Lateral Violence : A Story and example of Lateral Violence

Lateral violence is a form of bullying that takes place peer to peer. Lateral Violence includes gossiping, rumours, sabotaging and back-stabbing. Lateral Violence is a destructive force that creates unhappy and unhealthy workplaces. The impacts of Lateral Violence include lack of trust, lack of safety, high absenteeism and turnover – and reduced quality of service, a lack of safety, damaged trust, high absenteeism and job turnover – and reduced quality of services.

There is a growing awareness of lateral violence occurring within the Indigenous Community of Alberta. This form of bullying demonstrates how gossip, name-calling and put-downs negatively affect First Nations adults. This kind of violence has its roots in the hurt stemming from colonialism. Many First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples have experienced Lateral Violence.

“Lateral violence among Native people is about our anti-colonial rage working itself out in an expression of hate for one another”. Copied from: What is Lateral Violence

“Internalized oppression is this turning upon ourselves upon our families, and upon our own people the distress patterns that result from the racism and oppression of the majority society”.

“Oppressive thoughts, attitudes and behaviours are learned”.

Copied from Internalized Racism

For more information on this issue, go to: Lateral Violence in First Nations Communities

Lateral Violence:
Two examples experienced by Alberta Social Workers

Alberta Social Worker (1)

I worked with a lady who was my equal when it came to the number of years we completed in education, training, and work experience. Our differences were about our work ethics and values. She seemed to spend a great deal of time chatting and laughing with one of our male colleagues. Every day I would leave the office feeling exhausted from my high case load, and she would take files home and work on them at night. Apparently she needed very little sleep and could focus better at home. Somehow this was ok with our supervisor. After several months of this I complained about the constant chatting and laughter from down the hallway. As soon as I spoke up her behaviour towards me changed from my being ignored (which was ok for me), to her making negative comments about me, especially when I walked into our meeting room or lunch area. She was close friends with our one male colleague and our male supervisor. When I needed her to assist me on a case she was never available but she always had a good excuse. As time went on her whispers and laughs changed. She began coming to my office speaking quietly making statements like “you think you can win this one, watch me take you down”. This would be followed by a loud laugh. She would then walk straight into our male colleague’s office and laugh and talk for over an hour – several time a day. This was soon a daily event and her visiting disturbed the entire unit. Problem was the rest of us knew she had a few powerful people in her corner. Then one day her behaviour escalated and I saw just how ill she was. She came in to my office as usual, made some comment that I cannot recall because of my shock about what happened next. She went down the hall and said very loudly, ” she just kicked me out of her office and followed me pointing her finger at me!” She pretended to be upset. I could not believe my ears. This was confusing and I panicked. I even doubted my own experience of it all! Complaints were made, of course I defended myself. About 2 weeks later I was transferred out of the office and the rest of my peers buried their heads and tolerated it. About a year later all the facts were out in the open. But the damage to me was done. (Anonymous)


Alberta Social Worker (2)

She constantly ignored me and I suspect that it is her who was taking my work from my fax print outs. She refuses to assist me on urgent cases and makes up excuses about not getting my calls. She started a rumour that I was having an affair with my supervisor. She has no idea how much she has hurt me and my husband, and my supervisor’s wife. I found out that she went from person to person telling different lies and then stood back to see the outcome. This is just malicious. I hate coming to work but I have children, my husband is recovering from chemo treatments, and we have a mortgage. (Anonymous)