Workplace Violence & Aggression: Causes, Personality Traits

Workplace Violence, Aggression, Causes, Personality Traits
Managers can address workplace violence through training and other programs.

Violence in the workplace affects the safety and security status of organizations. Managers must effectively prevent workplace violence to ensure the safety of workers. The prevention of workplace violence also minimizes disruptions to business operations. In addition, there are rules and regulations that require managers to apply and maintain policies and systems that prevent violence in the workplace. Non-compliance could lead to lawsuits and other legal problems. Thus, organizations must support initiatives for preventing violence in the workplace, such as feedback systems to support workers, and employee training.

Violence in the workplace can be caused by various factors, including the economy, culture, the workplace environment as well as individual experiences.

Causes of Increased Workplace Violence

There has been more violence in the workplace over the past 30 years because of reasons tied to the development of society. The economic reasons that contribute to the rise of violence in the workplace can be linked to the increasing desire of individuals to have more material gains. Workers may actually find themselves in a constant battle while competing against each other. This factor is linked to the culture of materialism. The societal reasons for the rise of violence in the workplace include those that are linked to the cultural traits of the workforce. In the United States, people are under the influence of the culture of materialism, in which material gains are the focus of one’s actions. Decisions are evaluated on how well they could lead to the desired increase in material possessions.

The organizational culture of competition is another reason for the rise of violence in the workplace. This culture emphasizes competition to achieve financial gains. This reason is also related to the culture of materialism, and the economic system of capitalism. Capitalism encourages people to compete against each other to gain more. Thus, in capitalism, workers are inclined to support a competitive environment and adopt a competitive behavior. The problem with such competitive behavior is that it also increases conflict and the likelihood of violence in the workplace.

What constitutes workplace aggression?

Workplace aggression involves hostility and violence in dealing with other people in the workplace. It may also involve direct and unwanted confrontation that could lead to conflicts or heated arguments. Workplace aggression also includes the act of physically or verbally attacking others in the workplace.

Personality Traits and Aggressive Behavior

Personality traits determine the tendency of a person to commit violence in the workplace. Lack of patience in dealing with other people’s differing opinions is a personality trait that can lead to workplace violence. The aggressive worker might find opposing ideas irritating to the point that he loses patience and gets aggressive and violent against people with opposing ideas.

The tendency to use physical force is another personality trait that contributes to violent behavior in the workplace. A worker might be more likely than others to use physical force in trying to settle a conflict if he is a very physical person in other aspects of his life. Some people might be predisposed to commit violence through physical force when it comes to dealing with conflicts.

  • Bentley, T. A., Catley, B., Forsyth, D., & Tappin, D. (2014). Understanding workplace violence: The value of a systems perspective. Applied Ergonomics, 45(4), 839-848.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Occupational Violence [Opens in New Window]
  • Jackson, R. (2014). Preventing Workplace Violence: A Training Guide for Managers and Supervisors: Proven Practices. Elsevier.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2015). Workplace violence [Opens in New Window]
  • United States Department of Labor (2015). DOL Workplace Violence Program [Opens in New Window]

This article may not be reproduced, distributed, or mirrored without written permission from Panmore Institute and its author/s. Copyright by Panmore Institute - All rights reserved. Small parts of this article may be quoted or paraphrased for research purposes, as long as the article is properly cited and referenced together with its URL/link.