Pervasive workplace aggression, commonly referred to as workplace bullying, is a term that more professionals and workers are becoming familiar with.  Pervasive workplace aggression is unrelenting mistreatment and exploitation of an individual or individuals that occurs in a consistent and systematic manner.  Pervasive workplace aggression ensues over a period of time and has a negative impact on the target that ultimately impacts their ability to function at work.

Pervasive workplace aggression can happen in any workplace setting including professional and non-professional jobs.  It is something that knows no limits or constraints and every person in the workplace is a potential target.

We think that it is our co-workers who get persecuted at work because we possess qualities that our boss and our co-workers value.  We want to believe that because we have identified ourselves as good workers, we are not at-risk to be a target.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Those traits, such as integrity, good work ethic, creativity, and collaborative, are in fact the very characteristics which make us vulnerable for being a target.

Organizations and agencies where pervasive workplace aggression occurs tend to have characteristics and an overall environment that make them more vulnerable.  Organizations where there is increased stress or where change has or is expected are susceptible.  Leadership and leadership styles are also influence the likelihood that aggression will occur in the workplace.  Therefore, a large number of organizations are potential breeding ground for pervasive workplace aggression.

Just like with schoolyard bullying, pervasive workplace aggression is often down played and not taken seriously.  Targets are frequently blamed because organizations and administrators are not equipped to deal with such a complex problem.  However, with education and interventions, workplaces can deal with aggressors and stop pervasive workplace aggression.  Making work better for everyone!

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Does what we call workplace bullying really matter?  Terminology is very important in making a case for workplace bullying and using the term bullying has an impact on how persistent workplace aggression is viewed. 

Bullying in K-12 schools has been covered a great deal in the media and as such, when we hear the word bullying, our mind links bullying with children.  We visualize kids being mean to other kids on the playground or in the hallways of their schools.  Using the term bullying when referring to persistent workplace aggression with adults, decreases the likelihood that this issue will be taken seriously.  Bullying happens to children and this impacts our supervisors and/or colleagues.  Targets are often seen as being childlike and the seriousness of persistent workplace aggression is softened.

Adults should be able to deal with conflict in the workplace, shouldn’t we?  The answer is yes.  Most adults are capable of handling conflict in the workplace.  However, persistent workplace aggression is not normal conflict and it is not the same as schoolyard bullying.  It something that needs to be taken seriously and framed in a way that accurately portrays what is really happening in the workplace.  Persistent workplace aggression is complicated and sophisticated.  Framing workplace bullying as persistent workplace aggression provides a better and more accurate description of what is really happening in the workplace.  With this information, we can develop effective interventions that reduce persistent workplace aggression. Making work better for everyone!  For more information, please contact me at