What Affects Women More: Workplace Harassment or Aggression?

Although neither type of behavior is acceptable, both sexual harassment (SH) and workplace aggression (WA) occur in many professional organizations. For women, the negative consequences of these transgressions can be profound, including decreased motivation and lower job satisfaction. Many women who are victims of aggression and harassment can also experience psychological problems, including anxiety, depression, anger, and drug and alcohol problems. This puts them at risk for physical consequences such as job-related injuries and general illness. There is a wide range of research looking at how SH and WA, in conjunction with other negative behaviors, affect workplace productivity and personal well-being, but little work has compared the effects of these two behaviors specifically on psychological well-being and job satisfaction.

Angela M. Dionisi of the School of Business at Queen’s University in Canada decided to explore this issue in a recent study. She interviewed 467 female employees, some of whom had experienced victimization by their supervisors. She asked them about their job satisfaction, commitment to job, intent to quit, coworker satisfaction, and overall psychological well-being resulting from the victimization and found that SH appeared to have a larger effect on well-being than WA. “Further,” she said, “we found that some forms of SH exerted significantly greater negative effects on employee outcomes than did corresponding WA forms, whereas in other cases the reverse was true.”

Women who are psychologically harassed could be fearful that physical violence will eventually occur. Withdrawal, avoidance, and other negative consequences can take place when women believe that their harasser or aggressor may do bodily harm. This “fear of rape” could partly explain why SH, even psychological, negatively affected the women more than WA in this study. Results also showed that the majority of women in this study experienced no victimization, which is a positive finding. However, those who did were more likely to experience both SH and WA than one form of victimization alone. Dionisi hopes that future work will address the issues that lead to SH and WA and methods of reducing these negative behaviors in the workplace.

Dionisi, Angela M., Julian Barling, and Kathryne E. Dupre. Revisiting the comparative outcomes of workplace aggression and sexual harassment. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 17.4 (2012): 398-408. Print.

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  • sara

    December 12th, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    For me. workplace aggression could be something that I could thrive on. It motivates me to go out and be a bulldog too. I don’t want to think that there is someone out there who is not any better than me but who is getting ahead all because they are a little more forceful and aggressive thatn I am.
    On the other hand sexual harassment, although I have dealth with it pretty positively, is somthing that I know will hold a lot of women back. It can make you feel os belittled and demoralized, like the only thinkg about you that warrants any attention is T&A. Even smart women are hurt by that and can really suffer professionally as a result.

  • leona

    December 13th, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    I can see how sexual harassment has more negative consequences than other forms of harassment.butwhatever kind,it cannot be good.not just from the victim’s point of view but also from the organization’s pov.at least that should compel the organizations to take up the battle against harassment at the workplace because a harassed employee is never going to feel safe or be productive enough.
    I don’t suggest overlooking the effects it has on the victim but with most corporations only being bothered about their profits and productivity in the end I think this should be enough of a reason!

  • BrYcE

    December 13th, 2012 at 4:02 AM

    you either let yourself be a victim or you don’t
    most women i know, regardless of what they face at work, don’t see themselves as a victim and wouldn’t want anyone else to view them that way either

  • Rex

    December 13th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    Sexual harassment has not just the sexual aspect to it but also the aggression part.truth is that sexual harassment has an aspect of power and degradation in the perpetrator’s mind and it affects the victim in those areas too.its not just for sex that sexual harassment or rapes happen, it is also because the perpetrator feels or wants to feel more powerful than the victim.its his way of showing he is powerful.

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