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As the awareness of persistent workplace aggression increases, organizations are more likely to start addressing the issue of workplace violence.  However, organizations frequently let the nature of bureaucracies impact their ability to effectively prevent and stop persistent workplace aggression. 

Once an issue is identified in an organization, there are policies, procedures, and decision making processes that are followed.  These often lend themselves to long time periods in which little to no progress is made to solve or identify solutions.  Meetings are used to address these issues and ideally, they would help to develop solutions.  A group of workers getting together to brainstorm and problem solve.  But one of the biggest problems with many meetings is that they are not effective or efficient.  Meetings are time consuming and frequently only contribute to lip service about the issue and there is on-going discussion with no action. 

Decision-making follows the chain of command in most organizations.  Consensus is needed for solutions, such as developing an anti-workplace aggression policy, are often required to move forward, but this makes the actual development of resolutions vulnerable to becoming stagnate.  The larger the agency or organization, the more layers needed for approval and moving forward.  As such, getting all the key players to support a solution can be problematic. 

I recently talked with a former co-worker who informed me that their agency was putting together a resource list on persistent workplace aggression.  I think this is a great idea.  However, this was one of the conversations I was part of when I was working at the agency several years ago.  So the agency has made no progress in truly dealing with workplace violence and have just continued the dialogue.  Even more importantly, this former co-worker felt as if the organization was making progress because persistent workplace aggression was part of the strategic plan and meetings were being held to problem solve solutions. 

This is frequently a technique that organizations use to keep workers satisfied that they are addressing the concern without really dealing with it.  Organizations continue to have conversations about workplace violence, but there are never any real solutions developed.  Thus, persistent workplace aggression continues and most likely, increases intensity.  Unfortunately, this is the norm and not the exception.

If an organization is truly committed to effectively managing persistent workplace aggression, a task force with key stakeholders should be created.  This task force should develop a plan of action that includes a short timeline with accountability.  Administrator support is always required. 

For more information on how I can help your organization with 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.



 
 
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Over the years, I have talked with several organizational leaders about persistent workplace aggression.  I often hear from leadership that there were no signs that their workplace was experiencing violence.  My response is always the same.  There are always signs, if we choose to see them.  But what are they?

One of the first indications that a workplace is having problems is change in work habits, including increased absences and use of sick leave.  Additionally, leaders should also be wary of workers who start to tell on their co-workers’ behaviors.  (This may seem like a nice perk for a leader to get the supposed ins and outs of what is going on.  However, this is classic aggressor behavior to build trust with the leader so the leader will take the side of the aggressor and not the target.)

Variations in work patterns for bystanders, targets, and even aggressors often go unnoticed because it is not unusual for people to alter their behavior somewhat in an organization.  However, these behavior changes are a slow progression from minor alterations in work habits that eventually lead to an entirely different work patterns for workers.  For example, a target or a bystander who was once early to meetings may start to show up for meetings late.  These people may also have participated in meetings but their contributions also decline.  These workers then sporadically show up for meetings and eventually, they stop.  Workers tend to change multiple work behaviors over time.  These are clues for leadership that something is not right in the work environment.

The second hint that a work culture is problematic is worker turn over.  People tend to leave a problematic workplace if they can especially targets.  This includes both workers who have been at the agency for long and short periods of time.  Leadership should investigate thoroughly the reasons that people have left and implement an exit interview with pointed questions to get a good understanding of what they were experiencing at work.

Finally, leaders need to listen and really hear what is being said by their workers.  This includes formal and informal concerns.  Workers in fact do make complaints and identify the signs that persistent workplace aggression is occurring.  More often than not, leaders do not listen, thus making the work environment worse.  It is likely that leadership has received multiple criticisms about the workplace aggressor but have opted not to act on these.   Leadership should assess the repeated complaints that they received about a particular worker and objectively investigate these because this person may be a workplace aggressor. 


Leadership must remember that persistent workplace aggression is never one single incident, but rather an accumulation of occurrences.  Therefore, leadership must look at all of these elements and the signs over a period of time in order to determine if persistent workplace aggression is infiltrating their organization. 

 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.



 
 
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Persistent workplace aggression is becoming an increasingly significant issue in the workplace.  But whose problem is it really?  Is it the individuals or the organizations?

Individuals are responsible for their own behavior but ultimately organizations are accountable for persistent workplace aggression. Organizations control the environment which sets the stage for what happens in the workplace, both positively and negatively. 

Organizations often blame the workers for issues rather than trying to develop an understanding of their responsibility in cultivating persistent workplace aggression.   Certainly individuals need to answer for their own behavior, but it is the organization that allows and at times, even encourages persistent workplace aggression.  

They do this in many ways.  First they often do not take allegations of persistent workplace aggression seriously nor do they develop a clear understanding of what this type of workplace violence entails.  This lack of understanding inadvertently allows workplace aggressors to get away with poor behavior and also creates an environment where mistreating one another becomes acceptable.  Thus, producing a regularly aggressive workplace.

Organizations also are responsible for maintaining their workers, including those in leadership and administrative positions.  As such, they need to ensure that the administrators who they employ know how to be a leader.  Organizations frequently do not support or teach workers how to be an effective leader.  This can lead to significant workplace problems.  Organizations typically just promote workers due to longevity and work abilities not on leadership skills.  So for example, I have exemplary social work skills, but that does not mean I have any ability to be a leader or maintain a healthy workplace.

Many times organizations do not satisfactory deal with conflict and issues go unresolved.  These can then fester out of control and create a persistent workplace environment.  Organizations must ensure that conflict and issues within the workplace are dealt with sufficiently.  This is vital no matter how long it takes for worker resolution and to show everyone that any type of workplace aggression is unacceptable. 

Organizations often fail to resolve workplace inequities, such as work assignments or workloads, which provide a solid foundation for persistent workplace aggression.  These type of workplace concerns lead workers to have feelings of resentment and animosity which many times manifest themselves as workplace violence. Organizations need to listen to worker complaints and work to create an equitable environment.


Organizations are responsible for persistent workplace aggression and there is no time like today for them to start ensuring that persistent workplace aggression stops and to start preventing workplace violence. 

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.



 
 
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I recently had a conversation with a friend about the law firm they previously worked for. During this discussion, they described their workplace where one person’s bad behavior transformed a good work environment into a hostile place.  My friend opted to leave because there were no consequences for the person.  During the conversation, I suggested that there was persistent workplace aggression happening and that my friend was targeted.  This suggestion was abruptly dismissed and more importantly the person commented that workplace aggression could not have occurred in their office.  People often believe that they have not been targeted or that their workplace is immune from workplace violence. 

Part of the reason for this denial is that persistent workplace aggression is often associated with blue collar or working class jobs.  We do not link aggression or bad professional behavior with organizations that require a higher education.  However, it seems that the higher the education level required, the more vulnerable the workplace.    

Many of these organizations possess risk factors which make them susceptible for persistent workplace aggression.  This coupled with the assumption that a higher education decreases the likelihood for one to engage in bad workplace behavior, only increases the likelihood an organization will experience persistent workplace aggression. 

Another misconception about persistent workplace aggression is that a worker with one or more degrees will not experience workplace mistreatment or that they can stop it.  Somehow, a degree makes people resistant to workplace violence.  This is not all accurate.  Persistent workplace aggression can be extremely covert and hard to detect.  More importantly, very few organizations take this issue seriously.  It is often unaddressed or ignored in the workplace.  Thus, making it difficult for a target to manage or to get the organization to deal with.

It is vital that we recognize the seriousness of this issue.  We also need to start to educate ourselves and address persistent workplace aggression because we are all vulnerable to workplace violence, no matter what our profession.  

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.