Predicting Workplace Aggression and Violence

Lay Summary 

This paper describes and evaluates a number of myths concerning workplace aggression. It analyses, in total, eight preconceptions relating to workplace aggression and workplace violence. They are as follows:
1. Workplace Aggression and Violence are Interchangeable; 2. Profiling the Aggressive Employee; 3. Mental Illness is a Factor in Workplace Violence; 4. Workplace Aggression Occurs Between Subordinates and Supervisors; 5. Workplace Aggression is Random, Unpredictable, and Hence, Not Preventable; 6. Layoffs Cause Workplace Aggression; 7. Workplace Aggression Will Not be Reduced, It Will be Displaced; and 8. Workplace Aggression Spills Over Across Contexts.

A description is provided of each myth including possible reasons for the myth's existence. Research relating to each myth is then presented to provide insight into the possible truthfulness of the myth.

Upon analysis of the first myth and its related research, it is determined that even though acts of workplace aggression are common, work place violence is infrequent. The myth of a 'typical profile' for a violent/aggressive person is dismissed as are the myths that mental illness and layoffs predict aggression. The myth that workplace aggression is usually displaced is also dismissed. The ideas that negative affect, trait anger, and perceived interpersonal provocation predict aggression, are supported. Suggested topics for further research include: the construct definition of workplace aggression, various questions relating to the prevention and mitigation of workplace aggression, and the creation of a more varied set of research methodologies.

Faculty of Business Administration
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Human Resources
Organizational behaviour
Industry Sectors 
Management of Companies and Enterprises
Scientific Research and Development Services
Start date 
1 Jan 2009