There are many types of behaviors that constitute persistent workplace aggression. Retaliation is one of the major ways that an aggressor goes after a target. It is very subtle, covert, and frequently unrecognized by organizations. Retaliation results from the aggressor thinking that the target has outed them to leadership or their peers as being abusive in the workplace. This may or may not be accurate, but the aggressor accepts this belief as truth. Thus, the attacks against the target intensify becoming unrelenting. Retaliation causes tremendous harm to the target and every other worker as well. 

Retaliation creates an atmosphere of fear and one where the target may become too scared to say anything more about the aggressor. If the target continues to make complaints, there is no limit to what the aggressor is willing to do and the workplace exploitation will continue to manifest itself unless it is stopped. 

The goal of retaliation is not only to control the target’s behavior, but it is also to send a warning to others who might be thinking about exposing the workplace aggressor. The aggressor uses retaliation as a weapon to control all workers’ behavior and to keep the abuse hidden. 

Retaliation creates an environment of terror influencing the overall organizational atmosphere and spilling over onto everyone in the workplace. Retaliation clearly establishes unwritten norms where targets and bystanders recognize that persistent workplace aggression will intensify if they speak to anyone about the aggressor. They learn very quickly to keep their mouths shut.

The terror that targets and bystanders feel is only heightened when leadership fails to intervene. Permitting the aggressor to continue to abuse the target and retaliate is unacceptable. Lack of intervention on the part of administration allows the aggressor to continue their workplace warfare and leadership's inability to effectively intercede creates sustained organizational terror.

In organizations where persistent workplace aggression has been identified, leadership must act. Leadership needs to develop an understanding of what retaliation is and how it is used by the persistent workplace aggressor. They must immediately protect the target when retaliation is brought to their attention. If they do not, they perpetuate the problem and add to the abuse that the target is experiencing.

If you or your organization 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.



01/07/2017 7:38am

I don't think that retaliation is the way to control workers' behavior. If the worker is not mentally healthy, it can lead to problems with their mental health. If it is kept in the workplace, workers will easily quit the job. I know that one reason is to motivate them, but we should consider their feelings too. Thank you for sharing about retaliation. I enjoyed reading this and I am looking forward for your next post.

08/14/2017 10:01am

It might be a real problem. I am totally agree with you. It's a pretty informative article.


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