Getting to the Root Cause of Conflict: The Power Dynamics Model

In my experience, in order to effectively stop abuse at work, we have to support both the victim and the perpetrator in understanding and appropriately using power dynamics.

Most of us spend our days at work feeling like this:

Often perpetrators feel this way even more than victims of harassment. Those who feel powerless are much more likely to perpetrate abuse than those who understand the power they have. This is because we justify exaggerated and abusive behavior when we are “defending ourselves.” Research shows that men are more likely to perpetrate harassment if they feel insecure in their jobs, for example. The cliché for this is the “pecking order,” referring to the hierarchy by which chickens abuse each other. The chicken with the most status pecks at the chicken with the next most status, and down the chain. The classic description of this with humans is the boss abuses the employee, who abuses his wife, who abuses their child, who is a bully at school.

We end up like this: