Human Resources Training: Workplace Violence

Violence in the workplace is unbelievably difficult to handle. In today’s Human Resources Training blog, we will use a series of questions to identify different types of workplace violence, perpetrators, potential causes, common myths, long-term effects, and what the actual costs are to employers/employees/the public.

How is Workplace Violence Defined?

A simple definition of workplace violence is “any action that may threaten the safety of an employee, impact the employee’s physical/psychological wellbeing, or cause damage to company property.

What are the types of workplace violence to look out for?

Things to look out for would be threats, harrassment of any nature (physical, verbal, or sexual), physical assaults, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and stalking.

Who are the perpetrators of workplace violence?

This list is by no means all-encompassing but typically the perpartrators you would see are employees, former employees, customers, suppliers, clients, patients, strangers committing a crime, acquaintances of employees, or family members of employees.

What are some reasons workplace violence may occur?

The most common causes of workplace violence are work-related conflicts, personal conflicts, domestic violence, robberies, revenge for being terminated or passed over for a promotion/raise, a client being disgruntled, a stalker’s obsession, or displaced anger.

What are the Causes of Workplace Violence?

We’ve found there are 3 different groups of factors that can be causes of workplace violence, and beneath those 3 groups are a myriad of stressors that many employees could feel at one time or another.

Organizational Factors

  • Change
  • Job Overload
  • Unclear Job Tasks
  • High-Stress Work Environmant
  • Downsizing
  • Reorganization
  • Poor Communication
  • Labor Disputes
  • Understaffing
  • Poor Management Styles
  • Inadequate Security
  • Poor Hiring Practices
  • No Response to Prior Viloence
  • No Employee Counseling Available

Cultural Factors

  • Economic Downturn
  • Availability of Weapons
  • Breakdown of Family and/or Community
  • Fast-Paced, High-Stress Society
  • Media Glorification of Violence
  • Holiday Stress

Personal Factors

  • Loss of Job, Raise, or Promotion
  • Loss of Relationship
  • Family/Marital Problems
  • Money Problems
  • Drug or Alcohol Abuse
  • Stress
  • Domestic Violence

How Can I Reduce the Likelihood of Workplace Violence?

As a manager, it is difficult to make changes to cultural or personal factors, but as a leader you can be aware when an employee is affected by the stresses of personal issues.

  • Have policies to make sure threats and signs of violence are not ignored.
  • Properly screen new employees.
  • Provide proper training and coaching to employees.
  • Have a due process in place for employee termination.
  • Enforce all sexual harrassment policies and disciplinary procedures.
  • Never ignore an employee’s complaint about another employee’s behavior.
  • If subjecting employees to frequent change, be clear about what is ahead.
  • Make sure there are adequate security measures and procedures in place.

What are the Long-Term Effects of Violence in the Workplace?

Immediate effects are easy to gauge, but what happens in the long-term? How does it impact employees? Leadership? The organization itself? Ongoing employee and management training after an incident can greatly reduce the impact of the following:

  • High employee turnover
  • Decreased trust among employees
  • Family hardships to a disabled or diseased party resulting from violence
  • Permanent effects on health or well-being of injured workers
  • Lower productivity among remaining employees due to stress/trauma
  • Loss of morale among remaining employees due to stress/trauma
  • Worker’s comp premiums may increase
  • Negative publicity to the organization that could impact the bottom line

What is the Actual Cost of Workplace Violence?

While the primary goal of this blog isn’t to reduce the effects of workplace violence to dollars and cents, it wouldn’t be quite complete if it wasn’t at least addressed. In any violent incident there are 3 primary groups who are impacted:


Beyond the above outlined worker’s compensation premiums and decreased productivity, there are also medical expenses, legal expenses, employee counseling expenses, wages paid to injured employees, potential overtime expenses to make up for lost work, court costs, and of course the change of public image.


Employees who are either directly involved or merely in the vicinity are impacted by cost as well. There can be reductions in earnings as a result of the injury or trauma, destruction of employee morale, and increased stress among coworkers who feel unsafe. In extreme cases, there can even be slashes to wages and benefits if business losses are substantial enough as a result of the event.

The Public:

The public feels the costs of violence in different ways than those within the organization. Sometimes prices may be raised to offset losses or costs of increased security measures. They may also feel insecure about doing business with your organization, and as such lose the relationships they may have built as a repeat client.

So what is the “big picture” of all of this? In our mind it’s that in order to be protected from violence in the workplace, it’s best to stop it before it starts! This can be done by looking out for the warning signs, making sure Human Resources has rigid procedures and training in place, and having a strong pre-screening process to include a background check, strong references on past performance, and even behavioral assessments.

Info Quest, Incorporated

Surfside Business Center
812 South Poplar Drive, Suite 8
Surfside Beach, SC 29575