Have you been a victim of violence at work?

Have you been a victim of violence at work?

Lateral violence can be non-physical or physical, aggressive, hostile, bullying and/or harmful behavior between coworkers. While these acts can appear somewhat harmless, they often create a toxic environment that takes a toll and can hinder team member confidence and work performance.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), each year an average of 2 million U.S. workers report having been a victim of violence at work which includes acts of lateral or peer-to-peer violence.

Anne Molloy, a nurse practitioner in behavioral health, explains that lateral violence can be something as subtle as excluding coworkers, gossiping, purposefully having a conversation in front of a coworker knowing that it could trigger them, or as aggressive as actual physical violence.

“Simply increasing awareness of lateral violence in the workplace is the first step toward preventing it.” Molloy said. “Though lateral violence is by definition peer-to-peer, it can involve a ‘power gradient’ where one coworker is in a position of perceived power, such as in the case of seniority. This type of workplace violence could lead to misuse of power by the aggressor.”

Excessive absenteeism or lateness, increased mistakes or errors and unsatisfactory work quality are warning signs to watch for in victims.

Warning signs to look for in an aggressor are:

  • Crying, sulking or temper tantrums
  • Pushing the limits of acceptable conduct or disregarding the health and safety of others
  • Disrespect of authority
  • Refusal to acknowledge job performance problems

Even more subtle behaviors such as scheduling excessive workloads or not approving vacations for certain staff can be interpreted as violence. According to Science Direct, prevention is the most important step in addressing workplace violence, which includes leadership focused on authentic relationships and training on conflict resolution. As they further explain, other techniques can prevent it from escalating. These include steady eye contact with the aggressor, a calm attitude and understanding the aggressor’s point of view without condoning it.

Molloy concludes, “Understanding the toll that lateral violence can have on others can motivate people to avoid these behaviors. Working to become an advocate for workplace safety includes avoiding lateral violence and teaching others about its effects.”

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About the Author

Amy Werdin
Amy Werdin

Amy Werdin, health enews contributor, is a provider public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. She has been with the organization for 19 years, starting out in marketing for Advanced Healthcare, then Aurora Health Care and now in her current role. She enjoys reading, movies and watching her two daughters dance and her son swim.