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Aggression and Violence in the Workplace

Two million American workers fall victim to workplace aggression and violence every year and as a result, employers incur direct and indirect costs. Classifications of workplace aggression and violence include verbal and emotional abuse, threatening behavior, and physical assault, among other things. These incidents may begin small, but can escalate and lead to injuries or even death.
Though physical violence, such as fighting or homicide, is infrequent compared to other forms of workplace aggression, every incident of workplace aggression should be taken seriously.

As explained in “Behavior in Organizations” by Jerald Greenberg, the following are some more common examples of workplace aggression:

  • Incivility – Demonstrating a lack of regard for others and denying them respect.
  • Obstructionism – Attempting to impede another employee’s job performance.
  • Overt Aggression – Acts that are outwardly intended to harm other people or organizations.

Workplace aggression and violence can be attributed to many factors, but proper assessment of potential risk can reduce or stop this negative behavior and create a safe work environment for employees. Below are some ideas for how employers can prevent workplace aggression and violence:

  • Establish a Zero-Tolerance Policy towards Workplace Aggression/Violence – Company handbooks should outline prohibited conduct by employees, customers, vendors and other business associates. A zero-tolerance policy should provide a guideline on how to report incidents and let employees know that each report will be taken seriously. It is important that employees feel confident that any claim of workplace aggression or violence will be investigated promptly.
  • Have a Plan – An organization should provide safety education or training for its employees. Defined protocol can establish what conduct is not acceptable and how to react if an employee, customer or anyone else shows signs of aggression or violence. Having a plan in place can save lives! A few simple questions that should be addressed include:
    • What to do and where to go if a person is showing signs of aggression or violence
    • How long to stay there
    • Who to call in the case of an emergency.
  • Grab a Buddy ­– If employees are on a job site that is not fully secure, in an unfamiliar area or closing up shop, encourage co-workers to walk together to their cars or to watch from a distance to ensure each employee arrives to their destination safely. Dangerous situations occur less frequently when employees are not alone.

When workplace aggression and violence is not taken seriously, employees and employers can be put at risk.  Following the suggestions outlined above will assist in alleviating the potential risk. Whether it be verbal threats, physical assaults or worse, aggression and violence is a serious issue and should be regarded as such. Encouraging employees to be respectful of others and to speak up when witnessing signs of aggression and violence can ultimately create a safer workplace.

To learn more about how EctoHR, Inc. supports policy implementation and training, please reach out to a team member at or (810) 534-0170.

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