Client aggression toward social workers and social services in Israel: A qualitative analysis

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The aggressive behavior of clients toward employees in service organizations is an alarming phenomenon, which harms employees and damages the organization itself. Employees all over the public sector, especially in social service departments, are continuously exposed to aggressive behavior by clients. The focus of the current study is on understanding the short- and long-term implications of aggressive client behavior on social workers and the organization in which they operate. A qualitative approach was used to understand the perspective of the workers exposed to aggressive client behavior as well as its organizational implications. In-depth interviews were conducted with the 40 participants between February and May, 2009. The participants included district managers, agency managers, supervisors, social workers, and administrators, in 17 agencies all over the country. The study findings identified negative impacts of client aggression on several levels and on several focal areas. On the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral levels, both short-term and long-term consequences can be seen, which affect not only the attacked individual but also resonate throughout the organization. Individual events may diffuse to affect other levels of the service process by role-learning, imitation of behavior, and by noticing that the organization provides incentives for client aggression, while providing disincentives for assertiveness and self-protective actions on the part of workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1142
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • violence exposure
  • violent offenders
  • workplace violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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