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Confront Workplace Violence

Updated on May 12, 2010
Confronting workplace violence
Confronting workplace violence

Workplace violence is relatively rare but, unfortunately, incidents occur. The violent perpetrator may be a customer, a criminal, an acquaintance of an employee, or an employee. There is no strategy that works for every situation, but preparation can save a life in the future or spare an employee serious injury or mental trauma. It will also help keep your workers’ compensation insurance costs lower. Take a half hour to talk to your employees about maintaining their personal security at work. Then help them prepare for the worst case scenario by reviewing what to do if they are confronted by an intruder.

If an intruder is disruptive (i.e. intoxicated, angry, shouting, threatening) call security or the police and remove other employees and visitors from the area. Retreat to a safe place. Do not confront the intruder yourself.

If the person confronts you and you have no way to retreat:

  • Stay calm
  • Assess the situation. What does he want? Does he have a weapon?  Are others available to assist you?  Try to formulate a plan that allows you to summon help.
  • If the intruder is upset, angry, shouting, etc, try to calm him.  Remain courteous and understanding; assure the intruder you are trying to resolve his problem.

  • If the intruder is looking for a particular individual, try to detain him by asking questions as long as you do not endanger yourself.  Tell him the person he wants is at lunch, out sick, at a meeting off-site, etc.  Or say you are going to get the person he wants and summon help instead.

If the intruder is an armed robber:

  • Cooperate and give them what they ask for
  • Don’t speak to them
  • Don’t look at them
  • Try to stay calm and unemotional

  • If the intruder leaves do not try to follow him.  Note the direction he went and call security or the police.

If you are attacked:

  • Do whatever it takes to stay safe. Try to create a physical barrier between you and the attacker by getting behind a desk or counter. Use objects, such as chairs, shopping carts, or boxes to slow them down.
  • Yell, scream, make as much noise as possible. Throw or break glass or metal objects that make a lot of noise. Sometimes the surprise and distraction of the noise will scare off an attacker.
  • Get mean. Your legs are stronger than your arms so kick as hard as you can at the attacker’s knees or groin. Use your elbows to jab or smash his throat. Use your fingers to claw at his eyes. Bite and tear with your teeth any portion of his anatomy you can reach. Use any object you can find as a weapon. Become a frenzied animal fighting for its life.


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