Employee Aggression toward Human Resources

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A  recent survey has provided some evidence to suggest that people in human resources have become the target of aggressive actions by other workers simply because of their role in the organization.

Almost one-third of the Kentucky-based human resource workers surveyed in an online poll reported being the target of aggressive behavior, which included things like interference at work, verbal abuse, even threats and intimidation. The percentage of human resource workers who reported being bullied was about the same as for workers in general. However, more than half of the people in human resources believed they were targeted specifically because they worked in human resources.

An earlier study of nearly 1,500 human resource workers was conducted in the United Kingdom. In that survey, more than half of the people in human resources reported being the target of aggressive behavior at work.

The conflict may be the result of the changing duties of workers in human resources, which has become more strategic than in the past, according to Teresa Daniel, a human resources professor who conducted the survey. Because their job is to challenge and coach business leaders, their interactions can set off conflicts or defensive responses that might ultimately lead to more aggressive behavior, Daniel says.

Human resource workers offered their own reasons for the aggressive behavior. One reason may be that their role often is not fully appreciated or understood by others. Another is that they often have to deny managers’ requests, and another is that managers may feel they are not properly qualified to make the policy decisions they do. Another reason is that the human resource person is the firewall in many instances, protecting the interests of other employees, but taking heat in the process.

Daniel says there are several things human resource professionals can do to blunt the aggressive behavior. She says human resources should increase the communication with managers and do it before problems arise. Human resources needs to better educate managers on how to handle routine problems that relate to the workforce. She says human resource workers also need to become more knowledgeable about the business itself – the financial elements, customers and operations – to get a better understanding of what motivates the behavior of managers.

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