Violence in the Workplace

Workplace violence takes many forms. It can include verbal threats, physical assault — even death. Violence in the workplace poses a significant threat to the safety, security, and well-being of employers and employees. A workplace violence issue of great concern is that businesses continue to under report non-fatal injuries, which can lead to apathy and less than adequate protection of workplaces. In one recent report, 30 percent of workers polled reported that they were unaware of their employers’ emergency preparedness plans. This is not to say that plans weren’t in place; rather, this statistic represents the relative lack of urgency with which such plans are communicated to employees.

Employers would be wise to:

  • Become informed of the risk factors and warning signs of potential violence;
  • Recognize the frequency with which violence permeates the workplace;
  • Recognize the environmental factors that allow violence to escalate;
  • Develop an in-house anti-violence program; and
  • Communicate violence preparedness plans to employees.

Current research suggests that employers’ attempts to eliminate workplace violence are much more successful when the focus is on prevention rather than reaction. One study suggests that for every $1 spent to proactively guard against workplace violence, an organization actually saves $3. For that reason, it makes sense for employers to familiarize themselves with the early indicators that an employee might be at risk for violent acting out.

However, recognizing the individual most likely to act out is not, in and of itself, enough. Employers would also be wise to create work environments in which it is difficult for hostile and aggressive behavior to take root, and widely publicize the resources available to address not only troubled employees, but also problematic customers and clients.


CalChamber would like to thank Dennis A. Davis for his contribution to the Violence in the Workplace chapter.

Dennis A. Davis, Ph.D., is recognized nationally as an expert on workplace violence prevention, workplace bullying, conflict resolution, sexual harassment and cultural diversity.

Dennis serves as the National Director of Client Training for Ogletree Deakins, a nationwide labor and employment law firm. In that capacity, he develops and implements training programs that are designed to minimize the risks associated with inappropriate employee behavior.

Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Dennis spent many years consulting to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, where he used his education in clinical psychology to teach willful compliance, de-escalation techniques and stress inoculation.