Workplace violence often involves disgruntled employees or those who suffer from mental health problems. Sometimes, unstable people take their anger out on co-workers. Workers in certain professions, such as teachers, police, firefighters, retail employees, and taxi and ride share drivers, are at risk of being victims of violence due to the actions of non-employees. While not all workplace violence incidents are preventable, you do have some control over your safety at work. By understanding the warning signs that someone might engage in workplace violence, you may be able to stop one of these tragic incidents.

What Is Workplace Violence?

Many different actions by a co-worker can constitute workplace violence, including the following:

  • Threatening behaviors. This involves a person taking actions, such as shaking his fist, throwing property, or destroying property.
  • Verbal or written threats. If a co-worker makes verbal or written threats against another employee, this would be considered an act of workplace violence that you should report to your employer.
  • Harassment. Harassment includes any behavior that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, alarms, or threatens another person. A worker could harass you through his words, actions, bullying, intimidation, or other offensive actions.
  • Verbal abuse. This includes swearing, insults, condescending words, and any other speech that feels threatening.
  • Physical attacks and assaults. Physical attacks and assaults are what most people think of as workplace violence and includes shooting, stabbing, or any other physical assault.

Take Actions to Protect Yourself If You See Warning Signs of Physical Violence at Your Workplace

Both employers and employees need to know the warning signs of workplace violence and take action before the situation escalates. Other less life-threatening actions, such as verbal or written threats, harassment, and other unwanted behaviors should not be accepted as part of your job either. You should report any of these incidents to your employer.

In many cases of workplace violence, the employee committing the violent actions had already been acting in ways that alarmed co-workers and his employer. However, not all of the warning signs will lead to a worker committing a violent act. They could be a sign of stress or other problems. You want to look for multiple warning signs and escalation in these behaviors. Some of the red flags to look for include:

  • Crying, sulking, or throwing a temper tantrum
  • Being late or being absent from work more than usual
  • Not being respectful of supervisors and employers
  • Making an increased number of mistakes at work or producing a reduced quality of work
  • Refusal to acknowledge and work on job performance issues
  • Handling criticism poorly or blaming others for the employee’s mistakes
  • Making poor decisions
  • Making inappropriate statements or swearing
  • Becoming forgetful, confused, or unable to concentrate on work tasks
  • Complaining about unfair treatment at work and constantly talking about a problem without taking steps to resolve it
  • Becoming socially isolated
  • Holding grudges against an employer or co-worker and wishing harm to this person
  • Not taking care of personal hygiene
  • Being socially withdrawn

In some cases, there may be a pattern of more general warning signs that a person could engage in workplace violence. You should be on alert if you know of any of these dangerous behaviors:

  • History of engaging in workplace violence
  • Fascination with workplace violence incidents
  • Other violent actions in the past
  • Preoccupation with violence, guns, or other weapons
  • Threats that escalate and appear to be planned out
  • Argumentative behaviors, such as exhibiting unwarranted anger, being argumentative, or not being cooperative
  • Sudden changes in behavior or mood—such as extreme or bizarre behaviors, irrational beliefs, or appearing to be depressed, anxious, or hopeless

Even if you watch for the signs of workplace violence, you may still be the victim of an attack. Fortunately, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under New Jersey law. However, this does not mean that you will not have to fight to obtain them. Let me take over the burden of filing your claim and negotiating your settlement so that you can recover from your injuries and your emotional trauma. To learn more, call my office today to schedule your free consultation.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer
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