Definitions and causes

Types, Scenarios and Forms

Defining workplace violence therefore involves identifying, as clearly as possible, the types, forms and definitions of this violence.

Types of Workplace Violence

  1. Internal or Organizational Violence: (between members of a single organization) Internal or organizational violence corresponds to aggressive acts which occur between managers, between employees, or between managers and employees. Belonging to this type of workplace violence, top-down internal violence corresponds to attacks committed by a supervisor against a subordinate. Eg: In particular, sexual harassment, moral harassment and part of criminal harassment (stalking) when it takes place between members of a single organization.
  2. External Violence: (clients or customers, suppliers, ex-employees, visitors) External violence refers to violence committed by clients or customers, suppliers, former employees who were fired, visitors or rejected lovers who attack members of the organization in the workplace or in circumstances tied to work. For example, in particular, violence related to crimes against people, their personal belongings and their work equipment (aggravated theft, industrial sabotage, vandalism, extortion).

Scenarios of Internal Violence

  1. Duel: Conflict involving one person against another that goes beyond a personality conflict.
  2. Tyranny: One person against several people, one at a time or simultaneously. One example that is common to both scenarios is intimidation (bullying) of one person (duel) or several people (tyranny).
  3. Coalition: Several people against one person. For example, collective persecution (mobbing).
  4. Epic Violence: Conflict between cliques, gangs, or work groups. For example, two groups mutually persecuting one another wherein those involved are concurrently victims, aggressors and witnesses of poor work organization. They do, however, share a fairly similar understanding of the organizational context overall, even though there are differences in their respective interpretations of some aspects of the work.

Forms of Workplace Violence

  1. Physical Violence (more linked to external violence, assault, extortion and, in the worst-case scenario, homicide);
  2. Sexual Violence (internal and external: in particular, sexual and criminal harassment);
  3. Psychological and Verbal Violence (internal and external: moral, sexual and criminal harassment); 
  4. Insidious or Hidden Violence (more linked to internal violence: violence involving forced transfer, violence through omission and violence through tricks or traps. These aggressive acts are mainly part of moral and criminal harassment.

N.B. Physical or even psychological forms of violence, as described above, tend to occur concurrently or to merge [10]. For example, it is clear that sexual harassment plays a role in several situations involving bullying or in the workplace intimidation.