Elizabeth Bille

Workplace violence has emerged as a top concern among compliance and ethics leaders.

In recent conversations I’ve had, one such leader said that workplace violence/safety had never been in their list of top 10 risks to their business, but it is now for the first time. Another noted that their company’s cases of workplace violence had tripled.

These companies’ experiences are not unique. Indeed, workplace violence occurs much more frequently than many realize.

How common is workplace violence?

When we think about workplace violence, we often think of workplace shootings that make media headlines. However, according to FBI data, these high-profile incidents are very rare compared to other, more common forms of workplace violence.

Workplace violence includes a broad spectrum of physical and non-physical behavior. It often involves threats, verbal abuse, harassment, bullying, intimidation, domestic violence that comes to work, stalking (in-person or cyber), pushing, fighting, and other forms of physical assault.

Unfortunately, workplace violence occurs frequently. In fact:

What’s worse, these numbers are likely lower than what is actually happening: it is estimated that about one-fourth of workplace violence incidents go unreported.

The risks of workplace violence are increasing

Echoing the experiences of the chief compliance and ethics officers I spoke with, many experts agree that the risks of workplace violence are growing, even for those employers with remote or hybrid workforces. Why would this be?

First, stress levels are very high, and people experiencing a great deal of stress are at a higher risk of becoming disgruntled. Elevated crime rates in many areas are also contributing to the problem. In addition, domestic and intimate partner violence in the U.S. increased by more than 8% during the pandemic, as employees stayed home and abusers had greater access to their targets. Many experts predict that there will be an increase in workplace violence by abusers who look to stalk or harass their target back at the worksite. Finally—and especially relevant for remote work environments—online incivility remains high, with the ease and speed of texts, emails, chats, and social media posts enabling cyber threats, stalking, and intimidation.

Workplace violence trends diagram

Meanwhile, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is increasingly scrutinizing employers’ workplace violence prevention efforts and California has proposed a sweeping new regulation that, when finalized, would mandate workplace violence prevention plans and training for most employers.

All of these dynamics are truly raising the stakes for organizations in this area.

Preventing violence through workplace violence training

The good news is that organizations can prevent or minimize many workplace violence incidents—and meet the compliance requirements of enforcement agencies—by taking proactive steps before problems arise. Leading organizations are turning to training as an important element of this prevention work.

Training can provide employees and leaders with not only the information they need about what workplace violence is and how it can happen, but also the skills to take actions that keep themselves and others safe. Training should equip them to:

  • Understand their unique role in preventing violence
  • Be aware of the many forms of violence and settings where they can occur–including remote environments
  • Recognize warning signs early before they escalate, and
  • Take appropriate action to reduce risks of harm.

EVERFI’s newly-released training courses, Preventing Workplace Violence and Preventing Workplace Violence for Leaders, teach employees to recognize, prevent, and respond to workplace violence, by focusing on:

  • Prevention, not just reaction
  • Real-world scenarios in remote, hybrid, and in-person workplaces
  • Common but subtle warning signs in coworker or customer behavior
  • Safe, role-appropriate tactics for handling conflicts and concerning situations
  • How to stay safe if violence occurs-including in active shooter situations
  • Steps all employees and leaders can take to support safer workspaces

EVERFI’s workplace violence training courses empower employees and encourage them to be mindful, rather than fearful, of the risks of violence. They help build the awareness, knowledge, and skills that can help keep employees safe in today’s work environments.