Have you ever worked with someone who came across as angry all the time? Is there someone at work who actively or passively dislikes other people and makes the lives of everyone at work more difficult than they need to be? According to Dr. George Simon, "The aggressive personalities are individuals whose overall “style” of interacting involves considerable, persistent, maladaptive aggression expressed in a variety of ways and in a wide range of circumstances." Workplace aggression can be exceptionally damaging to the entire workforce - not just those immediately involved.
What does it look like?
Workplace aggression can take many forms, from passive aggressive behavior such as:
- not responding to messages,
- failure to participate in team work,
- not including someone in email chains etc.
to overt aggression which may look like:
- verbal harassment/abuse
- actual physical violence
Impacts on workforce
An aggressive co-worker can make an entire workplace uncomfortable, anxious and walking on eggshells. This type of environment will damage productivity and cause good employees to go elsewhere. Communication and cooperation between employees will not be direct and honest when people are afraid of an outburst or attack.
How do you combat workplace aggression?
Combatting workplace aggression requires a leader to step in and intervene. The first thing to do is to analyze the situation.
- Is there a trigger?
- Are others contributing to the conflict?
- What does the individual get from the aggression?
Next, address the issue with the employee directly. It may be beneficial to have a representative from human resources, or another manager involved to act as a witness. Important parts of addressing the issue are to:
- Identify the behavior (when, where and who is involved)
- Detail the impacts on the workforce
- Ask for feedback about the conflict
- Explain options to resolve it
Resolving conflict at work
It may be beneficial to engage a conflict coach to work with the employees involved to help move past the issues. An objective, outside perspective can help remove some of the emotional impact of the conflict. If the employee who is engaging in workplace aggression is unable or unwilling to make changes to their workplace behavior, they need to be terminated from the job. This sounds harsh, but in the long run, a toxic employee will do untold damage to a work environment. Protect the employees you have who are positive, willing to work through conflicts and able to move past conflicts.
Simon, G. (2011, March 14). Understanding the Aggressive Personalities. Retrieved from https://counsellingresource.com/features/2008/11/03/aggressive-personalities/