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Forty-seven million Americans are victims of workplace aggression


National survey identifies the general public as the primary source of abuse

Nearly half of American workers are victims of workplace aggression, with customers, clients or patients the most likely source of attacks, according to a new comprehensive national survey.

"The stereotypical belief that large numbers of employees are ’going postal’ is a bit of a myth," says Aaron Schat, assistant professor at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. "47 million Americans experience psychological or physical aggression while on the job. Interestingly, workers pinpoint the general public as the most significant source of this aggression, as opposed to other co-workers or supervisors."

The findings are drawn from a comprehensive national survey of workers on the prevalence of U.S. workplace aggression.

The survey found more than 40 per cent of American workers – about 47 million people – experience acts of psychological aggression, such as being screamed at, insulted, or threatened with physical violence, while at work. Acts of physical violence at work, such as being slapped, kicked or attacked with a weapon, were less common, with about 6 per cent of workers – nearly 7 million people – reporting exposure. Almost all workers (96 per cent) who experience physical violence also experience some form of psychological abuse. Only a small percentage of workers (0.26 per cent which represents about 300,000 workers) experience physical violence alone

Nearly one-quarter of respondents indicate they were victims of aggression from members of the public (customers, clients or patients), while 15 per cent report being victims of aggression from other employees and 13 per cent experienced aggression from supervisors or bosses.

Schat explains, "Exposure to aggressive behaviour at work is associated with a wide range of negative consequences for individuals and organizations, including negative work attitudes, reduced well-being, and, in cases of physical violence, bodily injury or death. The fact that such a large percentage of the American population has experienced workplace aggression demonstrates the need to address it."

A report on the survey and its findings is included in Handbook of Workplace Violence to be published in February 2006 by Sage. The report is co-authored by Schat, Michael R. Frone of the State University of New York at Buffalo, and E. Kevin Kelloway of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Julia Thomson | EurekAlert!
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