How to React to a Workplace Attack

Workplace Attack Since 2008, there has been a rise in workplace violence that many experts believe is closely associated with the increasing pressure people are feeling at work and overall uncertainty about jobs nationally. Stress or conflict at work, financial issues and even trouble at home can all contribute to workplace violence.

Employers are becoming more aware of the need to have policies and procedures in place that will guide employees who may come face-to-face with someone intent on doing harm. If you find yourself in a violent situation, whether physical or verbal, there are some things you should try to remember. It's important to think about them now, while you are calm, so that you will be better prepared to act in a worst case scenario.

When violence breaks out in the workplace, you are faced with three options: run, hide or take action. If you do find yourself in a close encounter with someone intent on inflicting harm, you or those you work with will probably not be able to run or hide. "Take action" includes many scenarios, but if having to talk to a person bent on violence is the situation you've found yourself in, this advice may be helpful:

  • Remain calm – The calmer you are, the better you will be able to think about how to properly handle the situation. You may also make others feel safer if you are calm and not panicked.
  • Use an open stance – The way you present yourself is critical. It is your goal to help defuse the attacker's anger and get them to remain calm. The attacker has to believe you are not going to attack them, and the way you stand can reinforce that. Use a slightly open stance with one foot behind the other and most of your weight on your back foot. Not only does this convey a neutral signal but it also gives you more freedom to react should you be attacked
  • Do not raise your voice – Speak in a normal, even tone.
  • Listen, listen and listen – Maybe the attacker just wants to be heard. Let them vent and do not interrupt or argue with him or her.
  • Think before you speak – Certain comments could confuse the attacker or imply that your opinions are more important than theirs. Ask the attacker, "I can see that you are upset. How can I help?" Avoid using these phrases:

"I know how you feel."

"You shouldn't be angry. It is no big deal."

"Don't worry about it. You'll be fine."

  • Don't take anything personally – People who have reached the point where they are prepared to act out violently might be looking for someone to take their side and get emotionally involved in their issue.
  • Be mindful of your facial expressions – You can nod to indicate that you understand what is being said, but you should be careful about openly agreeing or disagreeing. The idea, again, is to let the person talk.
  • Keep your hands in view of the attacker – Your palms might be sweaty from nerves but it is better to show your palms to the attacker rather than crossing your arms or making a fist. This conveys a non-confrontational demeanor and also shows the attacker that you are not armed.
  • Maintain eye contact – Maintain regular eye contact with the attacker but don't stare at or try to stare him down. The idea is to use eye contact to "connect" and build a level of trust that might help the attacker continue talking and calm down.
  • If a weapon is involved – Follow the attacker's orders. Unless you are confident that your life is in immediate danger, you should not try to disarm an attacker.

In all violent situations, be sure to call 911 as soon as possible. Fully cooperate with arriving police and keep your hands visible to them as they have no way of knowing who the attacker is and who may be an innocent bystander.

The most important way you can contribute to the successful outcome of a violent confrontation in the workplace is to be informed and alert, remain calm and contact a manager or police as soon as you witness violent or potentially violent behavior in the workplace. Workplace violence can happen in any environment, within any industry, so it is important to understand how to handle a violent workplace situation. For more information on workplace violence, visit

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I reported narcotic diversion at my work place which was verified with fellow employees and patients. The admniistration was so mad because of the fear of reimbursement back to Medicare, they have chosen to make my life a living hell. they constantly pick on me for ridiculous things; things that do not have anything to do with me. Their latest move was to send my husband a "confidential" letter stating I am having multiple affairs and all other kinds of nonsense. This letter was sent on stationary with company letter head-while I was on vacation with my children. Handwritten-of course-and the hand writing is so recognizable-and I bet they don't even think the AG has it now-

May 10 2011 at 12:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was verbally attacked and physically threatened by my boss over something his “favorite” did. The few things I learned from this were:
1) Its usually done when NO ONE can witness it.
2) You DO NOT always have time to use your cell for video or record mode.
3) Its a “Superior’s” word over yours.
Now for what I know worked for me:
1) File a complaint with your local Dept of Labor andor US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission AND your Human Resources Dept if you have one, letting them know what you filed with the Gov./State.
Because of confidentiality laws you are protected. Anyone caught breaking that law can also be brought up on charges. In my case my boss was called on his continued attitude and threatening manner and later suspended after he and his “favorite” tried to make my job unbearable. He was also called on breaking confidentiality rules and her for her involvement. They both were given verbal and written warnings that stay in their employment file. Yes the company was mad I didn’t go to them first, however as I pointed out to the company I felt my job was at risk as well as my well being and required the legal back up.

May 10 2011 at 11:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Something else you could also do is, videotape the ding dong with your cell phone while he is being unsafe and make sure he see's you taking the video. Dont threaten him with the video, just make him wonder what you are going to do with the video? That will do 2 things: 1, You now have evidence of what you are complaining about. 2, It may cause him to respect the rules more, because now he can't just say you are complaining for no reason, because the video doesnt lie or embelish.

May 10 2011 at 11:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tony's comment

I think it's against many workplaces' rules to have a video recorder, or camera on the premisis...the higher ups could possibly get YOU in trouble for taking photos/videos inside the workplace, regardless of the intent. (even if it is for the greater good)

May 10 2011 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you have already followed the chain of command to report this ding dong. It may be time to let OSHA know whats going on. But if its Coke respond back on here I may have some pull to help you out.

May 10 2011 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tony's comment

OSHA doesnt do s***. My old job was disgusting, many complaints sent to them, nothing done until the day BEFORE OSHA decides to randomly pop in. Are we talking about a certain Coca-Cola plant in Pennsylvania???? Oak Street? That place is a joke, if thats what one you're talkin about.

May 10 2011 at 11:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here are people that once upon a time worked at a target dept store. This is not common among all target dept stores, because people are different and its only possible if there is a policy that creates this strange behavior, one reason is a low income producing store, they have costs and small profit. Employers create a problem, that is blamed on the worker, the worker is belittled for it, if you understand how children are treated, by some parents, you would understand how silly this is. People can be smart enough to see what is happening, will complain or not complain about being made to do something, very difficult to do, in a short amount of time, being insulted for the great effort trying to fulfill their needs. They expect less people to do more in less time. For example, there can be 5 people expected to unload a truck in a hour and a half, while 9 people appear later after they either finished or about to finish, because they are to prepare the floor for action, to be unloaded again to the floor and next opened and placed on the shelf. They insult the people they have replaced, that left, they do it as if they know everything there. When they are off the clock, become customers, they are not allowed to ask for help or discuss something while others are working, therefore better to buy it somewhere else. Workers might spill a small amount of garbage sometime, yet be overlooked. Try to brush the problem of your shirt, and next be heard, your making a mess everywhere, its going everywhere, its a big store with very little to remove from the shirt. Try to ignore their insults, why you taking so long, you do this everyday, yet only happend once or twice a month, they only work 2 or 3 times a week.

May 10 2011 at 10:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I work in a warehouse for a major soda bottling company, I have been crashed into forklift to forklift by another irresponsible employee, Causing me to end up with multiple ruptured disks in back and neck as well as nerve damage. I have been to all the doctors they (the company) care to sent me too, have gone through workers comp court , I am still able to function and do my job. MY question and concern is the other person who hit me? STILL works thier, still continues to have accidents, and now with the advent of the cell phone drives his forklift using his cell phone. I have been to management, upper management, securtiy people. All to no avail, Yes they tell him to stop, but watch as he drives by with his phone in his hand or bluetooth in his ear. Makes me feel unsafe , however, nothing gets done, and the more I say anything, the more retribution omes back on me........How are you supposed to feel safe if there is no-one to stop the UN-safe hazards? ...........(

May 10 2011 at 10:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to ticker1's comment

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