Lateral Violence

Lateral Violence

What is lateral violence? Although it is found everywhere, lateral violence in this case refers to its impact in communities, workplaces, homes, events and literally everywhere there are people. Lateral violence is a learned behaviour as a result of colonialism and patriarchal methods of governing and developing a society.

What are the behaviours linked with lateral violence?

Lateral violence takes on a number of different toxic behaviours, and it is any action that is meant to discourage or make a person feel bad in the workplace. If you are the target of lateral violence the constant barrage of negative behaviours can be likened to harassment and bullying. In its extreme form, lateral violence can be conscious, deliberate act of meanness with the overall intention to harm, hurt and induce fear in a co-worker. In other forms of lateral violence, the individual perpetrating the negative behaviour may not be aware of the meanness they are exhibiting and they may not be doing these actions intentionally. The following are some of behavioural indicators that lateral violence may be happening by you, to you or to someone else in your workplace.

Where does it happen?

Although the most common place for lateral violence is in the workplace, it does cross the line into the community and home. The primary workplaces in which lateral violence are more prevalent are those with poor organizational systems or those workplaces that are undergoing change such as downsizing or merging, or when power is shifting and people feel uncertain.

Why does it happen?

Lateral violence happens when individuals who have endured oppression suppress feelings such as: anger, shame, and rage. Eventually these feelings manifest in behaviours such as: jealousy, resentment, blame, and bitterness; and they are directed toward their Aboriginal co-workers. As many of these people have been victims of abuse these behaviours are usually used to manipulate, dominate, control and diminish others. Regardless of their issues, the behaviour is not appropriate and no one should be the target of someone’s unresolved issues.

Behavioural sings of lateral violence

• nonverbal intimation (raising eyebrows, making faces, eye rolling)

• obvious name calling

• sarcasm

• bickering

• whining

• blaming

• belittling a person’s opinions

• yelling or using profanity

• making up and/or exaggerating scenarios

• making snide comments and remarks

• making jokes that are offensive by spoken word or email

• using put downs

• gossiping

• rumor mongering

• ignoring, excluding or freezing out people

• handing over work assignments with unreasonable deadlines or duties that will ensure the person will fail

• being purposely unavailable to meet with staff

• undermining activities

• withholding information or giving the wrong information purposely

• constantly changing work guidelines

• blocking requests for a promotion, leave or training

• not giving enough work so the individual will feel useless

• refusing to work with someone

• backstabbing

• complaining to peers and not confronting the individual

• failing to respect privacy

• breaking the confidences of others

• mobbing or ganging up on others

The Effects of Lateral Violence

On a personal level, depending on the severity of the lateral violence there are a lot of health problems that can manifest for the individual being targeted. They could experience:

•Sleep disorders either not being able to sleep or not wanting to get out of bed in the morning;

•Changes in eating habits – either eating more or less or differently;

•Weight loss or gain;

•Moodiness – lack of sleep will usually mean that you won’t be all that happy;

•Self-doubt –you question all your decisions and abilities;

•Decreased self-confidence;

•Feelings of worthlessness;


•Chronic anxiety;

Published by Nathan Findlay

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