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Depression and Workplace Violence


Workplace violence is a growing problem in organizations and businesses and is recognized as “a critical safety and health hazard” in the United States (Chenier, 1998, p. 558). Injury caused by accidents and violence in the work environment has been regarded as a significant social problem. But the accident/injury cases can be dealt with by organizations through instituting safety measures and a variety of important factors.

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The workplace can provide an atmosphere of both physical violence and verbal aggression (LeBlanc & Kelloway, 2002 as cited in Spector et al., 2007, p. 117). An environment of violence and aggression is always provided by people, particularly the management. In the United States, there are as many as 2 million workplaces violent incidents recorded annually; there were an estimated 16 million recorded in 1993 for verbal aggression according to a study by Northwestern National Life Insurance Company, and in 1992 15.1% accounted for violent crimes occurring in the workplace (VandenBos & Bulatao, 1996 as cited in Spector et al., p. 119).

How can workplace violence and verbal aggression be reduced or dealt with by employees? The purpose of this essay is to provide an in-depth analysis of this form of aggression and provide a conclusion and recommendations.

Importance of the study

This study will provide an in-depth analysis of workplace violence and slight or severe forms of violence in the workplace environment. This is useful and informative for psychology students but also for individual workers and employees who experience workplace aggression and mistreatment by their supervisors.

One question that will be given light in the literature is: How should we deal with workplace violence and other forms of physical abuse in the workplace if the perpetrators are our very own supervisors or coworkers?

Organizations should be able to deal with this kind of violence and must institute policies and programs to deal with and eradicate workplace violence. This behavior causes depression on the part of the victims. It is a serious problem in the United States and many parts of the world that if they are not properly addressed, they may cause more problems and more victims. This study will delve into the definitions, causes, and outcomes and will provide recommendations on how to avoid and eradicate this social malady.

Definition of terms


Depression and anxiety have caused mortality and are related to “quality of life and social functioning” (Strine et al., 2008), p. 1383).

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Workplace aggression refers to acts that harm the psychological, mental, or physical well-being of individuals in the work environment (Fujishiro, Gee, & de Castro, 2011). Workplace aggression is defined by Hershcovis et al. (2012) as “a psychological form of mistreatment that involves negative acts perpetrated against organizational members that victims are motivated to avoid” (Neuman & Baron, 2005 as cited in Herscovis et al., 2012, p. 2). This definition also refers to severe forms of ill-treatment or bullying or lower forms of mistreatment.

Workplace aggression is also associated with workplace deviance; this is defined as “purposeful behavior that violates organizational norms and is intended to harm the organization, its members, or both” (Bennett & Robinson, 2000 as cited in Hershcovis et al., 2012, p. 1).

Workplace harassment may be in the form of yelling, cursing, temper tantrums, withholding information and resources, public humiliation, and similar behavior. Harassment can be aggravated with physical aggression (Leymann, 1990, as cited in Lewis, Coursol, & Wahl, 2002).

Qualitative studies on workplace violence

Some aspects of work are associated with exposure to violence. LeBlanc and Kelloway (2002 as cited in Spector et al., 2007) provided a compilation of 22 situations identified as related to exposure to violence, based on their research and results of a study. Some of these were tasks that needed exercising physical control over others, “having contact with people on medication, or having to care for others” (Spector et al., 2007, p. 119). In a study of different occupations, the nursing profession was the second-highest risk exposure and second-highest violence incidence rates. The second highest was the police profession (Spector et al., p. 119).

Outcomes of exposure to violence and verbal aggression can be linked with “poor physical and emotional well-being” (LeBlanc & Kelloway, 2002 as cited in Spector et al., 2007, p. 119). Likewise, Schat and Kelloway (2002 as cited in Spector et al., p. 119) also noted the relationship between combined violence and verbal aggression exposure and both forms of well-being, but the relationship is stronger if the offense is committed by a co-worker than by a member of the public. An inconsistency in the literature was noted by Barling, Rogers, and Kelloway (2001 as cited in Spector et al., 2007), saying that verbal aggression was related to psychological factors and not violence. Support by coworkers mellowed the psychological strain, according to a study by Schat and Kelloway (2003 as cited in Spector et al., p. 119).

Most victims of workplace violence also become perpetrators. Types of aggression include “abusive supervision, bullying, incivility, social undermining” (Hershcovis et al., 2012, p. 2).

Workplace harassment refers to abusive and intimidating behaviors aimed at demeaning another by yelling at staff, temper tantrums, refusal to pass work to another, spreading gossip, and so on. Aggressive behavior can be considered workplace harassment when the aim is to induce a negative effect. Workplace harassment is not only isolated belligerent behavior but is a series of hostile actions toward a co-employee (Lewis, 2002).

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Workplace violence and harassment affect the psychological and physical well being of employees, including their professional life. Individual careers will be deeply affected. As employees and even supervisors think of coping with harassment and violence, some may decide to resign from their current position (Lewis et al., 2002). But the “physical and psychological scar” will remain in the individual.


A perceived violent climate can be reduced if the management exercises control and provide ways to eliminate violence and verbal aggression. This can be done with the institution of policies and procedures that deal with violence, by providing training on avoidance and management of violence, and through good examples posed by supervisors and managers on how interpersonal relationships should be done in the workplace. Examples of these techniques include methods of reporting and the formal and informal announcements that violence and other forms of verbal abuse and aggression are not tolerated in the work environment or even outside of the workplace.

A favorable workplace environment should emphasize how employees should behave that can provide a wholesome relationship among the employees, and encourage them to work for the common good and for the organization, rather than do something that may hurt fellow employees. Employees should “behave in a more civil manner so that minor rudeness does not escalate into more serious interpersonal encounters” (Pearson, Andersson, & Porath, 2005 as cited in Spector et al., 2007, p. 120).


Chenier, E. (1998). The workplace: A battleground for violence. Public Personnel Management, 27(4), 557-568. Web.

Fujishiro, K., Gee, G., & de Castro, A. (2011). Associations of workplace aggression with work-related well-being among nurses in the Philippines. American Journal of Public Health, 101(5), 861-867. Web.

Hershcovis, M., Reich, T., Parker, S., & Bozeman, J. (2012). The relationship between workplace aggression and target deviant behavior: The moderating roles and task interdependence. Work & Stress, 26(1), 1-20.

Lewis, J., Coursol, D., & Wahl, K. (2002). Addressing issues of workplace harassment: Counseling the targets. Journal of Employment Counseling, 39(1), 109-116. Web.

Spector, P., Coulter, M., Stockwell, H., & Matz, W. (2007). Perceived violence climate: A new construct and its relationship to workplace physical violence and verbal aggression, and their potential consequences. Work & Stress, 21(2), 117-130.

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Strine, T., Mokdad, A., Balluz, L., Gonzales, O., Crider, R., Berry, J., & Kroenke, K. (2008). Depression and anxiety in the United States: Findings from the 2006 behavioral risk factor surveillance system. Psychiatric Services, 59(12), 1383-1390. Web.

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