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In an organization, meetings are necessary.  They can be extremely problematic and toxic in environment where persistent workplace aggression exists.  However, they are also times that, leaders can observe and even help modify problem behaviors in the workplace if they take the opportunity to do so.

The person running the meeting needs to be proactive and develop a strong game plan before the meeting starts.  A clear and concise agenda including a time-frame should be sent to members for review before the meeting.  This allows the members to develop a clear understanding of what will be occurring.  This can be extremely helpful to targets so they the know topics that will be discussed.

The leader should work with the members to identify and mutually agree upon rules for the meeting.  This effective tool can prevent bad behavior and helps the leader keep the meeting on track.  These can include things, such as taking turn to speak, maintaining an appropriate tone of voice, and/or not interrupting one another. These seem like basic rules that professionals should understand.  However, in organizations, where persistent workplace aggression occurs, it is likely that the aggressor uses these types of behaviors to intimidate and harass the target.

It is important that the guidelines are mutually agreed upon because this helps to create an environment of being cooperative with one another rather than adversarial. The leader can also refer back to the rules if anyone’s behavior becomes problematic rather than appearing as if she/he is taking sides.  For example, the leader can say “Jan, I understand that you are getting frustrated and your point of view is important, but we all agreed that we would not interrupt one another.  I will get to you as soon as John is done speaking.”

Leaders need to make sure that they maintain a sense of control over the meeting and that bad behavior is restricted before it escalates.  The leader should be prepared to discontinue the meeting if problematic behavior becomes out of hand.  This sends a clear message to the aggressor(s) and the target that aggressive behavior is not tolerated.

Leaders also need to be highly attentive to everyone in the meeting including their verbal and non-verbal behavior.  Are side conversations happening?  Who is dominating the conversation?  Who is not participating?  Who sits by whom?  The observation of these behaviors by the leader provides insight into what is happening in their organization.  It can also lead to the effective solutions that can help stop and even prevent persistent workplace aggression.

If you or someone you know 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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Dealing with a persistent workplace aggressor is always stressful. In the workplace, targets, bystanders, and aggressors must interact. In anticipation of these encounters, targets may sweat, develop knots in their stomachs, or even have a restless night beforehand. Targets may not be able to stop the workplace aggression, but having strategies developed beforehand is a way to reduce anxiety and manage their experience at work better.

 Targets need to develop a conscious awareness of their own reactions and responses to the workplace aggressor.   Persistent workplace aggressors are masterminds at pushing buttons and setting the target off. Targets need to develop a keen understanding of the red flags that go up when the aggressor is on the attack. Identifying these assist a target with maintaining control of their emotions and reactions when encountering an aggressor. 

Developing scripts that a target can pull from in an encounter with an aggressor is another effective strategy. Scripts provide prescribed responses that the target has created before an encounter with the aggressor(s). Scripts should become automatic responses that the target can use when in a stressful situation with an aggressor.

For example, I worked with a target who always responded in a defensive manner when confronted by the aggressor during meetings. The defensive reaction by the target only heightened the aggressor’s behavior. The target and I worked out scripts that were utilized when being pushed by the aggressor. The target would respond with comments, such as “I hear what you are saying” or, “I will take that into consideration.” These non-threatening, automatic comments allowed the target to participate in the meeting and maintain professional demeanor. Another benefit of these scripts was that they helped in neutralizing the aggressor's negative responses toward the target.

Targets should develop several scripts that they keep in their toolbox to respond to different encounters with aggressors.

Targets that have allies in the workplace can also utilize them for support during encounters with aggressors. Allies can step in if the aggressor begins to attack the target, but they can also help monitor the target’s reactions during encounters. Thus, making the target aware of their own behavior and red flags that may exist.

In the above example, this target had an ally who provided support during meetings that increased the target’s awareness of their emotional reactions. The ally and target worked out a signal system (tapping of the right finger on the top of the left hand) that they used during the meetings if the ally believed the target was being defensive. As a result of this, the target identified the red flags that occurred when the aggressor was  getting the better of their emotions and they developed more effective coping strategies. The aggressive behavior did not stop, but the target felt more in control of the situation. Thus, their work experience improved.

If you or someone you know 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.