Are Your Employees Able to Spot Workplace Violence?

Awareness of the danger posed by school shooters has risen dramatically in recent years, fueled by the barrage of tragic headlines we receive far too often. The threat has become something that teachers, administrators, and even the kids have to worry about on a regular basis, punctuated by “live shooter” drills and increased security.

So, schools have gotten the message. But have other workplaces?

The threat of violence goes well beyond the educational sphere. It can potentially impact any office or factory floor. And while the danger from things like mass shootings prompt the most headlines, those kinds of attacks remain (thankfully) rare.

A more common danger comes from more mundane violence: fights, harassment, and bullying. These are the areas you should focus on when conducting employee training.

Warning Signs: Red Flags

Workplace violence usually doesn’t come out of thin air. It typically escalates from relatively minor situations. Small incidents build up over time, until they reach a dramatic, dangerous explosion.

Train your workers to identify the smaller events that can lead up to a major situation. An employee who acts up in small ways might escalate the behavior over time.

Harassment and Stalking

Because violence often comes as the culmination of escalating aggressive behavior, any inappropriate conduct should be dealt with immediately.

A significant example comes from the area of harassment. The rise of the #MeToo movement has spotlighted the problem and has led to some progress in societal attitudes. Still, many companies lag behind in their responses to these behaviors.

Employees should know to report incidents of stalking or harassment as soon as they happen. Meanwhile, you should be prepared to take the necessary action when warranted.


It may seem like an issue more for junior high lunch monitors than for corporate HR executives. But, unfortunately, bullying still comes up in the adult world.

A healthy competition can help drive productivity and some friendships involve a fair amount of good-natured teasing. But when ribbing escalates to intimidation or ridicule, it can set the stage for eventual violence.

Warning Signs: Yellow Flags

Some precursors to violence are more ambiguous. We’ve labeled these as “yellow flags,” as compared to the clear red flags listed above.

The list of yellow flags includes things like dramatic mood changes or major personal issues, like a divorce or a death in the family. Also, mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, can contribute to eventual violence.

A warning here: you need to remain cautious in the message you send to your employees about these kinds of potential trouble signs. They have been associated in some cases with eventual violence, but they could also just signal that someone is having a bad day.

Many of these situations require compassion and understanding, rather than suspicion. You don’t want to turn the workplace into a snake pit of mistrust.

Response Protocols

In order to effectively respond to these potentially fraught situations, your employees need adequate training. They have to know what to look for dangerous behavior and they have to understand the proper channels of response.

Meanwhile, you have to maintain a vigorous and fair procedure for dealing with situations as they come up. The best time to consider an ideal response mechanism is well before something happens.

Therefore, create policies before you encounter trouble. Otherwise, your response will be reactive and ad hoc.

Workplace safety is a core concerns for any company’s management. Working with a knowledgeable staffing partner, like LaborMax, can ensure that your staff is properly trained and ready to respond to any situations that could come up.

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