Workplace Violence: Causes, Prevention, and Solutions


Workplace violence has been the number 1 critical issue over the last few years. According to the security magazine, workplace violence has been maintaining the top spot for critical problems in the workplace as the number 1 position. These cases have been in a surge in retail workers, teachers & health professionals, etc. In a recently published report by National Institute for occupational safety and health and other two agencies says that over the last 6 years workplace violence-related deaths have risen 11% from 2014.

This can occur in any industry and can have severe consequences for both employees and businesses. In addition to physical harm, it can also lead to psychological trauma, lost productivity, and financial damages. To effectively prevent and respond to workplace violence, it is essential to understand its causes and focus on its prevention & solutions.

What is workplace violence?

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, or other threatening disruptive/ harmful behavior that occurs at the workplace. It can include physical assaults, such as hitting, pushing, or kicking, or else verbal assaults, such as threats, insults, or verbal abuse. It can also involve psychological abuse, such as bullying, stalking, or harassment.

Types of workplace violence

It is mainly classified into three types, each with its own characteristics and manifestations.

  1. Physical Violence: It is the most visible and recognizable type of workplace violence. It can involve the use of force or any harmful weapons to cause harm to the employee. Physical violence can occur in various ways such as employee-on-employee violence, customer-on-employee violence, or domestic violence spillover.
  2. Verbal Violence: It is the use of words or language to threaten, or harm an employee. It can also include insults, threats, yelling, or other forms of verbal abuse. Verbal violence can eventually take the form of harassment, such as sexual harassment or racial slurs.
  3. Psychological Violence: It is the use of non-physical ways to cause harm to the employee. It is the least visible and unrecognizable type of workplace violence. It can include bullying, harassment, stalking, or other forms of emotional abuse. Psychological violence can have long-lasting effects on an employee’s mental health and well-being.

Causes of workplace violence

The following are the major causes:

Not addressing the issue

The first and main cause is an organization or workplace not addressing the issue. Whether workplace violence takes place or not, this issue must be raised in meetings and preventive measures shall be taken by the authorities to further avoid it.

Staff shortages

There is a high probability of workplace violence if there is a staff shortage. Staff shortage commonly leads to frustration in the current staff due to more workload. This will be the pivotal reason for employee-on-employee violence & customer-on-employee violence.

Work-Related Factors

Work-related factors refer to the conditions and circumstances that may contribute to violence. These factors can include salary issues, job dissatisfaction, conflicts with colleagues or supervisors, or high-stress levels.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors refer to the physical conditions and surroundings that may contribute to violence. These factors can include inadequate security measures, access to weapons, or exposure to violence in the community.

Preventive Measures

Preventing workplace violence requires an extensive approach that can address the underlying causes and risk factors. Here are some strategies that organizations can implement:

Prevention policy

Organizations should develop a clear workplace violence prevention policy. It should be defined in the policy that what constitutes workplace violence, outline reporting procedures, and detail the consequences for violating the policy.

Training & Education

Training and education programs are essential for educating employees and management about the risks, recognizing warning signs, and how to respond to such incidents. These programs can also provide employees with conflict-resolution skills, and de-escalation techniques and promote a culture of respect and professionalism.

Screening and Background Checks

Screening and background checks are essential tools for identifying potentially violent individuals during the hiring process. These checks can include criminal record checks, reference checks, psychological assessments, etc.

Response to workplace violence

Responding to these incidents requires a swift and coordinated approach that prioritizes the safety and well-being of employees.

Reporting and Documenting

Reporting and documenting these types of incidents are crucial for gathering evidence, ensuring accountability, and providing support to victims. Employees should be encouraged to report incidents of violence promptly, and management should establish clear reporting and documentation procedures.

Emergency Procedures

Emergency procedures should be in place to respond to such incidents, such as active shooter situations or physical assaults. These procedures should include protocols for evacuating the workplace, contacting the police, and providing medical assistance as soon as possible.

Post-incident support

Providing support to victim employees is crucial for their physical, mental, and emotional recovery. This support shall include counseling services, medical care, and time off work.

Legal & ethical considerations

It is the legal and ethical responsibility of the organization’s authorities and employers to provide a safe and secure working place for their employees. They must take responsibility to prevent and respond to such incidents of workplace violence. Failure to do so can result in legal liability, reputational damage, and financial loss.

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Thus, workplace violence is a critical issue that affects employees across various industries. It has some severe consequences for individuals and businesses. It can be prevented and mitigated through proactive measures and effective response strategies. By understanding the causes and manifestations of workplace violence and implementing preventative and responsive measures, employers can create a safe and respectful workplace culture that promotes the productivity and well-being of an employees.

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