Workplace violence and the meaning of work: A Phenomenological Analysis



Lamothe J, Guay S. (2017). Workplace violence and the meaning of work: A Phenomenological Analysis. Work, 56(2), 185-197.


Background: Workplace violence (WPV) has been associated with turnover intentions and reduced job satisfaction, yet the mechanisms behind such associations are still nebulous. Studying the way people make sense of their work in the context of WPV could lead to a better understanding of its consequences.

Purpose: The objective of this exploratory study is to identify key features of meaning of work (MOW) in a group of healthcare workers and explain how these features can change following an act of WPV.

Methods: Researchers recruited 15 healthcare workers (11 women – 4 men) who had previously been the victim of a serious physical or sexual assault by a patient. A phenomenological approach was used.

Results: Two main themes were identified: MOW and relationships with others and MOW and relationship with the self. WPV might have the potential to trigger negative changes in the way some workers perceive their colleagues, their patients and their organisation. It can also interfere with their sense of self-accomplishment; all workers however, were still able to find positive meaning in ‘contribution’ and ‘autonomy’.

Conclusion: WPV has the potential to change certain aspects of MOW that could help explain why WPV is associated with lowered job satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and higher turnover. Also, finding meaning through contribution and autonomy can be a form of resilience.