Managing Aggressors in the Workplace

Association of Business Training
June 3, 2014 — 2,178 views  

Dealing with an aggressive individual at work is a challenge, and employees can feel trapped by the aggressive person. Men or women can be verbally or physically aggressive, such as yelling and banging on a desk. Quite often an aggressor acts out when they get into a conflict, and they try to defend their interests at the expense of others. Two major types of aggressors are the abusive/bully boss and the abusive/bully coworker.

Some people are outwardly aggressive while others tend to be passive aggressive. Both behaviors are destructive, and they can have a very negative effect on the self-esteem of other individuals.

A person with passive aggressive behavior may appear on the surface to be very agreeable and supportive, but they will backstab, sabotage or undercut others behind the scenes.

Another form of aggression is workplace violence. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports that workplace violence has increased and is a serious issue. Workplace aggression appears in many forms, such as verbal hostility, intentional ostracism, attempts to impede another workers performance, wasted materials or damaged products. Workplace aggression seems to appear due to perceived unfairness, and it may pertain to gender, racism, sexual orientation and cultural groups.

Workplace bullies cause trouble through manipulation. Bullies constantly work to build their power base by building alliances within the company, and they undermine any worker who will not support them.

The Employment Law Alliance completed a poll concerning female bullies in workplaces around the country, and they concluded:

  • 45 percent of American workers admit they have experienced workplace abuse
  • 40 percent of workplace bullies are women
  • 70 percent of the time women bullies pick on other women

When an individual is the target of an aggressor, they often suffer physical problems, which include headaches, high blood pressure, and insomnia, loss of appetite, depression, panic attacks and even PTSD.

If the aggressor is a coworker the employee needs to find a way to bring the situation to the attention of their CEO. While this may feel like a big risk to some people, it is probably a bigger risk to let the abuse continue.

Important tips if you are being bullied at work include:

  1. Try to stay calm and rational to defuse the situation as bullies take pleasure in emotionally manipulating people.
  2. Never blame yourself, and do not lose your confidence or think that you are incapable.
  3. Continue to do your best work, arrive on time and turn work on time.
  4. Work on building your support network with coworkers that you trust.
  5. Document everything in writing, and take it home with you each day so you have proof in case you need to go to Human Resources.
  6. Work to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle when you are home by working out, eating healthy, and getting a good night's sleep.
  7. Educate yourself by learning everything you can about aggressive behavior at work, your company's policies on inappropriate behavior and the occupational law regarding aggressive behavior.

Following these guidelines should help to make your workplace more bearable. Having a support group at work is very helpful.

Association of Business Training