How to Deal with Workplace Violence

woman with head in hands at her work station depicting the despair she's experiencing from being sexually harrassed in work

Workplace violence can occur in any environment. However, there is an increased risk of violence in certain occupations and positions, which are but are not limited to, jobs that involve:

  • the exchange of money (banks, retail etc.)
  • working alone or in small numbers
  • working in public settings (law enforcement, teachers, taxicab drivers, hotel clerks, bartenders etc.)
  • working very late or early hours
  • working in high crime areas
  • guarding or maintaining property or possessions

In our last blog, we wanted to raise awareness about how broad workplace violence is and we looked at the five types that can occur. In this follow-on blog, we’ll briefly touch upon the five types again but with a focus on how to prevent and manage them.

Two men doing marshal arts

With workplace violence being one of the leading causes of job-related deaths, it is essential to be aware of all the potential situations that can occur so that employers can efficiently and effectively put prevention and management strategies in place.

Read: Threat Awareness: The 5 Types of Workplace Violence

Types of Workplace Violence and What to Do


In this instance, the violence usually occurs during shoplifting, an attempted robbery or a trespassing incident. More often than not, it is a random act rather than a personal attack on the employee.

Prevention / Management:

  • Take a crime analysis of the area – you need to be aware of the area’s crime rates as well as recent crimes on other similar organisations. This will ensure you are up to date on the latest risks and scams so you can successfully increase your security measures and implement an effective response strategy.
  • Implement Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) measures – depending on your work environment, you should consider implementing cash management techniques, barriers, CCTV and public view monitors. It is important to ensure you have the best possible security to make both your employees and customers feel safe.

A security guard going down an escalator


One of the most difficult violent acts to avoid in the workplace is violence that comes from a customer or client. Usually, these are spontaneous instances caused by high stress or emotion in the moment so they can be difficult to anticipate and therefore manage.

Prevention / Management:

The best measures to put in place to prevent this type of workplace violence are methods that reduce the tension or stress in the environment as much as possible. These could include:

  • Staff training – all staff who work in these environments need to be trained in de-escalation techniques, as something as simple as listening, talking in a calm and soothing tone, and body language can really make a difference to an emotional situation.
  • Effective customer service teams – customer service is essential in all work environments, so any programme or team that works with customers and clients needs to be as efficient and effective as possible. They have the ability to reduce stress for customers AND employees, so this needs to be a focus for many employers.

To manage these situations, you will need to develop an effective response and coordinate this with local police agencies.

Shot of a busy cafe

Significant Other

Often referred to as domestic violence in the workplace, violence can also occur between an employee and their significant other. This type of violence is very frequent and is a greater threat to female employees.

Prevention / Management:

  • Train all staff in threat awareness – ensuring all your staff are aware of potential threats, how they arise, and how to respond, can be the most effective prevention strategy. Not only can they identify the warning signs, but they can also assess how threatening a situation is and how immediate the necessary action needs to be.
  • Develop and implement low-risk communication methods – once staff are vigilant, they will need a safe way of communicating any potential risk to themselves or their co-workers to their employers.
  • Work with local police agencies – if you have employees that are at-risk of potential violence, employers will need to communicate and work with the police to develop additional measures to protect them.

Two people walking down a high street



Workplace violence can also occur between two or more employees. More often than not, the violence is personal and can be carried out by former disgruntled employees.

Prevention / Management:

  • Hire the right people – interviews, inductions, and trial periods are in place for a reason, so make sure to enforce yours to ensure you are hiring people that are right for your company. 
  • Treat your employees well – a certain management style may not suit everyone, so the most important thing is to ensure that you make your employees feel heard and appreciated. Listen to their concerns and take on board their suggestions for change where possible. It would also be useful to provide training in de-escalation techniques to all supervisors and managers to reduce the risk of violence in incidents such as terminations and disciplinary actions.
  • Develop and implement opportunities for communications as well as effective response strategies – employees need to feel like they can turn to someone to report their issues and concerns, so make sure to have open and private options for communication. In some cases, these concerns may be serious, so you will also need to have a quick way of assessing and responding to these situations.

Employees all putting their fists in a circle


Potentially the most difficult type of workplace violence for employers and employees to prevent and manage is acts of terrorism. However, it is absolutely essential to have these measures and strategies in place than not at all to reduce their impact and potentially save lives.

Prevention / Management:

  • Evaluate your organisation’s threat potential – much like a risk assessment, employers need to look at each aspect of their organisation and analyse their potential for terrorist acts. Only when these weak areas are identified can employers plan and implement security measures and responses.
  • Undertake terrorism awareness training and develop effective defence strategies – as said above, employee training is essential to prevent and manage threat situations. Not only does reduce the impact of a given situation, but it also ensures the safety of your employees and customers.
  • Enforce and practice threat responses – as you would with fire drills, terrorism responses need to be practiced regularly to ensure a smooth and efficient response to any given situation.

Crowd in a shopping centre

What we can do for you:

If you’re interested in knowing more about threat awareness training for your staff, RGM are offering training courses developed by Counter Terrorism and Threat Specialists. If you need training or just advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Need more information about threat awareness? Check out our other articles:

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