Knowledgebase: Performance at Work
Workplace aggression
Posted by - NA - on 31 December 2008 05:41 PM

Workplace aggression is related to behaviours which can cause harm to another person at work. Having the intention or motivation to harm someone else is included within this behaviour.  Behaviours such as bullying, physical attacks such as assault, or even gossiping and spreading rumours are some forms of workplace aggression.

Aggression can occur at the organisational level and a person might act aggressively based on factors of changes in the work environment, job changes, or injustice. If a person feels that they are not being treated fairly in comparison to others, then they could display aggressive behaviours to their co-workers or even supervisors. Changes in the workplace, such as increased stress, fatigue or anxiety can lead to aggression.

Studies have shown that some types of work are more prone to acts of aggression in the workplace than others (Douglas & Matinko, 2001). For example, if someone is in an aggressive environment such as handling guns, then they might be more prone to act in an aggressive way. Individuals are more likely to act aggressively with violence when they are in a profession which isolates them from society and where they have a strong sense of lower-class mentality (Douglas & Matinko, 2001).

However, it is very important to note that individual differences play a part in predicting workplace aggression. Research has shown that aggression can be a trait and individual behaviours are dependent on various environmental conditions. This suggests that some employees are predisposed to aggression and so they will behave in an aggressive manner without any direct fault of the organisation.

Managers should be aware of incidents which can cause aggression. They should identify and manage those people who are predisposed to aggression (within ethical limits of course). Douglas and Matinko (2000) stated that individual differences are critical to the understanding and explanation or workplace aggression.


Douglas, SC., Martinko, M. J., (2001). "Exploring the Role of Individual Differences in the Prediction of Workplace Aggression".  Journal of applied psychology, 86 (4), p. 547.