Violence in the Workplace

How to Avoid Violence in the Workplace

Violence in the workplace takes many forms, from raised voices and profanity, or sexual harassment to robbery or homicide. While homicide in the workplace is rising, 75% of work-related homicides are committed by unknown assailants while committing a robbery or other crimes. Despite media hype, the attacker usually isn't a disgruntled co-worker.

To assess a workplace's vulnerability to violence, ask yourself these questions:
  • Are you encouraged to report unusual or worrisome behavior? Is there a clear, written policy that spells out procedures in cases of violence and sanctions for violators?
    • Make sure you know to whom you should report unusual behaviors.
  • Could you recognize potentially violent employees?
    • Signs of stress that could erupt into violence include: depression, frequent absences, talking in a louder-than-normal voice, being startled easily, increased irritability and impatience, and concentration and memory problems.
  • Do you work in a supportive, harmonious environment? Is there a culture of mutual respect? Does your employer provide an employee assistance program (EAP)?
  • Does your employer take care in hiring and firing? Before hiring, are employment gaps, history, references, and criminal and educational records thoroughly examined? Are termination procedures defined clearly with attention to advance notice, severance pay, and placement services?
  • Is your office secure? Do you have easy-to-use phone systems with emergency buttons, sign-in policies for visitors, panic buttons, safe rooms, security guards, office access controls, good lighting, and safety training?