Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Study of the Impact of Nonphysical Aggression in Organizations: A Contribution to the Taxonomy of Nonphysical Aggression

Loretta M. Hobbs, Student, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development

Curiosity about nonphysical aggression among adults, who were doing well professionally in their in workplaces and other kinds of organizations, resulted in the following research question and ten findings. From 18 of 20 interviews, respondents reported experiences of various types of injuries that had the impact of pulling them downward in spirit, emotional and physical well-being, reputation, and assets. The findings support a type of nonphysical aggression that is active among adults that are doing well professionally in a variety or organizational types. Findings also characterize the behaviors of this type of aggression, so that it is recognizable in adult organizations and not mistaken for office politics or peer disagreements. Thematic analysis was the analytical tool used to code and theme research data. The research question is: “How do adults describe their experience of nonphysical aggression from others toward them in U.S. organizations?”

Findings: (1) Sixty-one percent (61%) of respondents characterized their experience of diminishment as aggression. Another Eighty-nine percent (89%) reported it as being put down and seventy-two percent (72%) reported being taken down (2) Nonphysical aggression occurs among adults over 30 years old in all kinds of organizational settings including workplaces, academia, churches, hospitals, member meetings, schools, partnership meetings, and business conferences. (3) Abandonment of the aggressed by their organizational friends and colleagues was reported as a common occurrence that contributed to their isolation within the organization. (4) Lack of support for the aggressed often emboldened the aggressor and impeded the ability of the aggressed to fairly address their issue. (5) Power dynamics in systems created a force that often silenced the aggressed and created pressure for others to directly or indirectly collude with both the aggressor and the aggression. (6) Nonphysical aggression occurred within and between social identity groups, such as groups identified by race, ethnicity, culture, and gender. Aggressors emerged from any social identity group, as did the aggressed. (7) People suffered extensive losses of varying kinds from nonphysical aggression that negatively impacted their well-being, emotions, status, job security/income, health, support, reputation, self-image, self-confidence and peace of mind. (8) Confusion and disorientation in the moment about what had just happened or if something had really happened was a frequent comment of respondents. (9) Support of the aggressed by friends and colleagues helped their overall well-being and recovery from injury to their psyche, spirit, reputation, position, status or job loss. (10) Recovery takes time and the pace is highly individualized.

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