Site Map
Open Letter
Dr. Freeman
The Institute
Seminar Programs
Book & Videos
Johari Window
Black History
Anger Coaching
Executive Coaching
OD Culture Change
Video Clips
Funny Stuff
Quotable Quotes
Your Personality
New Projects
Photo Gallery
Martin Luther King
Cultural Diversity
Link To Our Site






































W o r k p l a c e   V i o l e n c e
Awareness and Prevention

-- Courtesy of The Freeman Institute --


Identifying Potentially Violent Situations
Responding To Violent Incidents
Resource Guide

Identifying Potentially Violent Situations

If you ever have concerns about a situation which may turn violent, alert your supervisor immediately and follow the specific reporting procedures provided by your agency. It is better to err on the side of safety than to risk having a situation escalate.

The following are warning indicators of potential workplace violence: 

-- Intimidating, harassing, bullying, belligerent, or other inappropriate and aggressive behavior. 
-- Numerous conflicts with customers, co-workers, or supervisors. 
-- Bringing a weapon to the workplace (unless necessary for the job), making inappropriate references to guns, or 
    making idle threats about using a weapon to harm someone. 
-- Statements showing fascination with incidents of workplace violence, statements indicating approval of the use 
    of violence to resolve a problem, or statements indicating identification with perpetrators of workplace homicides. 
-- Statements indicating desperation (over family, financial, and other personal problems) to the point of 
    contemplating suicide. 
-- Direct or veiled threats of harm. 
-- Substance abuse. 
-- Extreme changes in normal behaviors. 

Once you have noticed a subordinate, co-worker, or customer showing any signs of the above indicators, you should take the following steps:

If you are a co-worker, you should notify the employee’s supervisor immediately of your observations. 
If it is a customer, notify your supervisor immediately. 
If it is your subordinate, then you should evaluate the situation by taking into consideration what may be causing the employees problems. 
If it is your supervisor, notify that person’s manager. 

It is very important to respond appropriately, i.e., not to overreact but also not to ignore a situation. Sometimes that may be difficult to determine. Managers should discuss the situation with expert resource staff to get help in determining how best to handle the situation.

Responding to Violent Incidents

No matter how effective agencies' policies and plans are in detecting and preventing incidents, there are no guarantees against workplace violence. Even the most responsive employers face this issue. When a violent incident does occur, it is essential the response be timely, appropriate to the situation, and carried out with the recognition that employees are traumatized and that the incident’s aftermath has just begun.

Because work situations and environments vary so greatly from agency to agency within USDA, it is up to each individual agency to develop and publicize the specific procedures for responding to workplace violence incidents in each location. 

Occupant Emergency Plan 

Every USDA office or facility should distribute to each employee a viable occupant emergency plan outlining procedures to follow in the event of fire, bomb threats, civil demonstrations, threats of
violence both inside and outside the office, natural disasters, etc. 

If you do not have a copy of the current occupant emergency plan for your facility, contact your supervisor, the agency safety and health officer, or the facility security office. 

In the event of an emergency, refer to the phone numbers of security, police, and medical service in your facility occupant emergency plan. 

For handy reference, you may wish to write down the numbers of emergency services in your area in the portion provided on the first page (or inside the front cover, or on the back cover
depending on the design) of this pamphlet. 

Emergency Response Team 

A traumatic or emergency response team goes into action once a situation of violence has occurred. The team usually consists of many of the same individuals who make up the threat assessment team but their purpose is to deal with the actual violent situation and its aftermath as well as to take steps to prevent similar future occurrences. A representative of the public affairs staff may also be a member of this team in order to deal with any release of information to the public. 

The team assists management and employees by serving as a resource and information source in regard to workplace violence concerns; shares information with employees so that they are involved; responds, as needed, to incidents; assists with attempts to de-escalate and manage the situation; facilitates and coordinates response action to ensure that appropriate follow-up action is taken (investigations, victim assistance, preventive and corrective actions); coordinates with the media; and addresses administrative issues. 

Plans and Procedures for Recovering From a Workplace Violence Emergency 

This is a very crucial step in an agency’s program. Although the hope is that violence will not occur, if it does, agencies must be prepared to deal with the situation, to help in the healing process, and to get the workforce back to productivity.

Following a violent incident, employees experience three stages of “crisis reactions” to varying degrees:

Stage One. In this stage, the employee experiences emotional reactions characterized by shock, disbelief, denial, or numbness. Physically, the employee experiences shock or a fight-or- flight survival reaction in which the heart rate increases, perceptual senses become heightened or distorted, and adrenaline levels increase to meet a real or perceived threat.

Stage Two. This is the “impact” stage where the employee may feel a variety of intense emotion, including anger, rage, fear, terror, grief, sorrow, confusion, helplessness, guilt, depression, or withdrawal. This stage may last a few days, a few weeks, or a few months.

Stage Three. This is the “reconciliation stage” in which the employee tries to make sense out of the event, understand its impact, and through trial and error, reach closure of the event so it does not interfere with his or her ability to function and grow. This stage may be a long-term process.

While it is difficult to predict how an incident will affect a given individual, several factors influence the intensity of trauma. These factors include the duration of the event, the amount of terror or horror the victim experienced, the sense of personal control (or lack thereof) the employee had during the incident, and the amount of injury or loss the victim experienced (i.e., loss of property, self-esteem, physical well-being, etc.). Other variables include the person’s previous victimization experiences, recent losses such as the death of a family member, and other intense stresses.


Agencies should have in place a mechanism to evaluate what took place to determine if everything was done that could have been done to have prevented the incident and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. The threat assessment and emergency response teams should be part of this process. 

Employee Assistance Program 

EAP counselors should not be the first to intervene in situations which are hostile or dangerous. In those situations, law enforcement personnel should be the first to intervene. In the event of a violent incident, the EAP can advise management of the best ways to help employees cope with the emotional impact of the incident.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidelines that address potentially violent misconduct by employees with psychiatric and other disabilities. Organizations may discipline an employee with a disability who has violated a written or non-written rule that is job related and consistent with business necessity, as long as the agency would impose the same discipline on an employee without a disability. 

An agency is never required to excuse past misconduct as a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is a change to the workplace that helps an employee perform his or her job and may be required, along with discipline, when the discipline is less than removal. The servicing human resources management office can provide assistance to supervisors on determining proper reasonable accommodation.



Resource Guide: References and Additional Information


Kinney, Joseph A., Johnson, Dennis L. (1993) Breaking Point, the Workplace Violence Epidemic and What to Do About It. Chicago, IL: NSWI. National Safety Workplace Institute. A very thorough discussion of the many facets of responding to, managing and regulating workplace violence.  Multi disciplinary emphasis. 

Newman, Oscar. (1972) Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban Design. NY: The Macmillian Company. One of the original "criminal justice" books that introduced the concept of designing out crime. Criminology emphasis. 

Ray, Jeffery C. (1977) Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Beverly Hill, Ca: Sage Publication. The book that coined the acronym CPTED and furthered the concept of controlling crime through design of buildings and management action. Criminology emphasis. 


Bureau of Business Practice (BBP), (1994). Preventing Violence in the Workplace. Waterford, CT: BBP. Twelve short but concise chapters on different aspects of the problem. Compiled with the assistance of several national experts in the area. Multi disciplinary emphasis. 

Civil Service Employees Association, A CSEA Action Plan, A Matter of Life and Death, 10/93 Worksite Security and reducing risks in the danger zone. 

Civil Service Employees Association, Inc. (CSEA). (1993). Security in the Workplace. Albany, NY: CSEA. Emphasis is upon employer in-house security procedures and strategies. Human services and security emphasis.

Department of Justice Study, Violence and Theft in the Workplace. 

Guidelines for Security and Safety of Health Care and Community Service Workers Medical Union, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Department of Industrial Relations, State of California. 

National Safe Workplace Institute, Workplace Violence Prevention Manual, New Jersey Department of Labor, August 1994. 

National Association of Convience Stores (NACS). (No date) The Store Security Issue: Facts for the Future. (Prepared for NACS by W. J. Crow and Rosemary Erickson of Athena Research Corporation). Alexandria, VA: 
NACS. Good source for basic statistics on the problem as well as a discussion of the prevention strategies. A good bibliography through 1988. ecurity and personnel management emphasis. 

NIOSH (1993) Alert: Request for Assistance in Preventing Homicide in the Workplace. (Pub. No. 93-109) Cincinnati, OH: NIOSH. An interesting bulletin which attempts to alert employers and workers to the issue and asks researchers to conduct collect data. Epidemiological emphasis. 

State of California, Model Injury and Illness Prevention Program for Workplace Security, 9/94 

The Workplace Violence Research Institute, The Complete Workplace Violence Prevention Manual. Edited by Mattman, Jurg W. and Kaufer, Steve CPP's - A Practical solution to the real, growing problem of workplace violence. 

U. S. Office of Personnel Management. (1993). A Manager's Guide: Traumatic Incidents at the Workplace. (Written by Mary P. Tyler). Washington, D. C. US OPM. Although this booklet speaks to critical incident stress management, it does recognize workplace violence, especially violence against employees, as one of the potential sources for such stress. The author, Dr. Tyler, works for the IRS. Human services emphasis. 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI) (1994). The PROEM Project: A Crime Prevention Curriculum for Small Retail Establishments. A project funded by US. Department of Justice grant.  It deals with crimes such as scams, employee and vendor theft as well as robbery. There is some emphasis upon protecting or controlling the employee. Criminal justice and sociological emphasis. 

Violence in the Workplace: The New York State Experience March 1995, Prepared by New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH), New York City Department of Health, Hunter College Center for Occupational & Environmental Health, Civil Service Employees Association, Service Employees International Union. 

Wise, James A. and Barbara K (1985) Bank Interiors and Bank Robberies:  A design Approach to Environmental Security. Rolling Meadows, IL:  Bank Administration Institute. Modern CPTED applied to the bank industry;
recommendations driven by research. Security emphasis. 


Being Safe - Protecting Yourself, Your Family, and Your Home. (1981) The Southland Corporation. 

Muir, Edward Security in the Schools, 1989, Fourth Edition, United Federation of Teachers, Tips for guarding the safety and faculty members and students. 

New York State Police, Crime Prevention - "It's Your Business", A Guide to Business Security. 

New York State Police Safe Schools Program, Supervisor's Guide, Albany NY December 1993 

Nielsen, Ronald P. Civil Service Employees Association, Inc., Local 1000, Occupational Safety and Health Department, Security in the Workplace 

Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, Assault on the Job, We Can Do Something About Workplace Violence, 2nd Edition, 1995. 

U. S. General Service Administration, Federal Protective Service, What You Should know About Coping With Threats and Violence in the Federal Workplace 

Workplace Violence - Employee - (Off Site) - What Can I do? T. Robbins - Corp. Risk Management. 

Workplace Violence and You, Engineering and Safety Service (E & S)(P)


American Insurance Services Group, Inc. Crime Prevention Report, Number 96.30, Security Management, Workplace Violence: A Prevention Program, December 1994; Report No. 96-20, Workplace Violence: Protecting Employees from Customers, April 1994; Report No. 96-10, Workplace Violence: Extent of the Problem, December 1993. 

Baron, S. Anthony, Violence in the Workplace.

Barker, Teresa, How to Prevent Violence in the Workplace, Safety and Health, July 1994. 

Barnett-Queen, M. Div, MSW, Timothy & Bergmann, PhD, Lawrence H   Response to Traumatic Event Crucial in Preventing Lasting Consequences, Occupational Health and Safety, July 1990. 

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1994) Violence and Theft in the Workplace. (NCJ Pub. No. 148199). Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice. Report on the latest criminal justice statistics. Bolsters the CDC statistics. Criminology emphasis. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Safety and Health Reporter, October 27, 1993. 

Cawood, J.E., On the edge: Assessing the Violent Employee, Security Management, 1991. 

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 12/5/93 Homicide in the Workplace 

Centers for Disease Control/NIOSH, Homicide in U. S. Workplaces: A strategy for Prevention and Research, September 1992. 

Colina, Stacey, The New Safety Rules for the '90s, Redbook, September 1993. 

Commonwealth of Virginia. (1993). Violent Crimes in Convenience Stores: Analysis of Crimes, Criminals and Costs. Richmond, VA:  Virginia Crime Prevention Center. A report to the Governor and the General Assembly of Virginia. Highlights one States' interest in the issue and the proposed ways to regulate. Criminology emphasis. 

Crow, W.J., Erickson, Rosemary J. and Scott, Lloyd, Set Your Sights on Preventing Retail Violence, American Society for Industrial Security, September 1987 "Security Management" 

Hofman, Mark A, Protecting Employees from Workplace Violence, Business Insurance, September 13, 1993, pp 24-25. 

Johnson, Dennis L., The Best Defense Against Workplace Violence, The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 1993. 

Kunz, Lisa, The Human Element at Work, Business Insurance, October 4, 1993. 

Lawless, Peggy, Fear and Violence in the Workplace - A Survey Documenting the Experience of American Workers, Northwestern National Life Insurance Co., 1993. 

Milite, George, Workplace Violence: You're Not Immune, Supervisory Management, September 1993, pp 1 - 2. 

National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). (1991) Convenience Store Security: Report and Recommendations. Alexandria, VA: NACS.  Three independent studies look at workplace violence and security in
convenience stores. Criminology and Sociology emphasis. 

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (1992)  Homicide in U. S. Workplaces: A Strategy for Prevention and Research. Morgantown: WV: NIOSH Division of Safety Research. The first CDC/NIOSH
statement or report on workplace violence. The report is actually a summary of outcomes from workshops held in Washington, D.C. with the experts in summer of 1990. Multi disciplinary emphasis. 

National Safety Council, Workplace Violence, 1993.

National Safe Workplace Institute, Workplace Violence & Behavior Letter, November 15, 1994, Volume 1, Issue 1, Premiere Issue. 

New York City Department of Health, Traumatic Occupational Fatalities, New York City, 1991. 

New York State Department of Civil Service, Occupational Accidents and Workers' Compensation Experience for New York State Government Employees, 1991. 

New York State Department of Health, personal communications with Matt London, August 1992. 

NIOSH ALERT, September 1993, Publication 93-109. 

Northwestern National Life Insurance Company, Fear and Violence in the Workplace, 1993 A Survey documenting the experience of American Workers. This study examines the incidence of workplace stress, harassment and
violence and the conditions at work that create them. The report offers recommendations for preventing violence in the workplace. 

Overman, Stephanie, After the Smoke Clears, HR Magazine, November 1991, PP 44 - 47. 

Redburn, Tom, "New York Times", New York Leads in Workplace Killings, December 15, 1993. 

Smith, S. L., Violence in the Workplace: A Cry for Help., Occupational Hazards, October 1993, pp 29-33. 

Swoboda, Frank, Increasingly the Shadow of Violence Hangs Over US Workers, The Washington Post, Sunday, January 2, 1994. 

Thomas, J.L., "Occupational Violent Crime: Research on a Growing Risk"  Journal of Safety Research, Summer 1992, 23(2). 

Thomas, J.L., "CPTED: A Response to Occupational Violent Crime" Professional Safety Journal, June 1992, 37(b). 

Thomas, J.L., "Violence in the Workplace: Twenty Years of Research and Writings Annotated" (Manuscript in progress). 

Thomas, Janice L., Risk Control, A Response to Occupational Violent Crime, June 1992, Professional Safety. 

Toscano, Guy, Windau, Janice, Fatal Work Injuries: Results from the 1992 National Census, Monthly Labor Review, October 1993, pp 39-48. 

Walton, J. Branch, Dealing with Dangerous Employees, Security Management, September 1993, pp 81-84. 

Wheeler, Eugene D and S. Anthony Baron, PhD, Violence in our Schools, Hospitals and Public Places, Pathfinder Publishing of California, Ventura California. 

Back To The Main Violence Prevention and Awareness Table of Contents

Go Back Home

"The HR Director's Best Friend"

The cost-effective alternative to employee education.
Target training. Many topics. Certificates of completion.


Cultural Competency Program Specifically designed for Mental Health Professional  NEW!

"Dealing  With  People  Who  Drive  You  Crazy!"®
The Freeman Institute™ 1103 Burkhardt Lane, Severn, Maryland 21144
TEL 410-729-7800   CELL 410-991-9718   FAX 410-729-0353



Hit Counter