Workplace violence is a common issue affecting your professional life, but do you know what it is and its types? 

Common types of workplace violence range from verbal abuse to physical assaults, targeting individuals at work or on duty. 

This threat can originate from various sources, including customers, co-workers, and strangers, making it a common issue across diverse professional settings.

Workplace violence affects many places where people work: big businesses, small ones, schools, hospitals, and government offices. 

Customer safety is the prime focus of many companies, particularly those in direct contact with the public. This focus often neglects the rights of the employees, resulting in workplace violence. 

The importance of understanding and addressing workplace violence becomes even more apparent when considering the impact it has on employees. 

The National Safety Council reports that workplace assaults rank as the fifth most common cause of death on the job. 

These assaults involve various forms, such as shooting, stabbing, hitting, strangulation, sexual assault, and verbal threats. 

This statistic highlights the urgency for employers across all industries to actively address this issue to create safer environments for their employees.

Because workplace violence is so common, bosses need to keep their employees safe. A good plan for dealing with workplace violence should include simple things like security guards and systems and teaching employees how to recognize threats and what to do about them.

Let’s explore the type of workplace so it is easier to understand and create a safe environment for the employees and customers. 

4 Types of Workplace Violence


Understanding the types of workplace violence can help you deal with it effectively. There are 4 main types of workplace violence: 

  1. Criminal intent

  2. Client-to-worker violence

  3. Worker-to-worker violence

  4. Personal relationship violence

Workplace Violence and Harassment Awareness Training by Canada Safety Training is essential in dealing with such situations effectively. Let's explore each type in detail with examples and their impact on victims and the workplace. 

1. Criminal Intent


Criminal intent refers to intentional actions with the primary objective of causing harm, fear, or disruption. 

This category typically involves external individuals who enter the workplace environment with malicious purposes, such as robbery, assault, or even more severe criminal activities.


  1. Robbery and Assault: In some instances, criminals may target businesses for monetary gain, leading to violent encounters during robbery attempts. Employees may become victims of physical assaults in the process.

  2. Active Shooter Incidents: Unfortunately, workplaces have, on occasion, been the setting for active shooter situations. Individuals with criminal intent may enter a workplace to cause mass harm, leading to tragic consequences.

  3. Vandalism and Sabotage: Criminals might seek to disrupt business operations through vandalism or sabotage. This can include damaging property, destroying equipment, or compromising data security.

Impact on Victims and Workplace

The impact of criminal intent in the workplace extends beyond immediate physical harm. Victims often suffer from psychological trauma, fear, and anxiety, leading to decreased morale and productivity in the workforce. 

The financial impact on the organization can also be significant. Costs associated with repairing property damage, implementing security measures, and addressing the incident's aftermath can strain resources. 

Additionally, the long-term reputational damage can affect customer trust and employee recruitment.

By understanding the potential consequences of criminal intent in the workplace, organizations can take proactive steps to enhance security protocols and create a resilient environment for their employees.

2. Client-to-Worker Violence


Client-to-worker violence includes instances where clients or customers direct aggression, whether verbal or physical, toward employees. 

This form of workplace violence is particularly prevalent in industries involving direct customer interactions, such as retail, healthcare, or hospitality. 

It involves actions ranging from verbal abuse and harassment to physical assaults initiated by individuals receiving services or interacting with employees.


  1. Retail Altercations: In the retail sector, employees may face verbal abuse or physical violence from dissatisfied customers. Customers becoming agitated over service issues or product disputes can escalate into confrontations.

  2. Healthcare Settings: Healthcare professionals may encounter client-to-worker violence when providing care. Patients dealing with stress or frustration may express aggression towards healthcare workers, compromising not only their safety but also hindering the overall caregiving environment.

  3. Hospitality Challenges: Employees in the hospitality industry, such as hotel staff or restaurant servers, may experience client-to-worker violence. Under various circumstances, disgruntled customers may lash out verbally or even engage in physical altercations.

Impact on Victims and Workplace

Victims often experience heightened stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma, affecting their overall well-being. Moreover, repeated incidents can contribute to a hostile work environment, decreasing job satisfaction and increasing turnover.

The workplace itself may suffer from reputational damage, with clients or customers being deterred by the perception of an unsafe environment. 

Additionally, the financial toll through increased healthcare costs, legal actions, and the need for security measures can strain organizational resources.

Addressing client-to-worker violence calls for proactive measures, including employee training on conflict resolution, establishing clear policies, and fostering open communication channels. 

3. Worker-to-Worker Violence


Worker-to-worker violence involves acts of aggression, both verbal and physical, perpetrated by one employee against another within the workplace. 

This form of workplace violence can manifest in various settings and industries, creating a challenging dynamic where colleagues become sources of threat or harm. It includes behaviors such as bullying, harassment, and physical altercations initiated by co-workers.


  1. Bullying: Persistent and targeted bullying behavior, including verbal abuse, intimidation, or exclusion, constitutes worker-to-worker violence. This can create a toxic work environment and negatively impact the mental and emotional well-being of the victim. Organizations must have clear policies and procedures to deal with bullying behaviors effectively, ensuring that all employees feel safe and respected in their workplace.

  2. Harassment: Harassment, whether based on gender, race, or other factors, falls under this category. It involves unwelcome and harmful actions that create an uncomfortable or hostile workplace for the victim, affecting their professional and personal lives.

  3. Physical Altercations: Instances of physical violence between co-workers, although less common, can have severe consequences. Disputes or conflicts escalating into physical confrontations directly threaten the safety of individuals in the workplace.

Impact on Victims and Workplace

Worker-to-worker violence leaves a lasting impact on both the individuals involved and the overall workplace environment. 

Victims often experience heightened stress, anxiety, and a decline in mental health. The persistent exposure to such aggression can lead to decreased job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, and, in extreme cases, may force employees to leave their positions.

The workplace, as a whole, suffers from a compromised culture and increased tension among staff. Productivity may decline, collaboration becomes challenging, and the overall morale of the workforce is negatively affected. 

Organizations dealing with worker-to-worker violence may face higher turnover rates, increased costs related to employee turnover, and potential legal repercussions.

Addressing this form of workplace violence requires implementing clear policies, promoting a safety culture of respect and communication, and providing resources for conflict resolution and employee support. 

4. Personal Relationship Violence


Personal relationship violence in the workplace refers to incidents involving violence, whether verbal or physical, stemming from personal relationships between individuals within the professional setting. 

This category extends beyond workplace disputes, involving actions fueled by personal connections such as familial, romantic, or friendships. 

The workplace becomes the center for conflicts from external relationships to manifest, impacting both the individuals involved and the overall work environment.


  1. Romantic Partner Conflicts: When individuals in a romantic relationship are also co-workers, conflicts within their relationship can spill into the workplace. This may involve heated arguments, harassment, or even physical altercations.

  2. Family-Related Disputes: Personal relationship violence can also involve family members working within the same organization. Sibling rivalries, parent-child conflicts, or other familial tensions can manifest in disruptive behaviors within the workplace.

  3. Friendship Struggles: Workplace friendships turning sour can lead to personal relationship violence. Disputes between friends, especially when they are also colleagues, can result in verbal confrontations, gossip, or other harmful actions.

Impact on Victims and Workplace

The impact of personal relationship violence extends beyond the individuals directly involved, affecting the entire workplace environment. Victims often experience emotional turmoil as the lines between personal and professional life blur. 

The workplace becomes challenging for those caught in the crossfire, witnessing or indirectly experiencing the consequences of personal relationship conflicts.

The overall workplace culture suffers as personal relationship violence can create tension, division, and a sense of unease among employees. Productivity can decline, and collaboration becomes challenging, impacting the organization's ability to function cohesively. 

Employers may also face legal and ethical dilemmas when navigating conflicts arising from personal relationships.

By recognizing and addressing this specific form of workplace violence, organizations can cultivate a healthier and more supportive work environment.


The Department of Labor suggests that the most effective method for preventing workplace violence is by cultivating a positive work environment where employees feel valued and supported. 

Open and honest communication plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy workplace. Managers can contribute to a safe environment by regularly checking their employees' well-being. 

Establishing secure channels for employees to voice their concerns and report hazards and suspicious activities is also essential.

Understanding the common types of workplace violence can help the company realize the risk and take proactive steps to introduce practical strategies and policies.

Ascertaining the safety of the employees is the company's responsibility, and it should be taken seriously. It is a legal requirement and proves the company's commitment to employee safety!