Kinds of Violence at Work

Violence at work can manifest in a very wide variety of different forms.

It can occur in the form of physical assaults, verbal abuse, threats and intimidation.

It can also be just a look or one wrong touch.

Common kinds of workplace violence

Listed below are some examples of common kinds of workplace violence. (The list is by no means definitive.)

– Name calling, and verbal abuse

– Staring at a person in a menacing manner

– Shouting at a person in an intimidating way

– Verbally threatening to injure / kill a person – or their friends, family, or colleagues

– Threatening to infect a person with an infectious disease (e.g. Aids, Hepatitis, Meningitis)

– Gestures to the effect that harm is intended towards a person

– Physically jostling/ pushing, pinching, scratching, gouging, punching, or kicking a person

– Hair pulling

– Spitting

– An attack with a weapon (e.g. a knife, metal bar, chairs, fire extinguishers, samurai swords)

– Setting a dog on a person / threatening to

– Giving an employee a different job that doesn’t suit their skills, then calling them incompetent and threatening to sack them if they don’t pull their socks up

– Threatening an employee with a transfer to a position where they would be worse off (or, with the “bullet”) if they don’t achieve targets – when the employee has no realistic chance of achieving them

– Insisting that an employee complies with a demand to do something which is against the regulations and not in other peoples interests. (E.g. You never saw that OK)

– Threatening to get rid of an employee if they officially voice a complaint

– Graffitti about the victim – and failure to remove it promptly

– Comments made to a person (or to others about the person) with sexual overtones

– Subjecting the person to ‘unwanted touching’

– Pressuring the person to ‘go out on a date’

– Exhibiting sexual organs / material

– Soliciting sex in return for hiring or promotion

– Sexual/ indecent assault

Bullying is the most prevalent kind of workplace violence

Assaults on staff by members of the public may be a significant risk in certain occupations (Security Guards, Nurses, Social/ Care Workers, Ambulance Service Employees, Public Tansport Officials, Traffic Wardens and Taxi drivers are more likely to be attacked). But, most work related ‘violence’ takes the form of non physical, but psychologically damaging bullying – and the threat of incidents happening exists in every single workplace!

For more information on Bullying: Click Here

Some kinds of workplace violence are more easily identifiable

An armed robbery, or a direct attack on a member of staff by a member of the public will be immediately obvious as an act of violence. However, ‘workplace violence’ can also consist of a series of actions that on their own may seem innocuous, relatively minor and on their own fairly trivial but which cumulatively can build to cause serious harm to the victims.

For Example:


“Mobbing” is a ganging up by colleagues – including subordinates and / or superiors – against an individual (or in some cases a minority group), and through threats and intimidation and/or, spreading rumors/ insinuations, they collectively isolate, criticise, harass, humiliate and hound the person into leaving the job. It is a really serious form of harassment that can destroy the victims mental and physical health. It has been estimated, for example, that the effects contribute in a significant way to about 10-15% of suicides in Sweden each year (and there is no reason to think things are any different in the UK).

Employers need to be aware of and able to detect the problem, and staff need to be sensitised to:

1. The potential for “mobbing” to occur

2. The absolute need to avoid taking part

3. The urgency of alerting management if they become aware of it happening.

Sexual Harrassment

Sexual harassment may take the form of a series of instances of unwelcome touching/ stroking, sexually suggestive or explicit remarks, innuendoes with a sexual connotation, staring at parts of a person’s body, references to sexual orientation, remarks about a person’s clothing, their body shape or hair colour etc.

Several national surveys have found that anything between 40% and over 90% of women who work have suffered some form of sexual harassment during the course of their working lives.

But, it’s not only women who are victimised. Male doctors, for example, and particularly those who have a good ‘bedside manner’ are more at risk of being sexually harrassed by patients than women GPs.


Stalking is a term used to describe the behaviour of those who become infatuated with a particular individual, focus their attention on them and then obsessively follow, pursue, harass, intimidate and threaten them.

Examples are:

  • Following a person
  • Contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means.
  • Publishing any statement or other material – relating or purporting to relate to a person; or purporting to originate from a person.
  • Monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication.
  • Loitering in any place (whether public or private).
  • Interfering with any property in the possession of a person.
  • Watching or spying on a person.

Stalking is a serious problem that affects lots of people from all walks of life (not just famous people) and it’s much more widespread than you’d think.

Results of research conducted by Lorraine Sheridan of Leicester University’s psychology department in 1987/8 indicated that:

  • One in five women has been the victim of a stalker
  • Two-thirds of victims suffered serious and prolonged intimidation

To download House of Commons Briefing paper 06261 (9 June 2017) on