Nonphysical Violence a Dangerous Workplace Trend

Article excerpt

Though no one is hit or killed, nonphysical violence in the workplace is a "murder of the spirit" that can lead to actual violence, according to a University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center professor.

"Nonphysical violence is a dangerous trend in American workplaces," said Dr. Howard F. Stein, professor of family medicine.

Stein is a frequent lecturer and consultant to the private sector, as well as a leading medical and psychoanalytic anthropologist and psychohistorian.

"Nonphysical violence is often a conscious as well as unconsciously motivated effort to destroy the dignity or undermine the humanity of a person. It's a symbolic way of murdering someone _it's murder of the spirit," he said. "Nonphysical violence, at its heart, degrades both the one who is angry and the target of the anger.

"A form of violence in the workplace is the continual discounting of emotions of any kind. It's part of our American, task-oriented, `can-do' attitude of `get the job done,' and anger, sadness, and other emotions have no place. We are not persons, only functions _ producers of product lines.

"In our culture, we are internalizers. We're going to take it in, blame ourselves. People are going to be scared to criticize the boss. They'll be scared not to work 60-70 hours a week _ creating feelings of anger and frustration _ and we don't notice what this does to people until it's too late."

Stein referred to different ways anger is manifested on the job which are discussed in the book "Anger in the Workplace" by Seth Allcorn.

Expressions included constant absenteeism, lateness, stealing, excessive lengthy personal phone calls, dishonest feedback, jealousy and hostility to co-workers, employees or superiors, irritability, remoteness and even becoming perfectionistic.

One major source of anger on the job is feeling shut out of a process initially described as open to suggestion and each person's expertise and ability. An example is the concept of "teamwork" and being a "team player."

"Too often, there is no teamwork," Stein said. "It's just what the `coach' said, and you had better not criticize him, and that's it. …