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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Loraleigh Keashly


Workplace aggression and its harmful effects have been the focus of research over the past two decades (Hershcovis, 2011). Much of our understanding of workplace aggression has developed from the target’s perspective. However, to fully understand the phenomenon of aggression, we also need to focus on the perpetrator’s perspective. The purpose of this research is to explore the influence of the nature of the perpetrator-target relationship on enacted aggression from the perspective of the perpetrator. This study tested a conceptual model of enacted workplace aggression developed based on Expectancy Violation Theory (EVT; Burgoon, 1993) and the Elaboration Likelihood Model for workplace aggression (ELM; Douglas, Kiewitz, Martinko, Harvey, Kim, & Chun, 2008). An online questionnaire gathered data through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Participants were 396 working adults who have worked full time for one organization in the past year and have had challenging interactions in the organization. The survey instrument consisted of four sections, including (1) perpetrator characteristics (hostile attribution bias); (2) relationship characteristics, expectancy violation, and affect; (3) aggressive behaviors; and (4) demographics. Each path of the conceptual model of workplace aggression was tested using path analyses. The findings indicated that expectancy mediated the association between predictors (relational characteristics, perpetrator characteristics, and affect) and aggressive responses. The specific nature of the perpetrator-target relationship (relational quality and status difference) moderated the association between expectancy and aggressive responses. Specifically, the perpetrator was more likely to perceive the target’s behavior as expected and aggressively responded to the target when relational quality was high, hostile attribution bias was high, or affect was high. When the level of relational quality was greater or the perpetrator was in the higher position than the target, the association between expectancy and aggressive responding was stronger. However, while expectancy was important, the construct of negative expectancy violation did not function as EVT suggested. The unique contributions of relational factors and the perpetrator perspective in the workplace aggression process are explored.

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