I recently had a conversation with a friend about the law firm they previously worked for. During this discussion, they described their workplace where one person’s bad behavior transformed a good work environment into a hostile place. My friend opted to leave because there were no consequences for the person. During the conversation, I suggested that they might be experiencing workplace bullying and that my friend was targeted. This suggestion was abruptly dismissed and more importantly the person commented that workplace aggression could not ha
ve occurred in their office. People often believe that they have not been targeted or that their workplace is immune from workplace violence because we have such a negative view of who gets bullied in the workplace.
Part of the reason for this denial is that persistent workplace aggression is often associated with blue collar or working-class jobs. We do not link aggression or bad professional behavior with organizations that require a higher education. However, it seems that the higher the education level required, the more vulnerable the workplace.
Many of these organizations possess risk factors which make them susceptible for persistent workplace aggression. This coupled with the assumption that a higher education decreases the likelihood for one to engage in bad workplace behavior, only increases the likelihood an organization will experience persistent workplace aggression.
Another misconception about persistent workplace aggression is that a worker with one or more degrees will not experience workplace mistreatment or that they can stop it. Somehow, a degree makes people resistant to workplace violence. This is not all accurate. Persistent workplace aggression can be extremely covert and hard to detect. More importantly, very few organizations take this issue seriously. It is often unaddressed or ignored in the workplace. Thus, making it difficult for a target to manage or to get the organization to deal with.
It is vital that we recognize the seriousness of this issue. We also need to start to educate ourselves and address persistent workplace aggression because we are all vulnerable to workplace violence, no matter what our profession.