Sex and position status differences in workplace aggression

Raymond T. Lee (Department of Business Administration, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada)
Céleste M. Brotheridge (Département d'organisation et ressources humaines, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Publication date: 5 July 2011



This study aims to examine sex and position status differences in the experience of workplace aggression. Based on the imbalance of power thesis, the aim is to posit that: women would report targeting other women; men would report targeting either sex; supervisors would report targeting a peer or subordinate; victims would report that a supervisor more often uses indirect forms of aggression; a peer more often uses direct forms of aggression; and; after controlling for position status, men would report using direct forms of aggression more often than women who, in turn, would report using indirect forms of bullying more often than men.


A sample of 180 Canadian supervisory and non‐supervisory workers from several industries completed a questionnaire that included measures of aggressive acts.


Most men reported being targeted by another man, and most women reported being targeted by another woman. Similarly, most men reported that they targeted another man, and most women reported that they targeted another woman. Most respondents reported that their aggressor had either higher or the same position status as them, whereas, if the respondents targeted others, their victim had the same or lower status. Compared to similar status aggressors, higher status aggressors were reported by the respondents as using both direct and indirect forms of aggression more often. After controlling for position status, compared to women, men reported using both forms more often as well.


The findings have implications for how victims cope with workplace aggression and for developing organizational anti‐harassment policies.



Lee, R. and Brotheridge, C. (2011), "Sex and position status differences in workplace aggression", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 403-418.

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