Violence in the workplace, although still rare, is becoming more common. From domestic violence which spills over to work to client rage, employee grudges and random violent acts which happen in or near your work location, it’s impossible to know what—or when—violence can occur. But it is possible to be prepared to deal with the disruption and emotional and mental health of your employees in the aftermath.

Every year, nearly 1 million American workers are victims of assault in the workplace. It’s the fourth leading cause of death at work. And violence is the second leading cause of death for women on the job. This impacts employee health – resulting in an average of 5 days away from work after assault. In addition to anyone physically injured, witnesses, others involved in or nearby the incident, colleagues, and family may all have serious emotional or psychological after-effects.

Types of Workplace Violence

Mainstream media would lead the public to believe that workplace violence is simply a mass shooter showing up at an office. However, the truth is not that simple. OSHA defines workplace violence as: “…any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.”

Therefore, workplace violence can include:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual harassment
  • Stalking
  • Bullying
  • Physical Altercations
  • Verbal or physical threats
Inter-company Workplace Violence

When the violence (or threats of violence) come from within an organization, victims are less likely to report for multiple reasons, including:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Reputation
  • Fear of supervisor’s reaction
  • Lack of company policies
  • Lack of training

The emotional trauma of workplace violence can last for years. So, after taking care of any physical injuries or damage in the immediate aftermath, the next task is tending to the mental health of those impacted.

The Responsibility of Leadership in Workplace Trauma Recovery

Some workplaces have formal critical incident stress debriefing protocols. Others would do well to have formal processes for recognizing, validating, and supporting employees who’ve experienced violence in your workplace. This can include employee assistance programs or confidential counseling services for affected employees. Or it may be less formal, in the form of supervisors and managers who listen and can be flexible with their employees. And who understand how long it takes to heal. Some employees may need extra time off, or may need to change job responsibilities.

Taking care of the health of your employees, both physical and mental, is the right thing to do. If there’s a question of how long-term that impact may be, look at these statistics:

  •  Workplace violence costs U.S. businesses approximately $4.2 billion per year in missed days of work and legal costs.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that 6.4% of works in the U.S. have had an episode of major depressive disorder (from any cause), equaling 5 weeks of lost productivity or $36 billion human capital loss for companies.

Yes, employers have both legal and moral obligations to help their employees after workplace violence. But they also have human obligations. Support is a key factor in helping someone recover from trauma. You can’t guarantee your workplace will be free from violence. But you can understand what constitutes workplace violence and have policies and procedures in place to protect and assist employees when they are affected by it. And you can show your humanity by supporting and caring for those who need it. Thus empowering your organization to be the right kind of company to work for.