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Workplace Violence: Identifying, Preventing and Responding

  • Published
  • 16 October 2023
  • Category
  • General

Workplace violence is an unfortunate reality that affects countless organizations and their employees. It encompasses a range of behaviors, from physical altercations and harassment to more subtle forms like bullying or intimidation. A study by Jackson Lewis, a national employment law firm, found that nearly 2 million American workers report being victims of workplace violence.  This blog post explores the different aspects of workplace violence, including its definition, prevention strategies and how to respond to incidents.

Understanding Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is defined as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other disruptive behavior occurring at the worksite. This may include remote work locations. It can manifest in various forms, such as verbal abuse, property damage, physical assaults and even fatalities. The impact of workplace violence is not limited to the immediate victims; it can also have far-reaching consequences for an organization’s productivity, morale and reputation.

Types of Workplace Violence

Understanding the different types of workplace violence is crucial for prevention and intervention. They include:

  • Criminal Intent: Acts committed by individuals with no connection to the organization, such as robberies or break-ins.
  • Customer/Client Violence: Acts involving customers, clients or patients, including verbal or physical abuse toward employees.
  • Co-Worker Violence: Acts of violence initiated by a current or former employee directed at work colleagues.
  • Personal Relationship Violence: This occurs when a personal relationship conflict spills over into the workplace.

Preventing Workplace Violence

Prevention is the first line of defense against workplace violence. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Create a culture of respect by encouraging open communication and respect among employees. Promote tolerance and diversity to reduce the risk of discriminatory behaviors.
  • Provide employee training on ways to recognize early warning signs of workplace violence, conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques.
  • Invest in safety measures such as security systems, access control and visitor management to minimize external threats.
  • Establish a zero-tolerance policy that clearly articulate the company’s stance on workplace violence prevention and response, including reporting procedures and consequences for offenders.
  • Support employee assistance programs (EAPs) and other support services and counseling opportunities for employees dealing with personal issues that might lead to workplace violence or who are the victims of domestic abuse.

Responding to Workplace Violence

When an incident of workplace violence occurs, a timely and appropriate response is vital. Here are five recommendations:

  1. Report the incident: Encourage employees to promptly report any incidents or concerns about workplace violence to HR or management.
  2. Investigate thoroughly: Conduct a comprehensive investigation to determine the facts and take appropriate actions.
  3. Provide support: Offer professional resource such as counseling to victims and witnesses to ensure that they feel safe and valued.
  4. Legal considerations: Consult legal experts to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
  5. Learning and improvement: Use any perceived threats or incidents as opportunities for organizational learning, and to improve security and prevention measures.


To further your understanding of workplace violence and prevention, consider these sources:

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – Workplace Violence

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Workplace Violence Prevention

American Society for Health Care Risk Management (ASHRM) – Workplace Violence Resources

Workplace violence is a serious concern that impacts the health, safety and productivity of employees who are victims, their co-workers and the organization as a whole.  A collaborative approach is needed to reduce the risk of violence in the workplace.. If you would like assistance in implementing preventive measures, contact us at and read more health and safety content like this on our blog page.