Given the recent mass shootings and physical violence we have all heard about, it is important to look at the implications this could have on workplaces. Persistent workplace aggression in and of itself is a form of violence. However, most often it manifests as verbal, psychological, and/or emotional. Yet when persistent workplace aggression is not addressed adequately organizations are at risk for intensified violence. This could include physical violence. The term “going postal” is associated with deadly violence aimed at the work place and so we know that these things do in fact occur.

It is difficult to comprehend that aggression happens in the workplace at all, let alone that it could lead to physical violence and even death. However, long term persistent workplace aggression takes a toll on everyone, especially aggressors and targets. Both aggressors and targets are at risk for perpetrating violence, especially when the aggression is ignored and not addressed.

Although targets frequently internalize the abuse by taking it out on themselves, they are not immune from perpetrating violence on others. All targets have a breaking point. After enduring long periods of mistreatment without being taken seriously, lashing out at others may seem like the only option.

Aggressors, on the other hand, are more likely to react violently when they are confronted and held accountable for their workplace aggression. Aggressors are a custom to being in control and getting away with abusing others. They are not use to having their own behavior scrutinized. As such, reacting violently against the organization may be their solution when they are accused of workplace abuse.

Unfortunately, these incidences of mass violence are increasing with more and more intensity. In this day and age, organizations need to be hyper vigilant in order to protect their workers and to keep everyone safe. Organizations need to take persistent workplace aggression seriously and ensure that it stops once allegations are made.  If not, serious risk for increased workplace violence occurs, which unfortunately as the news dictates can result in extreme harm for people. Workplace violence can be prevented and we all have a responsibility to guarantee that this happens. Let’s all make a commitment to stop workplace violence.

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!! We can stop workplace violence.

The biggest obstacle for targets in the workplace is identifying they are a target of persistent workplace aggression. Most professionals do not associate bullying or persistent workplace aggression as something that happens to adults but rather to children. As such, we do not often link the mistreatment by coworkers to bullying at work.  We just call it unprofessional behavior.  However, it might be more than that. 

Determining the frequency and intensity of the aggression is the first step in identifying if you are a target at work. Workers should keep track of how often the bad behavior is occurring and rate how damaging the mistreatment is. Recording what kind of aggression is happening is also imperative This helps in the process of establishing if the workplace is impacted by aggression.

It is important to remember that persistent workplace aggression can occur on a daily, weekly, and/or monthly basis. Persistent workplace aggression is unrelenting mistreatment and exploitation. Maintaining a log for a length of time is vital to help develop a better picture of what is happening.

Persistent workplace aggression influences the target in a negative fashion and typically affects the workers ability to do their job. So for example, are you struggling with sleeping or eating because of the treatment of at work? Are you so worried about the response of the aggressor that your ability to complete your paperwork in a timely fashion suffers? I know for myself, I required something to help me sleep and spent so much time responding to the aggressors that I did not have adequate time to prepare for teaching, as I should.  Determining how the bad behavior is impacting you at your job and outside of work helps identify if you are a target.

A significant change in ones attitude about work can help establish if persistent workplace aggression is occurring. Are you constantly thinking about finding another job or quitting? Are you persistently checking the clock to see if it is time to go? Do you have to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally before you go into work?

I did a lot of self-talk to get ready for the abusive environment daily. As I walked from the parking lot to my building, I would feel the weight of the abuse on my shoulders as I got closer to my office and I would tell myself I could make it through another day. I had songs I would sing to boost myself up for another day of mistreatment. I made excuses to leave work early because leaving work was always a relief.

Determining the pattern and intensity of the mistreatment coupled with the affect it is having helps to identifying if you are a target.  Putting a name to the problem and identifying that persistent workplace aggression is happening is important. It really is the first step in the process of coping and developing a better understanding of the work environment. If you are not sure whether you are 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.

The question about reporting persistent workplace aggression comes up inevitably when working with targets and/or bystanders.  Targets and bystanders want to know whether they should report or not.

Many experts in this area direct targets and bystanders to speak out in every case where persistent workplace aggression is happening.  Their logic is that making administration aware of this issue will help improve the work environment.    Ideally, I would like to offer the same suggestion, but because of the complexity of this issue, I suggest that reporting is not always the best option. 

Persistent workplace aggression is not such a cut and dry issue.  It is extremely complicated.  As such, targets and bystanders need to think through and explore all of the possible outcomes before they make a decision about reporting. They should seek consultation both in and out of the organization. This will help ensure that they are prepared to deal with all the effects of their decision.

Reporting an aggressor can in fact improve the overall work setting, particularly if administration is not aware that workplace aggression is happening. This, then, provides the organization with an opportunity to intervene on and enhance the work culture. 

However, reporting an aggressor(s) can make the work setting even worse than it already is for targets and bystanders. Once an aggressor is identified, they often partake in more aggression and retaliation, which occurs both covertly and overtly. As such, targets and bystanders need to consider several factors in their decision making process. Some of these are as follows:

One of the first questions to consider is has administration been alerted to the aggression before? If so, how many times? What has been the response to these reports, if any? The likelihood that administration will take complaints seriously about persistent workplace aggression if they are already aware of it is very slim. Administration may listen to the report.  However, if they have previous knowledge of it is most likely they are deciding not to intervene in the work environment.  The target and bystander put themselves at risk for aggression and retaliation. 

Another factor to evaluate is the relationship between the aggressor(s) and administration.  Often times the aggressor works at building strong relationships with administration. If this has been successful, administration tends to believe the aggressor. It is most likely that the aggressor has reported their version of what is happening in the workplace, which includes badmouthing the target and/or bystanders.  Therefore, the aggressor has credibility with administration.

Targets and bystanders need to assess their relationship with administration. The aggressor has conveyed information to administration about them.  This information may or may not be factual. Administration may already be under the impression that they are “trouble makers.” Administration may view the target and/or bystander as unreliable and this could affect how serious they take the allegations.  The allegations may immediately be discounted based on administration's views of the target and/or bystander.

There are consequences when aggression is reported. Targets and bystanders need to be prepared for these. Retaliation and additional aggression by administration and/or the aggressor(s) can occur after reports are made. Administration may or may not respond to the allegations. Targets and bystanders vest in the idea that administration is the necessary change agent for the persistent workplace aggressive environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Targets and bystanders need to ensure that they can manage with the consequences no matter what they are. If they decide to report, they need to be prepared for both positive and/or negative outcomes.

Reporting persistent workplace aggression is very important. Targets and bystanders need to consciously assess the advantages and disadvantages of doing so and their decision is ultimately should focus on what is in their best interest. They decide whether to make the report or not.