Workplace violence can seemingly strike without warning. While disagreements between coworkers are common in the workplace, there has been a marked increase in the number of worker-on-worker violence incidents in the last 25 years. From verbal abuse and vandalism of personal property to physical altercations and bringing a weapon into the workplace, workplace violence is a terrifying reality for business owners and safety managers. While no one action can ever eliminate the possibility of an incident, knowing the warning signs can help managers identify employees who may be at higher risk of perpetrating an incident of workplace violence.

Difficulty getting along with others

Safety team managers and frontline supervisors should pay attention to employees who have difficulty getting along with others. Employees who frequently make inappropriate remarks about or have unreasonable expectations of their coworkers are at a higher risk of engaging in worker-on-worker violence.

These same employees may frequently exhibit controlling behavior toward fellow employees. Seeing themselves as superior, these workers are typically extreme control freaks and don’t deal well with change. These employees may also be obsessed with military or paramilitary groups and law enforcement and may own multiple firearms. Easily upset and quick to anger, management should be cautious when dealing with these employees, especially in cases of termination. Check out our guide to Effective Disciplinary Policies to help you and your team craft policies that work for you and your team.


While jokes about little green men and lizard people are usually harmless, management should be on the lookout for employees who exhibit paranoid behaviors. If an employee frequently expresses thoughts that their coworkers, employer, the government, and family are out to get them, it may be an indication that they are predisposed toward lashing out when confronted with disciplinary action or termination.

Always the victim

Employees who are unable to accept responsibility for their own behaviors, mistakes, faults, and actions may be at a higher risk of perpetrating workplace violence. These employees blame others for their failures and have great difficulty accepting when their actions result in consequences beyond their control – especially loss of a job, demotion, or reprimand.

Quick to anger

Employees who are predisposed to violence thrive on hate and anger. With these workers, everything is blown out of proportion and the reasons for their anger are always someone else’s fault. These employees are often quick to take legal action against employers, fellow coworkers, and others in their lives. Management should be particularly careful when making termination and disciplinary decisions with these employees.

Violent and vengeful

Employees who celebrate or applaud acts of violence may be cause for concern for management. Employees who have a “they got what they deserved” attitude towards victims of violence should raise red flags. These same employees may also be predisposed to seeing potential targets of their own violence as deserving of what’s coming to them – often expressing an attitude of “what goes around comes around”.

Unhealthy habits

Employees who exhibit unhealthy habits, including ongoing or numerous health-related issues and a history of drug or alcohol addiction, are more likely to initiate incidents of workplace violence than others. If you have an employee who has struggled with establishing and maintaining healthy habits, your safety team may want to keep an eye on them.

Recent termination

If you are planning to terminate or have recently terminated an employee exhibiting any combination of the above traits, your safety team should be on high alert for a potential explosive response. As workers in today’s society, people tend to wrap their personal identify up with their professional identify and loss of that position can be enough to push a person over the edge. Learn more about the warning signs of workplace violence and the steps you can take to minimize the impact of these incidents by participating in Sheakley’s Workplace Violence/Active Shooter Awareness Training.

Your partner in safety

Keeping your workforce safe is priority one for your company. Our safety experts are here to help you accomplish those goals. Our team provides regular training and education events to keep your team on top of the most important safety issues for you and your team – including Workplace Violence/Active Shooter Awareness, Drug-Free Safety Program training, OSHA Recordkeeping, and much more. Sheakley’s Workforce Management Services experts provide complete safety resources for your company.

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