Dealing with Violence in the Workplace: Range of Violence

Any workplace may be the site of violence or aggression between employees. Violence may be aimed at managers or coworkers. This may include starting rumors, using angry words, or taking physical action. In rare cases, violence may even take the form of armed assault.


Threats may be aimed at a coworker, the employer, or the work site. Threats may be made in person. Or they may occur through email, social media, letters, or phone calls.

Physical action

In some cases, an employee may become physically aggressive. He or she may shove, trip, or punch a coworker. Other types of violent action may also occur. This may include throwing things or breaking equipment.

Armed assault

In extreme cases, an employee may feel they were treated unfairly by the company or by a certain person there. The employee may plan ways to get back at their target. This may take the form of armed violence or arson. If the plan is acted on, coworkers and company visitors may be hurt.

Warning signs

Violent acts in the workplace rarely occur without some warning. An employee may act anxious, defensive, or aggressive. He or she may make threats. Or he or she may overreact to a performance evaluation, a disciplinary action, or a change in work policy. These employees often feel isolated or depressed. A history of family violence or substance abuse is also common. He or she may take a strong interest in weapons.