Workplace bullying is often seen as a top-down problem, with supervisors largely to blame for bullying their reports. But bullying is also a lateral issue as seen in colleague-to-colleague harassment. The conduct can even go up the chain of command–bullies don’t tend to follow the rules that don’t suit them.
Colleague-to-colleague bullying can overlap with on-the-job anger known as “desk rage.” Although the two can include the same type of conduct, desk rage is generally considered a short-term or one-time outburst, whereas bullying involves a course of conduct repeated over a period of time.
Desk rage has been in the news since a study released in July reported an increase in angry outbursts in the workplace. Desk rage can take many forms–everything from the “silent treatment” and social exclusion, all the way to workplace violence, fall into this category. The most common scenario involves abusive or threatening conduct such as cursing and screaming at another employee in the workplace.
So why the increased hostility at work? There are lots of reasons that this inappropriate conduct has become more common.
Is this conduct a result of tougher economic times? Maybe. It’s certainly conceivable that employees who sit in an extended and difficult commute while shelling out more and more for gasoline, are on the edge by the time they get to the office.
And employees facing financial difficulty at home are already under a high level of pressure. As the safety net of financial security unravels, people begin to point fingers at others, blaming an incompetent or callous organization or leader.
But the cause of desk rage isn’t entirely economics. Another reason may be generational. As older boomers enter retirement and the workplace becomes more populated by employees who are used to wearing their emotions on their sleeves.
And who are the worst offenders? Overachievers. Type-A personalities with impossibly high standards tend to expect more than what is reasonable from others, as well. Putting together the evidence, it appears that you are most likely to be spit on, cursed at, or slapped by that super-smart younger co-worker, right?