Most of us experience work-related stress at some point in our careers. It might be due to important deadlines, nerve-wracking presentations, or overwhelming workloads. However, something none of us should have to deal with at our workplaces is aggression. Dealing with aggression at work can be difficult, especially if you aren’t prepared. Here at Lone Alarms, we believe that no one should ever feel unsafe in the workplace. This article will explain how to deal with aggression at work.
What is Aggression At Work?
Aggression in the workplace is defined as:
- Expressions of hostility – behaviours that are primarily verbal in nature
- Obstructionism – behaviours intended to hinder an employee from performing their job or the organization from accomplishing its objectives
- Overt aggression – violent acts
Verbal Aggression at Work
Of the three forms of workplace aggression listed above, expressions of hostility are the most common. This includes typical bullying behaviours such as name-calling, demeaning language, or shouting/raising their voice. Some people may make excuses for this behaviour, such as, “It’s just a joke”, or that the perpetrator was highly emotional at the time. However, there is no excuse for an adult to raise their voice in a professional environment.
Obstructionism at Work
Obstructionism in the workplace can be hard to even recognise as aggression. It can take many forms, including failing to pass on vital information, giving an unmanageable workload to someone or even offloading some of their own, or gossiping with co-workers to try to discredit the victim’s competency. Many passive aggressive behaviours could be considered obstructionism.
Overt Aggression in the Workplace
Thankfully, overtly aggressive behaviour at work is relatively rare, although not unheard of. This could be physically striking someone, pinching, pulling hair, etc. It can also include actions such as damaging the victim’s property or using extreme force such as slamming a laptop onto a desk or shoving work materials into someone’s arms.
How to Deal with Aggression at Work
Whether it’s co-workers or managers/bosses, the first thing to be clear on is what behaviour is appropriate and what is not in a workplace. As an employer, make it clear from the beginning that aggression in the workplace is absolutely unacceptable. Lay out clear expectations for your employees and explain the consequences of failing to adhere – e.g. disciplinary meetings.
As an employee, what should you do if a colleague behaves aggressively? Here are some suggestions.
Stand Up For Yourself
If someone behaves aggressively towards you at work, standing up for yourself might be easier said than done. However, the first time a co-worker shows you aggression, they may very well stop and consider their actions if you calmly but firmly tell them to stop. Try to keep your cool and avoid fighting fire with fire. You might say something like, “I understand you’re angry, but that was not appropriate.” This is a good way to handle aggression without escalating the situation.
On the other hand, if this person is a repeat offender, it can be harder to make them stop by simply expressing how you feel. Your safety is more important than anything else – don’t be afraid to remove yourself from an aggressive situation. Standing up for yourself can also be nerve-wracking and you may need an alternative.
Find Someone to Stand Up For You
It could be your boss, their boss, a co-worker, or a group of co-workers, but finding someone to stand up on your behalf is always an option. Expressing that you’ve experienced aggression at work to your manager and having them resolve the problem should be a logical solution. However, it can be difficult sometimes for your concerns to be taken seriously or addressed. If your direct manager is unhelpful you could always go above their head to see if someone in a higher position can help you. Alternatively, your HR department or union representative may also be able to help.
Confiding in a co-worker you trust can be a good way of having someone outside the situation analyse it. They can give their opinion on whether you’re experiencing aggressive behaviour from someone. They may have even been in the same situation with the aggressor. You might also find someone who is able to calmly confront the situation more than you are.
Looking After Yourself
Workplace aggression can occur in any industry and any setting, from the office to a building site. Ultimately, we believe that no one, regardless of their role, should be subject to aggression in their workplace.
Dealing with aggression at work can be as simple as having a word with the aggressor. However, it can sometimes be a lengthy and tiring process. The main thing to remember is to approach the situation calmly, as you do not want to end up becoming aggressive yourself.
How We Can Help
If you should ever find yourself in a situation at work where you feel unsafe, one of our Lone Alarms can help. Activate your alarm with a discreet push of a button and our Monitoring Team will send you the help you need. Our team can contact colleagues, managers, and even the emergency services if necessary.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 7th June 2023 to reflect current information.