Preventing and Defusing Workplace Violence

Workplace violence can strike at any time, from a co-worker, stranger, customer, client, or personal relationship. Threats of violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening behavior are all examples of workplace violence.

You have the right to work in a safe environment, and we want to assist you in achieving that goal. Here are some tips on how to avoid and defuse violence in the workplace.

Prevention Tips:

  • Be familiar with your company’s emergency communication plan as well as how to contact local authorities.
  • If you think of how someone could enter your building, and if there is more than one entrance to your office, think about only having one entrance in use. Keep all other doors locked from the outside to control traffic.
  • If you use an ID card key or security code to access your building or office, make sure you are not sharing it with others. It’s good practice not to allow piggybacking into the workplace. In other words, every employee should use their own card key for access. This not only controls who gets into the workplace, but it can also account for who is in the workplace if a crisis occurs.

Example Behaviors of Someone Who May Be Contemplating an Incident:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Indirect threats
  • Direct threats
  • Non-verbal threats
  • Extreme threats
  • Violent actions in general

Warning Signs

  • Fascination with weapons
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Severe stress
  • Anguish over employment decisions
  • History of violent behavior
  • Psychological deterioration
  • Decreased work production
  • Poor hygiene

Handling an Aggressor 

  • If they are armed, do not try to disarm them
  • Try and remain calm; don’t show anger or raise your voice
  • Be agreeable and discuss the consequences
  • Keep distance between you and the aggressor while delaying tactics allowing them more time to calm down
  • Identify and stay near an exit if possible
  • Contact authorities or security if able

Defuse a Violent Situation -Verbal Tips

  • Allow the person to express concern. “Please tell me what’s bothering you.”
  • Use a shared problem-solving approach. “How can we correct this problem?”
  • Empathize with the person. “I understand how frustrating this must be for you.”
  • Apologize if appropriate. “I’m sorry this happened. Let’s find a way to fix it.”
  • Follow through with their problem. “I’m going to bring this to my supervisor immediately.”
  • Avoid blaming others or stating, “It’s not my job.” “Let me get someone who can help you with this problem.”

Defuse a Violent Situation -Non-Verbal Tips

  • Being calm, or at least act calm. Maintain non-threatening eye contact, smile, and keep your hands open and visible.
  • Listen. Nod your head to demonstrate that you are paying attention.
  • Respect personal space. Maintain arm/leg distance away from the individual. Avoid touching the upset individual as it may be misinterpreted.
  • Approach the person from an angle or from the side.
  • Convey that you are in control by demonstrating confidence in your ability to resolve the situation.
  • Demonstrate supportive body language. Avoid threatening gestures, such as finger-pointing or crossed arms.
  • Avoid laughing or smiling inappropriately.


Your safety should be a top priority in the workplace. Your employer is responsible for protecting employees from violence by establishing a zero-tolerance policy that will not condone any acts or threats of violence. Don’t hesitate to contact your manager or HR if you feel unsafe or have questions.

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