Psychological Impact of Workplace Violence on Women

Workplace violence can affect your personal life, too.
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Women impacted psychologically by workplace violence may dread going to work, and the stress could also have a long-term impact on their personal and professional relationships. While each woman responds in her own unique way, typical reactions include fear, denial and depression. She may be afraid to report the violence, for fear of retaliation or she may be afraid an investigation will hurt her chances of promotion, giving her a reputation of being a tattletale.


Women struggling to heal from the impact of workplace violence frequently experience shock and may even deny they are victims. A woman may simply tell herself that what happened to her doesn't constitute workplace violence and think things like, "Boys will be boys." Sometimes just educating women on what constitutes workplace violence can begin the healing process. According to a U.S. Department of Labor website, workplace violence is defined as, "any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. Examples include threats of violence, verbal abuse and physical assault. The violence can be perpetrated by co-workers, customers or visitors.

Decreased Job Satisfaction

A 2002 study in the "Journal of Applied Psychology" noted responses by men and women to both colleague-initiated and public-initiated violence at work. Co-worker aggression was found with both men and women victims to negatively affect their emotional well-being and how good they felt about going to work every day. Both women and men who experience workplace violence that was initiated by a member of the public were more likely to express wanting to quit their job, as compared to people who did not experience this type of violence.


Julian Barling, Ph.D., at Queen's School of Business, writes that workplace violence tends to be associated with a pattern of increasingly depressive symptoms. A complex chain reaction is set off, according to Barling, where a woman experiences greater stress, avoidance of work activities and finally emotional numbing over time. When the symptoms escalate to the point where a woman cannot enjoy her job or personal relationships anymore, she should seek professional help.


Dr. Barling writes that a woman who has been victimized in the workplace is likely to fear future violent encounters. This fear can be debilitating, leading to psychosomatic symptoms including ulcer and headaches over time and perhaps developing into post traumatic stress disorder, where the traumatic experience is relived over and over again in the victim's mind. After awhile, even anticipating going to work can make a woman feel sick and apprehensive. She may begin to project this fear to other situations, seeing danger all around her.

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