Causes and Concerns of Physical Violence in the Workplace

For most employed businesspeople who work inside an office, there’s not a lot to fear other than the occasional papercut or copier paper jam. You don’t feel the need to worry about physical or emotional harm since you quite naturally expect your work environment to be safe. The fact is, your employer bears a legal responsibility to not only keep things clean in your office work environment, but also as safe as humanly possible. 

SteinLaw Injury Lawyers, who specialize in negligent security lawsuits in Miami, FL, have this to say about safety in the workplace, “It’s the duty of business and commercial property owners to provide necessary security for their employees and visitors.” 

Business owners are required by law to protect their employees from “the intention criminal conduct of others,” especially when that conduct is foreseeable. In other words, when prior attacks have occurred nearby or even to other employees. The attacks can result in serious wounding and/or death, plus emotional trauma.   

Recently, the entire world watched workplace violence in action on their TVs when actor Will Smith slapped comedian, Chris Rock. While “the slap heard ‘round the world” produced lots of memes, tweets, and laughs, the incident raises a very important point: workplace violence is not a laughing matter. 

A new article poses the question, when physical violence spills into the everyday workspace, what are the steps human resources (HR) can take to create an atmosphere of openness and overall safety? It’s a fact that businesses get the most production out of their people when workers feel safe. Let’s face it, anyone who is anxious about the potential for violence and injury isn’t going to be concentrating on their duties. 

Naturally, it’s virtually impossible to eliminate the “threat of violence” entirely. But there are a few strategies that HR can execute in order to minimize the threat of violence in the office. This helps workers feel safe both physically and emotionally while going about their workday. 

Causes of Workplace Violence

The experts say, violence in the workplace is never a spontaneous event. Other factors are at play prior to triggering the violent event. To illustrate the workplace violence phenomenon, experts have come up with these formulas: 

“Event + Response = Outcome.”


“Activating Belief + Behavior = Consequence.”

The specific factors at play can include but are not limited to: 

–Feeling like you’re being bullied and/or picked on

–Deep dissatisfaction with management

–Feeling like your job is not secure

–Mental illness

–Personal stressors including divorce

–Previous head traumas

–Medication that’s not working properly

–Alcohol addiction

If violence should occur at your workplace, it’s a best practice to examine the business’s culture. Perhaps the higher-ups in the corporate ladder have contributed to the organization’s culture in a direct way. The culture is said to be integral to belonging, wellbeing, employee engagement, and overall brand image.  

Business policies that fail to take into account a culture of happiness and wellbeing are the ones that can sooner or later result in consequences such as the now infamous slap that occurred at the 2022 Oscars in Los Angeles, CA.  

Examining Your Business’s Organizational Culture 

Several things can be done on behalf of HR when it comes to being proactive in engineering a safe workplace culture. 

–Communicate with your Employees

You can either conduct a survey with your people, or simply ask them directly if they are feeling bullied and/or harassed inside the workplace. Responders must, of course, remain anonymous for safety’s sake.  

–Be Public with the Results of the Survey/Questioning

Make sure to communicate openly about your findings and, at the same time, to provide the necessary feedback. This will make workers feel better since you are obviously taking a proactive stance when it comes to their safety and wellbeing while at work. 

–Always Take Action

If you are still looking for answers to violence anxiety on behalf of employees, take another survey and have more face-to-face conversations. If responses are indeed indicating the presence a culture of bullying and harassment (physical and emotional), you need to look into mediation, mental health support, and even disciplinary action. 

Business owners must be aware that it’s up to them to provide a safe work environment. Anything less can invite a lawsuit on behalf of the inured party. Being proactive in preventing workplace violence sends a clear message that your organization maintains a “zero tolerance” policy for violent behavior.