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.



09/29/2016 1:54pm

Working with the aggressors is always stressful and annoying and I think this is hardest job ever. I can understand your feelings and I know what you want to express as I am also going through by this.

09/30/2016 5:21am

We need aggression to complete our work in time because the more we indulge in a work the more we learn the new things and that is the success of ours that we have in our professional world.


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