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In this article, we investigate the impact of engaging in ruminative-style thoughts after exposure to workplace violence. Rumination is a form of self-focused thinking characterized by abstract and passive negative thoughts. In an experimental study in which student volunteers were exposed to simulated violence using a video manipulation, the unpleasant affect of participants instructed to ruminate about the violence persisted, while the affect of participants in a distraction condition was quickly repaired. In a field study of violence experienced by social workers in their everyday working lives, employees who had a high tendency to engage in ruminative thinking exhibited a stronger negative relationship between exposure to violence and poor well-being and health complaints compared with those who had a low tendency to ruminate. Together, our findings suggest that ruminative thinking may exacerbate the negative effects of workplace violence.

Practitioner Points

  • Being subjected to violence at work can have negative implications for employees' health and well-being, but it is not always possible for organizations to prevent violent attacks (e.g., from members of the public).
  • Our findings indicate that the negative consequences of violence may be intensified when the victim engages in rumination, a negative type of thinking about the self that involves passive, abstract thoughts about what happened and the effects on one's life.
  • Organizations should therefore seek to discourage ruminative thinking among victims of workplace violence.