Purpose: To identify factors that cause
workplace stress and to reduce these factors through group problem
Time: One to two hours
Participants: 8-30, organized into groups of
3-6 members each
blocks (preferably rectangular)
||Any anonymous story
about workplace violence, not related to the specific work setting
||Handouts with lists
of resources (crisis hotline, employee assistance, etc.) for
||Paper and pencils
- Brief participants. Explain that they will listen
to a story of workplace violence, identify a series of stressors that
contributed to the violence, select a stressor, then brainstorm
approaches to reduce the potential impact of this stressor.
- Have participants form small groups. Read the
story slowly. Have participants reflect, then take up to ten minutes to
discuss and list stressors that could have contributed to the violence.
Encourage them to find at least five.
- Explain that each block represents the proverbial
"bale of straw" that broke the camel's back. Give five blocks to each
group and tell them each group is to take turns sending a representative
to the front of the room to make a stack of blocks on the table. The
group representative should name the stressor that the block represents
and place it on top of the other blocks. Record each stressor as it is
- The toppling. Eventually, the tower will become
more unstable as it grows Finally, the addition of a block will make it
- Identify the "last straw" as the stressor that
caused the tower to fall. Have the participants help you recreate the
path from the first stressor to the last straw in the case study.
- Ask groups to generate strategies for reducing
stressors that could lead to workplace violence or burnout or
whatever. Ask participants to help you construct an alternative case
where the situation is de-escalated and the situation defused. Repeat
this two more times to get two more "happy ending" stories.
- Ask groups to generate ideas on how they can
address the particular stressors in their workplaces. Repeat with some
other stressors listed on the flip chart.
- Ask group members to bring more blocks forward,
announce de-escalation strategies and build a stable structure on the
table. List these ideas on the chart.
Adapted from Thiagi Game
Letter, Vol. 3, Number 7. October 2000. Published by Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.