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In praise of intolerance: Investigating the effects of organizational tolerance on the incidence and consequences of workplace aggression

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Title: In praise of intolerance: Investigating the effects of organizational tolerance on the incidence and consequences of workplace aggression
Author: Schat, Aaron C. H.
Department: Department of Psychology
Advisor: Desmarais, Serge
Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the relationships between young workers' perceptions of organizational climate regarding aggressive behaviour, the frequency with which they report experiencing workplace aggression, and their psychological, physical, and behavioural functioning. To this end, two studies were conducted. The first study involved the development and validation of the Workplace Aggression Questionnaire (WAQ), a scale designed to measure the broad spectrum of behaviours that comprise workplace aggression from three different sources: coworkers, supervisors, and members of the public. After preliminary scale refinement and content validation, data were collected from a sample of 888 undergraduate students who completed the WAQ based on their summer employment experiences. These data were then randomly divided into two samples and submitted to exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses to assess the structure of workplace aggression and the construct validity of the WAQ. The results revealed that workplace aggression consists of different types of aggressive behaviour (e.g., hostility, work-related criticism, incivility) nested within different sources of aggressive behaviour (i.e., coworkers, supervisors, and members of the public). These results, and their consistency across the two independent samples of participants, demonstrate that workplace aggression is a multidimensional construct and provide evidence of the construct validity of the WAQ. The purpose of the second study was to investigate the association between perceptions of organizational tolerance of aggressive behaviour and the frequency of workplace aggression. This study consisted of two phases: In the first phase, a measure of Organizational Tolerance of Aggression (OTA) was developed and validated. Based on data provided by 475 employed undergraduate students, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses provided construct validity evidence for the measure and empirical support for the proposed three dimensions of OTA: communication and enforcement of a workplace aggression policy, supervisor tolerance of aggression, and coworker tolerance of aggression. In the second phase, the hypothesized relationships between organizational tolerance, workplace aggression, and psychological (e.g., psychological well-being, job satisfaction), physical (e.g., somatic symptoms), and behavioural (e.g., interpersonal deviance behaviours) outcome variables were tested using latent variable path analyses and moderated multiple regression. The results of these analyses provided substantial support for the hypotheses, demonstrating significant associations between the dimensions of organizational tolerance and workplace aggression, and between these dimensions and the various outcome variables in the model. The theoretical and practical implications of these results, the studies' limitations, and potential directions for future research are discussed.
Date: 2004
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