Building a Constructive Communication Climate: The Workplace Stress and Aggression Project
Over the past decade, there has been an enormous increase in empirical research pertaining to workplace aggression and bullying. The bulk of this work has focused, quite understandably, on the nature, prevalence, causes, and consequences of such behavior. Although a good deal of information has been gained in the process, there is little evidence that this accumulating knowledge has been systematically applied to the development, implementation, and evaluation of actual organizational interventions. With few exceptions, most of the literature relating to the prevention and management of workplace aggression and bullying has been conceptual or prescriptive in nature (e.g., Neuman & Baron, 1998; Rayner, Hoel, & Cooper, 2002) or has focused on workplace violence (e.g., Nicoletti & Spooner, 1996; Peek-Asa & Jenkins, 2003) and sexual harassment (e.g., Dougherty & Smythe, 2004; Keyton, Ferguson, & Rhodes, 2001). These approaches have paid little attention to less dramatic, but significantly more frequent, instances of psychological, emotional aggression, or persistent, enduring patterns of such abusive behavior typically associated with workplace bullying. Finally, much of what we know about bullying prevention comes from research on children in school settings (e.g., Carney & Merrell, 2001; Whitted & Dupper, 2005) and much less empirical work on bullying prevention has been done with adults in work settings. The Workplace Stress and Aggression (WSA) Project, a five-year grass roots initiative within the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), was implemented, in part, to address this issue. In this chapter we will (a) summarize the need for such a program, (b) describe its basic elements, and (c) present preliminary assessment data demonstrating its effectiveness.