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.



02/05/2017 2:24am

I really agree with your sentiments. We should be able to intervene, if we feel the need to. There will always be bullies all over the field and in our workplace. We should not let them think that they are above the rules and regulations. It's best to act now and intervene as early possible, before dire consequences are made.

07/06/2017 12:04am

I thought that bullying was because something about me is wrong. Understanding bullying and working to prevent this from happening to someone else is liberating me from the shame of having been a target of bullies. Bullies really get in the way of good people trying to do good things. It's time to change the culture and insist that people keep it kind. No one deserves to be bullied.


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