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OP-4. - AGGRESSION IN THE WORKPLACE

OP-4.1.-Educating Management in Combating Low-level Aggression in the Workplace

Jekielek, J., Eng, P. and Koczorowska*, M.
Organizational Consultant, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. *Psychiatrist, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Aggression in the workplace is on the rise, but low-level aggression is often not even recognized. Dealing with low-level aggression limits both reciprocation and escalation to the more harmful forms. An educated management can recognize and limit aggression, mainly through self-correction and worker education. It is important to deal quickly and effectively with low-level aggressive behaviour stemming from several seemingly unrelated areas, such as performance feedback, employee fatigue, coercive features of organizational learning, diversity and generational gaps. A multiplicity of articles has been written about human aggression in the workplace. This paper is based on personal reading from numerous sources as well as recent experiences in helping organizations to combat low-level aggression in the workplace. Dealing with organizational teaching and learning, i.e. educating management and workers, who are battle fatigued and over-trained from the current “corporate training frenzy”, is a challenge in itself. The proposed approaches center on educating management and involve time-compression, ad-hoc experimentation, an ability to utilize chaos, quick judgements, re-assessments and re-adjustments. The tone of any consultant intervention must lead to a collaborative effort directed towards each individual’s personal learning potential. Effectivly dealing with low-level aggression does not require a major effort or expenditure. When management gains sufficient insight and knowledge, it can effect both a self-improvement process and worker education. The benefits are enormous; by addressing this issue, every company will gain by increasing productivity and simultaneously creating a better, more enjoyable, and safer workplace.

OP-4.2.-Dealing with Workplace - Induced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Koczorowska, M., Jekielek*, J. and Eng*, P.
Psychiatrist, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. *Organizational Consultant, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 42 percent of Canadians reported that stress has a negative effect on their job performance. Workplace stress is costing Canadian businesses $5 billion dollars annually. Many workers report mental health problems related to their job, blaming a “hostile” workplace. Some seek psychotherapy, displaying several symptoms characteristic of PTSD. Some of them seem to be victims of apparently invisible aggression, violence or abuse. Workplace aggression, violence or abuse may not be limited to explicit forms, such as harassment, which can be defined in legal terms. It can be invisible; the perpetrators may be following established rules and procedures, but the victims suffer as if they had actually been subjected to harassment or physical violence. This paper is based on working experience and personal reading from a variety of psychiatric, psychological, medical and business sources. There are numerous potential sources of workplace aggression. Examples of corporate coercive persuasion and a common workplace paradox, performance versus procedures, are described. Selected case vignettes illustrate dealing with workplace-induced PTSD. Recommendations for treatment follow, covering both “conventional” cases of prolonged abuse, as well as a proposed “cognitive/educational approach”, designed for treatment in the early stages of abuse. Invisible workplace aggression, violence or abuse stems from organizational tolerance of behaviours harmful both to the organization and to the people involved with it. Any larger organization needs to develop both awareness and a policy to prevent and deal with such cases. From a societal point of view, it should not be tolerated. From a business point of view, it is detrimental to both short and long term productivity.