Workplace Violence – Are You the Potential Target of a Past or Present Aggressive Employee, or Someone Acting for Them?

workplace violence trainingAre you a C-Suite leader, Senior VP, HR manager, or business owner concerned about the possibility of an aggressive employee, or former employee, targeting you for an act of workplace violence? Well, you’re certainly not alone!

In fact, according to OSHA and NIOSH, workplace violence and attacks from an aggressive employee are the leading causes of job-related injury and death for managers today! According to the latest statistics, 17 to 20 employees will be murdered on the job – and another 38,500 of employee just like yours will be assaulted, robbed, raped, beaten, or otherwise attacked – this week alone!

I have discussed this issue with managers, human resource directors, and corporate executives and found that many of these people are so afraid of a possible attack…
… that they won’t even answer their phones!

To be sure, there are some signs and signals that may indicate that you may be at risk of being attacked by a former or current aggressive employee, or even by someone in their live who may act even if that person can’t or won’t. That’s a topic for another article. Suffice it to say that for now, ignoring danger signals and not taking proactive action to deal with them early could put you at even greater risk later.

Also, you must understand that some of the things that might put you at-risk for attack from an aggressive employee committing violence in the workplace will seem unpreventable. Which is why it is imperative that you have more than just “prevention” policies in place, and have yourself and your people trained to be able to defend against, and mitigate the damage from, such an attack when it comes your way.

How Do You Know if You Could Be a Target?

Here are a few conditions which, by their very nature, increase the likelihood of you becoming a target of someone considering committing an act of workplace violence against you, and your need for both proactive response procedures and the training that will help you in the moment between when your prevention measures failed, and whatever happens afterward. There are more, but these will get you started:

  • 1. You are a manager. Plain and simple. Your very position opens you up to, not only ridicule and disdain from unhappy employees, but it paints a target on your chest for the worst of the human race – those who believe that physical violence is the answer to their own situation! And, never forget, if police officers – people with guns – get attacked by violent and aggressive people, your position as a manager or “boss,” doesn’t make you any more safe!
  • 2. You have been forced to fire anyone. Both current and former employees – those whom were terminated AND those still working who have ties to the terminated worker – may hold a grudge. For most employees, they either get over it or move on. But, for the aggressive employee, this may be one more thing that could trigger an act of workplace violence.
  • 3. Your personality type. There is no “type” of victim. However, as with everything in our lives, we may be loved by some and hated by others – for doing the exact same thing. Are you a hard-nose manager? Watch and monitor the reactions of your employees as you deal with them. On the other hand, are you the friendly, passive type? This could set you up as a target because you are perceived as “easy,” and not necessarily because you did anything to the aggressive employee yourself!
  • 4. Feedback. Remember, aggressiveness comes in many forms. And, everyone has a right to be angry. However, if there seems to be a personality conflict, outward signs or dislike, and an argumentative attitude every time you deal with a certain employee, you may want to get help addressing the problem.

These are just a few of the triggers that could set off an aggressive employee and set you up as the target of a workplace violence attack. And, while there is no set answer or solution for handling the aggressive employee, as each person is unique in how they respond to things like disciplinary action or counseling, you must remember that:

Firing an aggressive employee does not necessarily make danger go away!

It may not be in front of you every day, but it is potentially still out there!

What Can You Do (or What Should You NOT Do)?

Don’t rely merely on a passive written policy based entirely on prevention, threats of punishment, and “zero-tolerance” statements to control and deter an aggressive employee, or any of the other four attacker types. Make sure that you and your people are capable of avoiding, evading, or defending against any physical aggression that might be thrown at you when these elements fail.

To many leaders, this may sound aggressive and excessive but in the long run it’s your only guarantee of safety or, at the very least, the mitigation of damage to the greatest degree possible when your prevention policies fails and the unthinkable happens.

In fact, any sound security and threat mitigation measures and countermeasures should be primarily based on a properly assessed worst-case scenario and then follow-up systems designed in a deescalating fashion. This is, unfortunately, counter-intuitive and “backwards” to the conventional thinking, planning, and creation of the vast majority of workplace violence plans and policies!

workplace violence reportI explain more about the “backwards thinking” behind the so-called, and incorrectly named, “best practices,” as-well-as what I call the “backwards thinking” with regards to effectively protecting yourself against an aggressive employee who wants to make you the target of a workplace violence attack, then I recommend that you read the report, “Backwards Thinking in Workplace Violence Planning and Staff Training.” Simple name, I know. But I’m all about getting to the point, and staying focused on the best outcome.

You can get it free as a digital download here –> Workplace Violence Training Report.

About the Author…

Jeffrey M. Miller SPS, DTIJeffrey M. Miller SPS, DTI is an internationally-recognized workplace violence defensive tactics consultant and trainer. He is also the co-author of the books: “Workplace Violence in the Mental and General Healthcare Setting,” and “Using GIS in Hospital and Healthcare Emergency Management.” Jeff has conducted presentations and helped to increase the workplace safety of companies and organizations such as Geisinger, Stephen F. Austin University, and Sunbury Textile Mills. For more information and to download your complimentary report, go to:

Jeff says, “If you’re serious about getting the help that you and your people really need to be safe and protected against a violent attack, I can help you design and implement the systems and training programs you need.”

To receive a complimentary phone consult to determine your needs, to schedule an assessment and gap analysis, or to have Jeffrey Miller speak at your next meeting, call him at his international office in the US at 570-884-1119.