Workplace Conflict Coping Strategy: What Happens When you Know You Cannot Escape


Workplace Conflict Coping Strategy: What Happens When you Know You Cannot Escape

Does a bad economy make workplace bullying and abrasive behaviors worse? Does it increase reporting of workplace conflicts by employees?

According to some union reps in Australia, the answer is yes. They attribute their point of view to not only the increase in reports of bullying over the past three years, but also the objective fact that as companies downsize, people feel more stress because they have to pick up the slack and they do not feel very secure.


No Options?

One thing not reported in this article is that as businesses downsize there are fewer jobs to choose from. That means that if someone is struggling with an abrasive boss, they do not see any options for themselves. Perhaps this increases reports. Perhaps it increases depression. Perhaps… I think we just don’t know all the factors in the relationship between a declining economy and shrinking job options and workplace conflicts.


Fantasizing your Escape

One thing I do know is when people call me for help because they are struggling with abrasive and bullying type behaviors at work, they have been struggling long before the downturn. Their coping strategy was to fantasize that they could escape by getting another job. For example, “Well, I felt I could escape into another job so I put up with a lot of abuse from my boss. But now I know I can’t leave this job and that knowledge is making everything worse.” Without an escape plan, the pressure to tolerate the abrasive behavior increases. This increases stress, which leads to more sick leave, reduced productivity and higher costs for employees and employers alike, so more pain and suffering and perhaps more reporting.


“No options” might decrease reporting

If we trust the point of view of the Union officials, the increase stress leads to more reporting. However, it is possible that knowing there is no way out and knowing that the company may not be able to stop the abrasive behavior actually keeps people from reporting.


There are Options

Though it may seem like there are no options, I know there are strategies to help cope with the situation. No situation at work is completely hopeless. Sometimes it takes an expert outside perspective to see what you need to do. I can help.

I’m Kathleen Bartle, a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts. You can contact me here.