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Persistent work aggression is extremely traumatizing to the target. Targets often utilize employee assistance programs and seek mental health help in order to cope. As such, mental health practitioners need to receive training on persistent workplace aggression to better help targets. 

It is a struggle for targets to identify exactly what they are experiencing because most workers do not equate work with abuse.  Nor do they fathom that they will experience persistent workplace aggression. Therefore, it takes time to label what targets are actually going through. Mental health practitioners can help targets identify and name what is happening to them. As such, mental health professionals need to ensure that they understand the complex nature of persistent workplace aggression and recognize that other mental professionals, such as social workers, are indeed active aggressors perpetuating violence on their peers. They also can provide the support that targets need.

Mental health professionals need to develop a safety plan with targets about their work. This should include identifying at-risk times and activities where the target is most likely to be victimized, such as meetings. The safety plan should include coping mechanisms for these high-risk times including identifying supportive witnesses, developing key words and phrases to help diffuse situations, and ways to get away from the aggressor if the target is in fear of their personal safety. This can help minimize some of the fear the target is experiencing in the workplace. 

Mental health workers need to recognize the continued trauma that targets suffer. Targets are victimized by the aggressor(s) and then re-victimized by organizations when they fail to intervene. This is a repeated cycle for victims that can happen daily, weekly, and/or monthly. Many targets are wounded workers because of the continued trauma they experience at their job. Some are subjected to daily violence in the workplace that is encouraged and supported by their organization. Each day, they go in to work fearful and wonder when their next attack will occur. This creates a tremendous amount of anxiety where mental health professionals can provide much needed support for the worker.

Understanding the continued trauma that targets experience is vital information that mental health practitioners must have in order to help the target cope and manage what is happening to them. Persistent workplace aggression has detrimental effects on a target’s personal and professional life. Mental health professionals should work with targets to develop effective coping mechanisms for reoccurring violence. Persistent workplace aggression influences every aspect of a target’s life including work habits, family life, friendships, physical health, and mental health. Targets are dealing abuse at work and trying to manage the impact that persistent workplace aggression is having on the rest of their life as well. They also question their own work abilities and why no one is taking the workplace abuse seriously. This can sometimes be more detrimental than the actual aggression.    

Mental health practitioners need to be careful on how they broach the subject of leaving and realize leaving may not be an option. Most targets need their job to support themselves as well as their family. The consequences for their career and financial situation may not be something they can live with. Leaving can be difficult especially when the target knows that they are not the problem in the workplace. Mental health professionals need to respect the target's right to self-determination but also help the target see the long term consequences of an abusive work environment. This is a very fine line.


Targets need mental health practitioners who listen to their stories, support them, provide support, and help the target to rebuild confidence in their professional skills. This will allow the target to deal with their current work situation as well as make future decisions about their job.

If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent workplace aggression or you need education on 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 affects everyone and ultimately, leaders are responsible for stopping it. However, more often than not, leadership fails to intervene.

One of the reasons for this is the leaders are often not adequately trained nor do they have the skills needed to deal with persistent workplace aggression. Luckily, this is an easy fix. Leaders can get training and learn the skills necessary so they can effectively cope with persistent workplace aggression. Organizations need to invest in training and skill development to prepare leaders to deal with workplace aggression and to protect their workers.

The problem with leadership becomes more complicated when leaders do not intervene because of their vestment in the dysfunction that is persistent workplace aggression. Persistent workplace aggression is empowering for the aggressor, but also for leadership. In these situations, the leader feels needed by the workers including the target, bystanders, and the aggressors. They are controlling the environment by not intervening. 

Leaders are frequently fed information about their workers from the aggressors. This information is mostly about the target's behavior which is most likely inaccurate. As such, leadership bonds with the aggressor and aligns with them. They believe the aggressor has the best interest of the workplace at heart. The leader fails to see how they are being used by the aggressor. Rather they see that getting information on their subordinates is an important part of leadership and it makes the leader feel as if they are being a good supervisor. They are running a tight ship because they think they know what is going on. They reward the aggressor by not intervening, thus reinforcing the aggressor’s bad behavior and re-victimizing the targets.

Targets and bystanders consult with the leader providing them with a purpose and a false sense of pride in their leadership style because they listen to their workers.  It makes the leader feel important, needed, and reinforces their self-esteem. The leaders provide advice, suggestions, and even possible ways they could intervene to the targets and bystanders. Yet, to maintain the culture, the leader has no intention of following through on the promises they made to the target or bystander. A leader who fails to intervene effectively is very similar to an orchestra conductor. Every movement of their baton dictates each workers' behavior and the conductor orchestrates an environment that reinforces either good work habits or bad.

Another reason that leaders fail to intervene because often they are the workplace aggressors. Therefore, intervention would mean that they would have to change their own behavior and for many leaders, this is just too hard. Aggressive leaders are just like other workplace aggressors, they struggle to reflect and improve their own workplace behavior. They also get empowered by being aggressive. Thus, helping to maintain the culture of persistent workplace aggression.

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.


 
 
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Organizations experience numerous consequences when they do not stop persistent workplace aggression. The most tragic outcomes are for targets when organizations fail to intervene. Targets are at continued risk for physical and/or emotional trauma, both personally and professionally, as long as they work in an abusive culture where persistent workplace aggression continues. Some of these workers become a wounded worker. 

The wounded worker has experienced years of workplace aggression and desperately longs for justice. They most likely sought out reconciliation on more than one occasion, hoping the organization would take serious action. However, their attempts at intervention have been unsuccessful and actually increased their victimization. The aggression and retaliation intensified and the quality of their work environment decreased. Thus, increasing their trauma from persistent workplace aggression.

The internalized stress that wounded workers experience manifests itself through physical and emotional problems. The connection is not often made between the two because physicians and/or mental health practitioners do not ask the right questions in order to do so. However, most wounded workers have some physical or emotional manifestations directly related to years of abuse.

The wounded worker blurs the line between victim and aggressor by increasing their participation in aggressive behavior. They begin to seek their own form of justice even while they continue to experience workplace abuse. The wounded worker increases their aggressive behavior towards the aggressor, but also includes others at their job.  They justify this behavior under the auspice of trying to hold the aggressor accountable and to improve the environment. The wounded worker uses other professionals as pawns to promote their own agenda and may start to use aggression towards other people as well. This is a critical point for the target because they are at extreme risk from transforming into a workplace aggressor. Their disempowerment has left them no other option than to find empowerment through the mistreatment of others.

The wounded worker attempts to survive the workplace aggression by acquiring coping mechanisms that help them avoid or decrease the abuse. Some of these are unhealthy and ultimately harm the target professionally and personally. 

Here is a real example from a workplace littered with years of toxicity and abuse. This workplace had multiple aggressors and targets spanning over 15 years. During one meeting, after a heated discussion, one of the workplace aggressors got up and charged around the table at a target. After the meeting was over, the targets talked about what happened. In particular, they discussed how inappropriate it was for the aggressor to use physical intimidation. One of the targets acted shocked. When pressed about their reaction, they admitted that they were not aware that this had even happened and had no recollection of the physical aggression. This target, a victim of persistent workplace aggression for over twelve years, disassociated herself from the aggressive environment in order to cope with the abuse. This wounded worker learned how to separate herself emotionally from the abusive environment so well that she actually was not able to remember an incident of physical intimidation.

It is so important for organizations to intervene immediately and effectively to preserve and protect their workers. If they do not, there will only be more wounded workers among us.

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.