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.



02/04/2017 8:27pm

Thank you for sharing this information with us. Workplace bullying and conflicts are totally different. What I know about the reason behind workplace bullying is insecurities, that's why the other party attacks the other unprofessionally. In conflicts, there are many reasons why these happen and it is really inevitable, but it is in a short period of time. Workplace bullying and conflicts can be prevented if we work professionally. I am looking forward for your next post.

06/29/2017 11:10pm

I see workplace conflict as a disagreement about something that is logical. It may be the clashing of ideas or execution. Workplace bullying is just illogical to me. Bullying does not have any basis at all. Bullies target everyone and their reasons will not make any sense at all. Conflict in the office cannot be avoided. People are different and they do not often have the same way of thinking as you. On the other hand, bullying should not even exist in the workplace. Bullying is not a very smart or sound decision for anyone to make or act on.

07/15/2017 9:47am

Conflict can often be resolved by the individuals involved, although this does not mean an employer should simply ignore the situation. Instead, be vigilant to ensure a final resolution takes place that those involved can live and work with. Bullying, on the other hand, must always be formally reported. Unlike conflict, bullying is not a two way street. The bully is largely responsible for the situation and thus is responsible for any changes required. In cases of bullying, intervention is always required to guarantee not just the physical, emotional or psychological safety of the target, but also to legally safeguard your business.

11/17/2017 2:26am

According to studies, there are a lot of workers that are affected by workplace bullying and this has caused most of the increase in absenteeism and resignation. It is incredibly important for employers and employees know what bullying looks like. This will help them recognize office conflict from actual bullying. There are a lot of obvious signs that constitute to bullying. It may either be physical, verbal or emotional abuse. If you witness this type of situation, make sure to let others know.

10/20/2017 1:14pm

Thanks so much for the article.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.


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