Violence in the Workplace

Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are committed to ensuring the safety of faculty, staff, patients, students, and visitors. We may not be able to prevent all workplace violence, but we can reduce violent incidents through training and safety planning. Visit the VUMC Workplace Violence (WPV) site for specific prevention, response, and support tools.

Our goal is to create and maintain a safe working environment that is free of disruptive, threatening, and violent behavior. Our Violence in the Workplace policies define unacceptable behaviors and outline the steps that can be taken to deal with such behaviors. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), each week in the United States 20 workers are killed and nearly 18,000 are assaulted in the workplace.

The Four Types of Workplace Violence:

  • Type I (Criminal Intent): Results while a criminal activity is being committed and the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the workplace. Examples of Type I includes theft or property damage.
  • Type II (Customer/Client): The perpetrator is a customer or client at the workplace and becomes violent while being served by the worker. Examples of Type II includes patient, family, or visitor assault toward the healthcare worker.
  • Type III (Worker-on-Worker): Employees or past employees of the workplace are the perpetrators. Examples of Type III includes verbal abuse, bullying, or physical assault from a co-worker.
  • Type IV (Personal Relationship): The perpetrator usually has a personal relationship with an employee. Examples of Type IV includes domestic violence that spills over into the workplace.

Employees and managers have the responsibility and obligation to communicate concerns about potential acts of violence to their supervisors. Our policies define unacceptable behavior in the workplace and set the tone for a safe working environment for all employees.

Each of us has an obligation to create and maintain a safe working environment. While not every threat of violence can be predicted or prevented, it is important not to ignore inappropriate behavior or pass it on to another department and hope it will go away.

Managers need to:

  • Consult with HR's Employment Practices, if needed, prior to any planned intervention.
  • Address the individual about the issue in a private, yet safe place.
  • Clearly state the behaviors in question with specific examples of inappropriate behaviors.
  • Allow the employee the opportunity to vent their frustrations or concerns. In an interview with an employee concerning their behavior, the manager can:
    • Validate legitimate concerns but define the specific behaviors that were inappropriate.
    • Reinforce violence in the workplace policies, their definitions, and their focus on safety.
    • Determine the necessary response under the Progressive Discipline Policy.

Employees need to:

  • Be familiar with their organizations' violence in the workplace policies;
  • Report any threats, abuse or violent acts to your supervisor, manager, or HR's Employment Practices;
  • Seek help if you are having difficulty dealing with your anger or behavior.

Review the Vanderbilt University Workplace Violence Policy.

Review the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Workplace Violence Policy.

There are organizational resources that can help employees deal with their anger or frustrations in a more positive way. Few people like to deal with conflict. The art of conflict management is a skill that can be developed. There is a need to effectively defuse a customer's or employee's anger calmly and professionally. Some outbursts of anger represent misdirected frustration, depression or other issues that can be addressed through counseling.

Additional Resources:

Work/Life Connections-EAP

Vanderbilt University Human Resources

Vanderbilt University Medical Center Human Resources



Keywords: Anger, Abuse, Assault, Conflict, Intimidation, Threat, Hit, Being Hit, Being Yelled At, Being Slapped, Being Spit On, Being Mad Dogged