Ethical Management of Workplace Violence

Stereotyping is not ethical, however, employees can be trained to recognize traits of potentially violent individuals.
i Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images

No one is immune to workplace violence. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that more than 2 million Americans become victimized each year in the workplace. Ethical management of workplace violence begins with a clearly articulated zero tolerance policy so that employees feel safe at work. Zero tolerance means that workplace violence will not be accepted by employees or directed toward employees.


    According to the behavior management training group Crisis Prevention Institute, creating an ethical workplace environment is a key step in preventing workplace violence. In the institute’s article, “Workplace Violence Prevention Training,” employers are encouraged to foster a culture of respect and consideration among workers. Creating a buddy system can help colleagues foster positive relationships and deal with potential crises or violent acts in a safe, effective manner should they arise. When employees feel safe communicating their concerns, they might be more likely to report suspicious activities or a feeling of impending danger.


    Individual employee concerns often focus around the potential for dramatic incidents, such as a gunman in the workplace. More insidious detractors from productivity or a sense of well-being at work could stem from other violence-related entities, such as veiled threats or poorly lit parking lots. Ethical management of workplace violence includes establishing processes to anticipate, prevent or address the potential for violence or actual acts of violence. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the article, “Dealing with Workplace Violence,” employers should not ignore employee concerns in the hopes that the problem will resolve itself. Ignoring the situation can cause escalation and employees might feel dismissed or unsafe as a result. Established guidelines in employee handbooks keep employees informed of their options.


    Employers have an ethical responsibility to appropriately train workers so that they feel equipped to identify impending workplace violence, according to the article, “Preventing Workplace Violence: Management Considerations.” Pinpointing potentially dangerous individuals is an “inexact science,” but perpetrators often share certain characteristics. Although employers should not encourage employees to perpetuate stereotypes or unfair biases, they can be trained to look for signs of a potentially unsafe individual. For example, someone with the potential to commit an act of violence might appear extremely stressed, undergo dramatic personality changes or allude to acts of violence in the workplace. Training sessions can help employees learn about these traits and how to respond during conflict.

Additional Steps

    Preparation is paramount, according to the Office article, “Danger Zone Workplace Violence.” Ethical employers should create rigorous prescreening processes when hiring to identify and eliminate potentially angry, aggressive or violent individuals from prospective hiring lists. Securing the premises, installing cameras, lighting parking lots and requiring security badges or visitor identification tags all contribute to a safer workplace environment. Employers also can consider retaining a counselor or behavioral psychologist to address potential conflicted issues when they arise.

the nest