Current Research and Practice
Chapter 8: Workplace Violence and Aggression
OVERVIEW The changing nature of work, increased diversity of the workforce, longer opening hours, economic globalization and work intensification caused by downsizing and work restructuring, has resulted in increased pressure on workers. The increase of temporary and other precarious forms of labour arrangements (such as contract, outsourcing and casual positions) has also resulted in declining perceptions of job security and worker control. These economic changes are placing pressure on the work environment, and when these changes are poorly managed, tension and conflict flourish. While physical assault in the workplace receives the most press, it is actually the more insidious psychological abuse that is the most common threat to workers. This chapter describes the prevalence and nature of occupational violence and provides a review of the consequences to individuals, organizations and society. We also discuss interventions to reduce aggression and violence within the workplace. DEFINITIONS OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE The precise meaning and definition of workplace violence have been repeatedly discussed and can include experiences ranging from psychological harassment to fatal physical assault. In this chapter we adhere to the definition of violence and aggression recommended by the European Commission: ‘Incidents where persons are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, well being or health’ (Wynne et al., 1997, p. 14). Neuman and Baron (1998) provided an important distinction between violence and aggressive acts: workplace aggression encompasses all forms of intentionally harmful behaviour experienced at work, while workplace violence refers...
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