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Dealing with Violence in the Workplace

Violence or aggression between employees can happen anywhere. Harm may be aimed at managers or coworkers. This may include starting rumors, using angry words, or taking physical action. Violence may even take the form of armed assault.


Threats may be aimed at a coworker, the employer, or the work site. Threats may be made in person. Or they may occur through email, social media, letters, or phone calls.

Physical action

An employee may shove, trip, or punch a coworker. Other types of violent action may also occur. This may include throwing or breaking things.

Armed assault

An employee may feel they were treated unfairly. They may be angry at the company or at a certain person there. The employee may plan ways to get back at their target. This may take the form of armed violence or arson. Coworkers and company visitors may be hurt if the plan is carried out.

Warning signs

Violent acts in the workplace often have some warning. An employee may act anxious, defensive, or aggressive. They may make threats. Or they may react badly to an evaluation, a disciplinary action, or a change in work policy. These employees often feel isolated or depressed. A history of family violence or substance abuse is also common. They may take a strong interest in weapons.

Employers can reduce the risk of workplace violence in these ways:

  • Enforce a zero tolerance policy toward any type of workplace violence. This policy should cover all employees at all levels. It should also cover anyone who may come in contact with employees. This includes patients, clients, visitors, and contractors.

  • Conduct training exercises with local law enforcement.

  • Put an emergency plan in place and make sure all employees know how to use it.

  • Secure the workplace. Limit access to the building and install video cameras. Provide extra lighting and require ID badges to enter the building.

  • Train employees on personal safety. Help them recognize, report, stay away from, or stop a possible violent situation.

  • Encourage employees to alert supervisors right away of any concerns. Employees should report all events quickly and in writing.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
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