Workplace aggressors are highly skilled at what they do. They are extremely manipulative people and are “smooth operators.” They have an almost innate ability to lie and to spin any situation in their favor. Workplace aggressors are experienced and proficient in making their own work and behaviors look good. They seem to always have the organization’s best interest at heart when in fact; they are the ones wreaking havoc and costing the organization.
Another skill that a workplace aggressor has is that of creating fear. A culture of fear benefits the aggressor because almost everyone in the organization, including the supervisor, does not want to be victimized and therefore, the workplace caters to the aggressor. If the aggressor is happy, that should in fact make everyone happy. As such, aggressors are often given promotions and rewards in an effort to keep their aggression under control.
A colleague and I recently had a discussion about this very topic. My colleague asserts that supervisors and bosses frequently accommodate the aggressor because the acknowledgment that persistent workplace aggression is happening under their watch may equate their own failings as a leader. So for the supervisor, it is easier to promote and reward the aggressor than it is to admit that they have allowed, supported, and even promoted persistent workplace aggression.
No matter what the reason, it is never in an organization’s best interest to reward aggression. Organizations who want to end persistent workplace aggression must start by admitting that their workplace culture is distressed.
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