Stopping Workplace Violence Before It Starts

Workplace violence encompasses a wide range of activities and is something that every employer should be prepared to deal with if it occurs. Unfortunately, many employers are not trained to identify the initial stages of workplace violence, which can allow it to escalate into a more serious event. 

Types of Workplace Violence
When many think of workplace violence, they automatically think of the shootings which are so prevalent in national news reports. However, there are many other forms of violence, including verbal as well as physical. Physical violence can include physical fights or damage to another employee’s personal property, such as their car. Verbal violence often comes in the form of threatening to do harm to another employee. This can occur face-to-face, via email, text message or phone voice mail messages. 

Identifying Potentially Volatile Situations
One potentially volatile situation is during the termination of an employee. Even well-mannered individuals can become irate when they lose their job. This can lead them to issue threats such as “I’ll get you for this”, or “this isn’t over”. Employers must take these threats seriously for the sake of their other employees and the safety of the workplace. 

While this situation is clearly a threat, others aren’t so obvious. However, there are some clear behaviors that employers and employees can watch for which indicate a problem. 
  • An employee exhibits disruptive behavior such as yelling, cursing, verbally abusing others or seaming visibly agitated beyond reasonable limits.
  • An individual exhibits physically threatening actions but doesn’t actually touch another person. These actions include moving aggressively into another individual's personal space and oral or written threats.
  • The individual exhibits violent behavior including physical assault, possessing a weapon, throwing items, hitting walls or slamming doors.

Ensuring Workplace Safety
Businesses must train all employees on how to handle situations of workplace violence. In addition to helping employees identify threatening behavior, employers should instruct them on the proper procedure to follow in such situations. Employees should know exactly who to contact and how. In addition, they should feel comfortable pulling a fire alarm or calling emergency response if the act of violence is severe enough. 

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