Management Workplace Aggression and Violence
Hanyi Min, Mindy Shoss
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 October 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0184


Workplace aggression is an umbrella construct that describes behaviors from insiders or outsiders of an organization that harm or intend to harm individuals in the organization. Workplace aggression involves both nonphysical and physical acts, with the latter labeled workplace violence. Organizational researchers have identified many constructs that fall under the label of workplace aggression, including counterproductive work behaviors, deviance, abusive supervision, incivility, and bullying, all of which refer to nonphysical acts of aggression. There is some debate, however, about the appropriateness of putting all of these constructs under the umbrella of workplace aggression and about the distinctiveness of the constructs, both conceptually and in their measurement. Given the wide variety of behaviors falling under the label of workplace aggression, previous research has sought to develop various methods to measure workplace aggression and violence, and some studies have attempted to examine the prevalence of these experiences. Research on workplace aggression has broadly proceeded along several streams. First, research from the actor perspective aims to understand the personal and situational characteristics that predict acts of aggression as well as potential explanatory mechanisms for these effects. Second, research from the target or victim perspective investigates consequences of being a victim of workplace aggression, including those impacting the individual, group, and organization. Third, research from the observer perspective examines the consequences of observing acts of aggression at work. Finally, a newer stream of research seeks to develop and test interventions to prevent and help employees cope with acts of workplace aggression.

Definition and Measurement

The definition and measurement of workplace aggression has been the source of some dispute, given the wide number of aggression-related constructs in the industrial/organizational psychology, human resource management, and organizational behavior literature. The following sections discuss definition and measurement.

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