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Being a target of workplace bullying is devastating especially to one’s professional life. In the beginning, a target just wonders what is going on and often seeks a rational explanation for the way they are being treated. They might even ask for advice and suggestions from their co-workers. The target’s professional behavior basically stays the same.

However, over time, the target’s performance at work does change because of the continued attacks on their professional conduct. This is partially because of the intensification of the bullies strikes and their continued determination to harm the target’s status and reputation. 

Target’s also tend to internalize what is happening to them. They begin to question their work and professionalism based on the propaganda and lies that the bully is perpetrating. Targets question their ability to do their job and become hypersensitive about the quality of their work. The accusations that are being made often become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the target as they over compensate to prove what the bully says is wrong.

For example, Patricia is a nurse at the local hospital and had an exemplary record including written comments about the quality of her paperwork. A few months ago, Patricia started to get bullied by her supervisor. Her bully made complaints and accusations about Patricia’s paperwork. These criticisms included Patricia’s inability to get her paperwork done in a timely fashion and her paperwork contained inaccurate assessments. Overtime, Patricia lost confidence in her ability to do her paperwork.

To improve her paperwork and combat the bullying, Patricia started to write longer and more thorough reports including more details in her assessments. She proofread her paperwork two and three times to ensure that she was not doing the things her bullying was accusing her of. 

These modifications in her behavior impacted her ability to get her work done in a timely fashion.  Patricia started taking more time to get her paperwork done because she was concerned about the quality of it. Her attempts to resist the bullying became a self-fulfilling prophecy for her. Her bully made accusations that her paperwork was not done in a timely fashion and in the end, her paperwork was not done in a timely fashion.

The best strategy for targets is to maintain a high quality of professionalism and work. In a workplace bullying environment, this is much more difficult to do than it seems. However, it is vital that targets understand that they are being bullied for no reason and most of the accusations that are being have no merit. So instead of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, targets need to continue to be the quality worker they have always been. 

This week, continue to do your best at work. If you know someone is being bullied, show your support by complimenting them on their work.

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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There are excessive costs to individuals and organizations when workplace bullying is not effectively addressed, but workplace bullying also impacts professions.

Many experts have a blame the victim mentality when it comes to identifying targets of workplace bullying.  The target is vulnerable, does not have the ability to speak up for themselves, and they are somehow flawed.  Therefore, the person is responsible for being bullied.  Organizations can then justify not intervening because the victim is at fault and if they leave the organization it is not a big deal.  (Check out my feature article on who is at risk for bullying). 

However, this kind of thinking is wrong.  Many targets of bullying are the workers that are creative, have integrity and a good work ethic. Targets are often hard workers who go above and beyond even when it is not expected. Targets are the workers that organizations should be protecting and vesting in, but unfortunately, this is almost never the case.  As a result, targets leave organizations to stop workplace bullying and this is a loss for organizations. 

However, targets are not only leaving organizations, but workplace bullying is driving them out of their professions as well.  Since targets are frequently high quality workers, professions are negatively influenced when targets make career changes.  So, nurses, counselors, and social workers, for example, who are targets of bullying, may opt to change their career because of the abuse and lack of organizational intervention.  It is, therefore, not just a loss for organizations, but it is a high cost for these professions that are in dire need of effective workers. 

It is crucial that organizations take workplace bullying seriously to ensure that quality workers stay in their agencies, but also because many professions, especially helping professions, cannot afford to lose their best workers to bullying. 

This week have the courage to stand up against the workplace bully and encourage administration to stop the abuse in your organization.  Do this for your agency, but also for your profession.

Don’t forget to check out my survival guide if you are a target of workplace bullying.  If you or your organization is experiencing workplace bullying, 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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Workplace bullying is a complicated issue that entangles itself into every aspect of one's life.  However, for some professions, it becomes more complex when you are experiencing bullying and working with people who are bullied.  The question is can you work with targets if you are a victim yourself

For medical and mental health professionals, this is often a dilemma they must maneuver through on a regular basis because these are high risk professions for workplace bullying.  As such, medical and mental health workers may be victims bullying themselves while offering suggestions to their clients and patients who are also targets.  This puts them in an extremely difficult position. 

Medical and mental health professionals are in the business of caring for people often when they are most vulnerable.  They are exposed to hearing people’s life stories, including accounts of workplace bullying.  They give out lots of advice to their clients and patients about dealing with workplace bullying.  At the same time, they may be experiencing workplace bullying themselves.

Here are some suggestions for medical and mental health professionals who find themselves in this position.  First, it is vital that professionals have an awareness of this dilemma.  This recognition allows the medical or mental professional to start to address how being a victim is impacting their patient and client care. 

Second, it is vital that they receive education specifically on workplace bullying.  Knowing about bullying is key to coping effectively with it as a target as well as being able to give solid advice to patients and clients. (Check out my featured article about training on bullying for professionals.) Without specific training on workplace bullying, it is likely these professionals are managing bullying like conflict.  Thus, putting themselves and their clients at risk for increased bullying. 

Medical and mental health workers need to ensure that they are applying their education on bullying to themselves.
  This includes documenting as well as utilizing supports and other professions to help them cope as a victim.  Being able to take care of themselves as a victim will only strengthen their ability to help others.

Finally, medical and mental health professionals must try to remain objective and separate their own experience from bullying from that of their patients and clients.  Techniques like self-talk and role-playing can assist professionals with this.  This helps ensure that they are giving are effective guidance rather than suggestions about ways they wish they could deal with their bully. Professionals need to be aware that they are not oversharing about their own experiences and utilizing the helping relationship to cope with their workplace bullying.  They need to be able to step away from their patients and clients if they feel themselves losing their ability to be objective.

This week, if you are a target of workplace bullying, make sure you are taking care of yourself.  This helps you as well as your patients and clients.

Don’t forget to check out my survival guide if you are a target of workplace bullying.  If you or your organization is experiencing workplace bullying, 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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Workplace bullying is a complex and difficult issue that is plaguing organizations in the United States and globally.  One of the questions that I often get asked is can an organization truly stop and manage workplace bullying.  Of course, I believe that the answer to this question is yes.  But what does it take for an organization to stop workplace bullying.

First and foremost, organizations need to know what workplace bullying is.  Most organizations never receive any education on workplace bullying.  They get training on conflict resolution and frequently assume that this is adequate.  Unfortunately, it is not.  (I recommend reading my blogs on the significant differences between conflict and workplace bullying.)  Treating workplace bullying like conflict almost always exacerbates the problem of bullying rather than helping to solve it.  Organizations, therefore, need to have a clear understanding of workplace bullying to begin to address the issue in their organization.

Secondly, organizations need to acknowledge the possibility that their work environment could be toxic.  This is important because admitting that there may be problems or issues that need to be addressed is the first step in identifying solutions.  If an organization is unwilling to acknowledge that there may be concerns, they cannot develop resolutions that will effectively address workplace bullying.

An organization also needs to be willing to hold all workers accountable, have integrity, and equitability.  This includes everyone from the top to the bottom.  This will ensure fair treatment of workers and will help improve overall working relationships.

Finally, it is essential that organizations be flexible.  They need to try different solutions and evaluate them to see if they are working.  If they are not reducing workplace bullying, then organizations need to adapt their solutions.  Organizations must continue to review their interventions and adjust as needed.  This will help them continue to assess their work environment to ensure that workplace bullying is stopping as well as to prevent any future workplace violence.

This week, try to get an understanding of what your coworkers know about workplace bullying.  This will help you to gauge where your organization is in their understanding of this issue and a starting point to begin to solve workplace bullying.

If you or your organization is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there today.


 
 
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Workplace bullying can be devastating to one’s physical health causing a person to frequent their doctor more often. But, do medical professionals ask about what is happening at your work to better understand your health?

Best practice dictates that medical professionals do a thorough assessment of what is happening to you both personally and professionally. This includes asking questions about your work environment during your doctor’s visit so they can accurately treat your physical conditions. However, this is more often the exception rather than the rule. As such, targets and bystanders need to disclose what is happening at work to their doctor and nurses so get the best diagnosis even if they are not asked.

For myself, I have never been asked about the quality of my work environment or my work in general. My own lack of disclosure coupled with my doctor not asking made it difficult for medical professionals to accurately evaluate the causes of my health problems. 

Medical professionals should ask probing questions about the quality of one’s work environment to help with harm reduction. It is imperative that targets and bystanders of workplace abuse disclose what they are experiencing to their doctors as well. This will help medical professionals provide better care which should alleviate the physical conditions that targets and bystanders experience.

A word of caution for targets and bystanders. Critically evaluate any suggestions given because medical professionals, like many professions, have limited knowledge of how to effectively address bullying in the actual workplace. Increased education for medical professionals is needed.

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 former colleague who informed me that the organization started was trying to address workplace bullying. Of course, I was interested in this because bullying directly led to my leaving.  Another motivating factor for me was to develop an understanding if an organization that is plagued with bullying can effectively address this problem from the bottom up. So, can organizations solve workplace bullying when the initiative is driven from workers rather than leadership who is at the top?

I did a little inquisitive questioning to get a better understanding of what they had done and what they would be doing in the future. A committee of faculty members was created to address bullying amongst the faculty. A committee with only faculty is likely to be a limitation because they come from one perspective; that of a faculty.  A university that has sustained an environment of bullying for years, has many victims, bystanders, and bullies that are on all different levels. Faculty to faculty bullying often spills over onto staff and students.  As such, a real solution will involve understanding these perspectives, how they affect the bullying environment, and how the bullying culture impacts them.

Having a well-rounded committee is important. This includes having members from all different levels.  In a university, a committee could consist of faculty, staff, a union representative, and/or administration. A strong committee with a variety of members will allow for honest discussion about the current environment, procedures, and strategies for change.

Another avenue that this committee pursued was education. They received training on “workplace bullying.”  It did not appear that this was a mandatory workshop for faculty, human resources, and administration. It is necessary to educate everyone in the organization on workplace bullying. This provides a common understanding of what it is. It is not helpful if the same faculty continue to receive training on workplace bullying and others important entities in solving this issue are not required to take it. 

This training was focused on conflict resolution including using mediation as tool for resolution. Conflict resolution is important for organizations, but conflict and bullying are not the same. The approach to both are totally different. Organizations need understand workplace bullying and clearly identify how it is different than conflict to adequately design strategies to stop and prevent persistent workplace aggression. It is a mistake for organizations to address bullying using the guidelines for conflict resolution. Conflict resolution strategies are not equipped to deal with such a complex issue as workplace bullying. These strategies are most damaging to targets because they re-victimize targets and enhances the bullying environment. It is, therefore, vital that organizations get specific training in workplace bullying and not just conflict resolution to help them stop and prevent it.

I asked my former colleague about the commitment from administration. It seemed that some administrators tried to sit down with the committee to talk about this issue, but it did not appear that a solid commitment had been made. Leadership must be committed to solving workplace bullying for interventions to be truly effective. Administration has the power to enact policy change as well as hold workers accountable for both positive and negative professional standards. A committee working with an administration who does not have 100% buy in to solving workplace bullying will run into obstacles that will prevent them from truly stopping it.  The committee will most likely go through the motions without having the ability to take real action against workplace bullying.

In conclusion, committees and workers that lack the support of leadership may struggle with creating and developing real change in a workplace bullying environment.  Leadership and administration are powerful entities that can enforce policy change and demand professional accountability which is needed to stop workplace bullying. It seems, a top down approach to dealing with workplace bullying may be more effective in the long run. 

If you or your organization 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. Help is out there.


 
 
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Workplace bullying and persistent aggression are often regarded like normal workplace conflict. This is understandable because most people are not aware that bullying happens in the workplace. Those who are aware often do not have a clear definition of persistent workplace aggression.  It is, therefore, imperative for organizations to differentiate between workplace bullying and normal conflict to effectively manage, stop, and prevent it.

Normal workplace conflict is based on differences that people have. Conflict is usually about disagreements over a particular issue or issues in the workplace. For example, I might have conflict with another social worker because they scheduled a weekly meeting at a time in which I could not attend.  Eventually, we would work it out, let it go, and move on.  Conflict is normal and inevitable.  In many cases, it makes the organization stronger. 

Workplace bullying, on the other hand, is a series of incidents over time often without a triggering event.  Workplace bullying does not really have anything to do with conflict.  Rather, it is about attacks by a worker to sabotage another person’s reputation and professional standing using unprofessional behavior. 

When workers have conflict at their jobs, they may temporarily behave unprofessionally. It may even last for a period of time. Workers in conflict can almost always identify the event that started the problems. For the most part, the conflict gets resolved and the workers continue do their jobs. Normal conflict has a beginning and an end.

This is not the case with workplace bullying.  Targets often report they have no idea why the bullying started nor are they able to give you a specific incident or incidences that may have sparked persistent workplace aggression. 

Workplace bullying also goes on and on. It intensifies over time, rather than improving. So, for the target, there is no reason for the aggression and usually there is no end.   Workplace aggression does not make the environment better, but it deteriorates the culture, making it unbearable for everyone involved.

Bullies begin using aggression for lots of different reasons. Some start because the bully is jealous of the target or the target has qualities that the aggressor resents. Often bullies use aggression to mask their own insecurities, lack of self-esteem, or to empower themselves. Persistent workplace aggressors use bad behavior to get ahead, for self-promotion, and to secure their work relationships. Many times, because they do not have the professional skills to do so in any way other than bullying.

Persistent workplace aggression manifests out of the personal issues of the bully rather than differences between two workers. As such, it must be handled in differently.  Understanding the variances allows organizations and leadership to cope with aggression effectively rather than treating it like normal conflict which ends up perpetuating bullying and re-victimizing the target. 

If you or your organization is experiencing persistent workplace aggression or you 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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Persistent workplace aggression is a problem that most administrators are unaware of.  Some know that their organization suffers from aggression and choose not to intervene. Other leaders do not know how to manage the aggressor. There are leaders that believe that their lack of involvement is in the best interest of the bully. They are under the impression that confronting the bully will only perpetuate the problem and leaving them alone is better because the bullying will stop eventually. However, this is a false misconception.  It is in the best to hold the bully accountable, no matter how difficult, because lack of intervention ensures that aggression will continue and it can harm the bully, too.

Administrators who do not hold aggressors accountable are not only making the environment worse, but they may be damaging the aggressor more than they realize. First and foremost, aggressors, especially those where complaints have been made, are most likely avoided and shunned by their colleagues. They may develop work relationships, but many of these are based out of fear and not on authenticity. Even for a workplace aggressor, this is hurtful and only increases the likelihood that a bully will lash out. This perpetuates the problem of bad work relationships.

It is the responsibility of leadership to review job performance and give suggestions to make professionals better. Supervisors who do not offer constructive feedback and stop aggression only encourage bad behavior. Lack of intervention shows the aggressor that bullying is more rewarding than following professional standards. This almost guarantees that the aggressor will continue to abuse others and solidifies that they will develop negative patterns of work behaviors. Aggressors often stagnate in their ability to improve their skills and grow professionally. Aggressors may do OK in their current work environment but their options for other employment may be limited based on their inability to rise to a higher standard of professionalism. They have most likely learned how to rely on bad behavior to get ahead rather than developing the skills that many agencies desire for their workers.

Aggressors become vulnerable when there are changes in leadership. Because workplace bullies have not developed positive professional behaviors, they will depend on their aggression to move forward. New leadership may hold the aggressor accountable to standards of professional behavior which the bully may not be able to do. As such, aggressors may experience sanctions at work or even lose their job as a result. Again, because they have relied so heavily on using fear and abuse at work to get ahead, aggressors may find new employment difficult to secure. 

It is always in the best interest of the organization and leadership to take persistent workplace aggression seriously and address it effectively. If not, everyone in the organization suffers, even the workplace bully.

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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Persistent workplace aggression is a multifaceted issue that affects the overall organization and every employee. But, who is responsible for it? 

Many believe that targets have personalities that make them predisposed to being bullied or that they get abused because of the quality of their work. These workers are susceptible to being victimized in the workplace. As such, they are supposedly responsible for the persistent workplace aggression.

A participant in one of my workshops stated that as a supervisor she identified these types of workers. She was referring to those workers who she deemed as vulnerable to becoming a target of persistent workplace aggression. She told her workers that they were likely to be bullied and coached them on how they could avoid this. 

This is a victim blaming mentality and conveys that targets are responsible for the workplace aggression. If they would just change their behavior or personality, they would no longer be targeted. This is not true at all. There is no victim type or any way to predict that a worker will become a target of persistent workplace aggression. Anyone can be a victim and as such, targets are not responsible for being abused at work. 

Well, what about aggressors? Are they responsible? They are certainly accountable and answerable for their actions of abuse. They make conscious choices to actively go after targets. But, if the environment was not vulnerable to bullying, would aggressors be allowed to flourish? The answer is most likely not. 

It is really the organizations who are responsible for workplace aggression. They create the conditions that allow aggressors to get rewards instead of consequences for poor behavior. Organizations often ignore reports of bullying or mishandle them.  This only intensifies the bullying and encourages the aggressor to continue.  Organizations intentionally or unintentionally sustain bullying in the workplace.  

Organizations frequently do not receive proper training on this issue nor do they have policies or procedures to prevent or address workplace aggression. Organizations treat persistent workplace aggression like other conflict which is a highly ineffective approach. These tactics do not mandate intense interventions. In fact, they often end up re-victimizing the target and rewarding the workplace aggressor. Thus, creating an environment that promotes workplace bullying. 

Organizations are responsible for persistent workplace aggression including creating, sustaining, stopping, and preventing it. It is such a complicated problem and encompasses every aspect of the workplace that it takes organizational involvement to successfully manage and prevent it. 

If you or your organization is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there today.

 


 
 
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Being a target of persistent workplace aggression integrates into every aspect of one’s personal and professional life. It is difficult to explain how persistent workplace aggression overshadows everything that a target does, often making a target wear blinders to the effects.

Targets experience a wide range of physical health difficulties because of victimization. The impact of persistent workplace aggression on one’s health often starts out small and are attributed to routine effects from balancing work and households. Targets may experience sleep or eating issues. It can even exacerbate physical conditions that the target is diagnosed with.  Over time, the physical health consequences increase and can become significant.

The physical health issues are additional consequences the target deals with because of persistent workplace aggression.  This is a result of internalizing the overwhelming and regular abuse that they suffer at work. The lack of intervention from organizations re-victimizes targets which leads to additional physical responses for them. 

Many targets increase the use of their health insurance, visit their doctor more often, and have additional absences at work due to physical ailments. Many victims report a wide range of physical diagnoses none of which have been linked to workplace bullying. Again, this is because these diagnoses can often be attributed to other factors in a person’s life.

I have had many conversations with targets who have described the devastation to their health. Recently, my own experience with this reinforces the impact that persistent workplace aggression has on physical health. 

I have been diabetic for a long time and it has been under control from the start. During the past six months, I struggled with getting my blood sugar into the normal range and at the same time, the persistent workplace aggression I suffered intensified immensely. As this was happening, I was consumed with surviving and what was going on at work that I attributed the lack of control with been a long time diabetic and aging. Even though I study this issue, I failed to make any connections between work and health issues because I was could not see past the abuse.

Upon reflection, I now know that it was persistent workplace aggression that I was experiencing that influenced my health negatively.  I say this with a great deal of confidence because within two weeks of resigning, my blood sugar was under control and back to normal.


It is time that organizations make addressing persistent workplace aggression a priority since the consequences are so detrimental to targets.  It is no longer acceptable for organizations to ignore this issue.  It is just costing organizations and workers too much.  

If you or your organization 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. Help is out there.