Targets of persistent workplace aggression experience a great deal of emotions and stress at their place of employment. They are regularly the victim of vicious attacks by one or more of their colleagues. This is very demeaning and disparaging. They have more than likely complained about the persistent workplace aggression without avail. Thus, leaving the target feeling more disempowered. As such, there is a great temptation for targets to participate in workplace aggression themselves. To “get back” at the aggressors and bystanders by being aggressive is in fact very empowering. At times, this behavior feels good to targets because all other course of action has been unsuccessful in stopping the persistent workplace aggression.
As a target, I fell prey to this temptation and did display workplace aggression in response to being targeted by my co-workers and supervisor. I would occasionally send an unprofessional email, make a snide remark, or roll my eyes when the aggressor or a bystander was talking. It certainly did not resolve the issue, but in the moment, I felt I had some power and control. Although it gave me temporary satisfaction, it certainly did not work in my favor or improve the situation. I may in fact have made it worse by allowing myself to stoop to their level. This made it harder for me to justify my grievances about the persistent workplace aggression that I was experiencing since now the aggressor could also point to my own bad behavior.
I strongly encourage targets to resist the temptation at all costs to participate in workplace aggression. Targets should not lower themselves to the level of the aggressor. This type of behavior can and will be used against the target by the aggressor(s) and/or bystanders. Given the dynamic of the work culture, this type of behavior puts the target at greater risk for retaliation, increased aggression, and supervisory discipline. Targets need to develop strategies or scripts that they can immediately use when the temptation to react aggressively occurs.
Targets do not have to react in the moment. There is power in maintaining a high quality of professional behavior and doing what is right in the workplace.
If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, please contact me at email@example.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at jankircher.com. Help is out there.
In a work environment where persistent workplace aggression is happening, confronting the aggressor is always part of the conversation. This can be difficult and often done in a manner that is not productive. This is because being part of an aggressive work culture tends to have increased tension and emotions run high. Targets feel victimized and are frequently kept on the defensive which makes them vulnerable to being reactionary. Witnesses may also be on the defensive but they are more likely to fall underneath the radar. They are emotionally involved, but are not as likely to get as emotionally charged in response to the aggressor.
No matter if you are a witness or a target, identifying and calling out bad behavior is part of coping and dealing with persistent workplace aggression. It is a necessary step in changing the overall culture.
It is vital that all emotion is taken out of any conversation with the aggressor, especially when you are identifying aggressive behavior. For an aggressor, emotion is a sign of vulnerability and can be used to manipulate any situation against the witness or target. Use “I” statements and stick to the facts.
For example, “I received an email from you on May 1, 2015. The email stated that I had not completed my work and it was carbon copied to the entire department. On April 29, 2015, I submitted the paperwork you mentioned to you as well as to your supervisor. I have a dated copy of the paperwork if you need it. In the future, please note that our email policy strongly discourages carbon copying the entire department. I will be available for a face-to-face conversation if follow up is needed. Thank you.”
This response is clear, factual, and void of emotions. The response also identifies the behavior that is unacceptable, the reason the email was in appropriate, and also allows for face-to-face follow up if needed.
Aggressors will almost always respond back to any sort of confrontation with more aggression. This should be expected. Witnesses and targets should develop neutral responses in an effort to continue to try to defuse the situation. Neutral responses can include statements, such as restating what the aggressor said, or “I hear what you are saying,” or “I will take that into consideration.”
For more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org