Strategies for Reducing Violence in the Workplace

What are the various strategies that could be used to reduce potential violence in the workplace?
Obvious answers might include:

  1. know who you are hiring (to include checking their background),

  2. treat people fairly and with respect,

  3. have a way for people to report suspected incidents anonymously, and

  4. provide information on transition assistance programs to those employees leaving the organization.

There are several strategy components which can be used to develop an effective workplace fear and violence strategy.


Prevention entails efforts to prevent inappropriate and violent behavior. A proactive approach allows an organization the opportunity to prescribe the most effective and least costly solution. Once a violent incident has occurred, significant resources must be expended to deal with the situation (financial, emotional, legal, and medical). One estimate is that a single work related fear and violence incident results in about $250,000 in direct organizational costs. This does not include indirect costs such as lower morale, degraded mission effectiveness, personnel impact, etc.
Steps to take to minimize negative feelings and idealize the professional work environment/climate may include recognizing employees or offering a "down" day for your employees. Take a sincere interest in "quality of life "issues" (facilities, job satisfaction, and employee development opportunities). Ensure open communication is there and that it is sincere among management and employees. Maintain mechanisms for complaints and concerns to be expressed in a non-judgmental forum that includes feedback to the initiator (ex-IG hotline). Be sure to establish a firm policy that workplace violence will not be tolerated; this may include a zero-tolerance policy on unauthorized guns/weapons on the installation which is similar to the zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. Lastly, plan for potential violence: establish crisis
response teams, critical incident debriefing teams, physical security, etc.


Intervention is the action taken when behavioral indicators appear or an inappropriate behavior occurs. This is not the time to make final judgment about the credibility or seriousness of the threat or to administer final discipline. Intervention simply diffuses the initial situation and allows an opportunity to more thoroughly review options for resolution. Intervention sets the tone for how the situation will be resolved; it must be handled carefully.
First and foremost, deal with the situation. It is important for all parties involved to know someone in authority takes this matter seriously and will be acting accordingly. It undermines the authority of the commander to allow an incident to go unaddressed and the level of violence to escalate. This is your opportunity to prevent future escalation. An established and well advertised workforce violence program provides the framework for your actions. Intervention needs to occur immediately, especially if someone could be in danger. Acting too quickly though before all facts are available can also exacerbate the situation. Treat all parties fairly. Train all employees on how to recognize and handle conflict. Additionally, select personnel should receive more in-depth training on how to diffuse potentially violent situations. These key personnel must have the authority and rank to take initial action to manage the situation. Tap your resources and get assistance. Your mental health provider, social actions office, or employee relations office of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center should have information and training available on successful intervention or conflict resolution methods (i.e., Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)). A key factor of intervention is making provisions for threat notification 24 hours a day. Notifications to be considered include the threatened (parties) and their commander(s), security police, local police, co-workers, family members, mental health officials, command officials, and the aggressors commander.


Although much violence can be prevented as discussed above, there is no way to guarantee against a violent incident. For this reason, you need to be prepared to respond to an incident in such a way as to contain the harm, protect lives and property, prevent panic and control the situation as rapidly as possible. The response may involve emergency services, peripheral services and the organizations of the perpetrator, victim or facility. Response can mitigate or exacerbate the situation. It can allow the organization to immediately address the problem and initiate recovery, or it can prolong the crisis and waste critical resources.
Other key responses may include notifying key personnel. Every unit should have an established system or procedure which would enable them to notify all personnel of an impending danger or incident. Establish procedures to cover
incidents likely to arise in your workplace (i.e., contacting affected office units, establishing an "all clear" signal, communicating what personnel should do (take cover, evacuate), or establishing how further information will be conveyed.


Recovery is the fourth and final component. The ability of an organization to "bounce back" from a violent incident is directly related to the health/morale of the organization prior to the incident, the diversity of the incident, the positions and identities of those involved, and the response to the incident. Organizations, like people, need time to heal after a traumatic event(s).

Content last reviewed: 7/10/2009-RJL

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This page was last revised: 10/25/2011