The 4 different types of workplace violence: how to identify and address each one

Workplace violence is a real problem the healthcare industry faces. However, violence may look different depending on each facility and context. That’s why there is a typology that identifies 4 different types of violence at the workplace. 

Identifying each one can help management and healthcare providers address it in a more efficient way as specific solutions can be implemented depending on which type of violence we are dealing with. This blog aims to provide a guide for you to know how workplace violence can look like and what to do about it.    

1. Criminal Type: Robbery or similar crimes in the workplace. 

How to identify it: 

  • The perpetrator does not have any legitimate relationship with the hospital.
  • It can be robbery, shoplifting, and trespassing. 
  • A weapon is often involved, increasing the risk of fatal injury. 
  • Doctors, nurses and staff working late night hours and/or working alone are at greatest risk.

How to address it: 

  1. Provide adequate lighting in entrances and exits to avoid “blind spots”
  2. Security hardware as camera systems or alarms need to be strategically installed and working properly. 
  3. Develop programs, policies and work practices to promote a safe working environment. 
  4. Always recognize, respond and evaluate with your workers post-incident. 
  5. Training is key for prevention.

    2. Customer/Client Type: One of the most common in healthcare. 

    How to identify it:

    • The perpetrator is a patient or someone that knows the worker.
    • The violent act generally occurs when the service is being provided, during the worker’s normal duties.
    • The risk of this type of violence increases to mental health, home health care or ER workers. 

    How to address it:

    1. Enhance physical security and protection, work with specialized companies in the matter.  
    2. Have a team-oriented action plan to implement a proactive approach and increase chances of effective response. 
    3. Establish a “zero tolerance” policy and encourage reporting. 
    4. Train employees to promote recognition of hazards and appropriate response. 

    3. Worker-on-worker Type: Violence among co-workers. 

    In some cases, these incidents can take place after a series of increasingly hostile behaviors from the perpetrator.

    How to identify it:

    • Harm is done by an employee or former employee.
    • The motivating factor is often one or a series of interpersonal or work-related disputes.

    How to address it:

    1. Avoid overreacting or underreacting so as not to exacerbate the problem. 
    2. Employers may face “negligent hiring” lawsuits or other types of legal problems. Therefore, it's recommended that HR is highly involved in the hiring process so that a screening is conducted to identify potentially high-risk employees. 

    4. Personal Relationship Type: Personal relationship outside the workplace.

    Even though this type of violence does not always occur at the workplace, it has an effect on the workplace environment and employee wellness. 

    How to identify it:

    • High absenteeism and low productivity of the worker. 
    • The abuser may appear at the workplace from time to time to engage in hostile behavior. 
    • Even when both are at risk, women are targeted more often than men. 
    • This category includes victims of domestic violence, assaulted or threatened while at work.

    How to address it:

    1. Create Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to provide intervention and help to the workers in need. 
    2. Look out if legal barriers exist for early interventions. 

    Anyone can be a victim of violence and it affects everyone in the workplace, that’s why it is important to understand how it can happen and what to do about it. Together, we can protect each other.


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