeling this behavior as acceptable and as such, persistent workplace aggression is supported and encouraged.  Even though workers may cycle in and out, the culture has become one of persistent workplace aggression and workers are quickly socialized into this.  Workplace aggressors are rewarded and targets are victimized.  Thus, creating the perpetual culture of persistent workplace aggression. 

It is vital that organizations address issues of leadership to ensure safe working environments for everyone.  If you or the organization you work for is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, 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.

I recently presented for a group of mental health professionals on persistent workplace aggression.  During the presentation, I really noticed how the participants were struggling with differentiating persistent workplace aggression from conflict.  The two, of course, are very different, but how so?

Everyone in the workplace experiences some sort of conflict.  We all get irritated or upset about something that happens at our jobs.  Most of us have made comments to our co-workers or in a meeting that we later regret.  However, these are most likely part of normal workplace conflict, because these typically get resolved.  We let the issue go and move on. 

Persistent workplace aggression is abusive behavior that happens to a target by one or more perpetrators in the work environment on a regular basis.  A regular basis means that it occurs daily, weekly, and/or monthly.  The aggression is persistent, repeated, and occurs in multiple forms.  It can be verbal, physical, psychological, and/or cyber.  More often than not, aggressors go after the target on several fronts at once.  This means they just don't attack via cyber aggression, but they also weave into their abuse verbal, physical, and/or psychological. 

For example, a target in a week could receive several inappropriate emails from an aggressor while at the same time, the aggressor is spreading rumors about the target.  The next week could consist of the target being yelled at and called names in a meeting while at the same time, the aggressor spreads lies about the target to the supervisor. 

At the height of my own experiences with workplace aggression, I was severely mistreated on a daily basis.  An average day for me consisted of frequent inappropriate emails, hearing people talking about me, refusal of my colleagues to speak to me, and some even would turn around in the hall way when they saw me.  These types of behaviors happened multi-times a day for months on end without any break and I had many aggressors as well. 

Persistent workplace aggression is often compared to domestic violence.  It is certainly abusive behavior.  However, it has been my experience, that workplace aggression rarely, if ever has a honeymoon period.  More often the violence continues frequently and unfortunately gets progressively worse.  Persistent workplace aggression is so much more than conflict in the workplace which is why we must believe targets and begin to address this issue. 

If you or the organization you work for is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, 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.