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Beyond The Numbers: Workplace Violence Statistics Insights

Kate Sukhanova Senior Statistics Contributor Author expertise
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News stories of violence and bullying in the workplace can be horrifying to read. Unfortunately, the statistics of workplace violence paint a grim picture. For example, did you know that 743 million people in the world today have experienced workplace violence? That’s as much as 23% of the global workforce. And here’s another devastating figure: 48.6 million working Americans experienced workplace bullying in 2021.

The definition of workplace violence encompasses acts or threats of physical or emotional abuse that occur at the workplace. In this article, we will delve into workplace violence statistics and trends and explore the common causes and consequences of workplace violence, as well as possible preventive measures.

What are the Different Types of Workplace Violence?

When we’re talking about workplace violence, we aren’t just talking about physical harm. In fact, verbal abuse, intimidation, and bullying are a lot more common in the workplace. Let’s take a closer look at these types of workplace violence and examples of violent behavior.

Physical Violence

Physical abuse in the workplace can take the form of physical attacks on the employee or depriving them of food, water, medical treatment, or access to the bathroom. 

Verbal or Nonverbal Threats

Threats at the workplace are also a form of violence, whether verbal or implicit. They’re remarks or behaviors intended to scare or manipulate employees into complying. They can be threats of dismissal, pay cuts, or even physical harm or property damage.

Harassment

Sexual harassment is the best-known type of workplace harassment, but there are others. Generally, harassment is any behavior that creates a hostile environment at the workplace and can include racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks, in addition to unwanted sexual advances.

Intimidation

Closely linked to threats, intimidation in the workplace is usually carried out with the intent to coerce or force someone into doing something. For example, stalking someone or deliberately making them uncomfortable while working is a form of intimidation.

Bullying

Bullying can encompass all of the above workplace violence examples and any other type of behavior that can make someone uncomfortable in the workplace. For example, undeserved criticism that targets the employee personally, intentional sabotaging of someone else’s work, or malicious jokes made at someone’s expense.

Workplace Violence: Key Statistics

Industry Statistics

Workplace abuse varies across different industries. For example, over 40% of American nurses have experienced bullying in the workplace, and only 10% of them feel that their employer addressed the issue well.

Taxi drivers are another at-risk group. They’re 20 times more likely to be killed on the job than workers in other industries. Social work is also a dangerous industry, with almost 75% of workplace assaults being perpetrated against social workers.

Teachers and educators are also at a greater risk of workplace violence – 44% of school teachers reported workplace attacks in Q4 of 2021.

Gender Statistics 

When it came to gender lines in workplace bullying, the US Workplace Bullying Institute found that in 2021, 67% of bullies were men, and 58% of their targets were also men. 33% of bullies were women, and 65% of their targets were also women

In Canada, almost one in four women experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in 2020. Sexual jokes and unwanted attention topped the list of the most common behaviors. 

Other Statistics

Here are some more workplace violence statistics:

  • In the US, there were 761 workplace deaths caused by violence in 2021, and 2.6 million Americans suffered non-fatal workplace injuries in the same year.
  • 30,000 sexual assaults in the workplace are reported by women each year.
  • 35% of Americans working remotely experienced bullying during group virtual meetings, and 9% via emails.
  • 65% of workplace bullies are bosses or supervisors of their targets.

What are the Common Causes of Workplace Violence?

workplace violence remote work statistics

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Domestic Issues

Employees have lives, and they’re hardly ever perfect. If they have a fight with their partner or are struggling financially or with childcare, these issues are likely to seep into the workplace. In fact, workers spend over 9 working hours each week handling personal finance issues.

If there’s no support system in place at work, employees have few ways to deal with these issues without lashing out at their coworkers.

Disgruntled Employees

If a former or current employee feels that the company has wronged them, they might lash out. The statistics on this are devastating: 70% of all American workplace shootings were carried out by disgruntled employees.

For example, a former employee of Little Caesars Pizza shot her former manager last June for refusing to rehire her.

Mental Health Issues

Being overworked can easily lead to depression and other mental health issues. Workers with these kinds of mental health issues can often feel isolated, angry, or resentful, which can cause them to be predisposed to workplace violence, including bullying.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse affects 9% of American working adults and contributes to workplace violence and lower productivity. According to the National Safety Council, workers with substance abuse issues miss 24.6 working days each year.

Inevitably, this leads to loss of pay and, thus, more aggravation and conflict with affected employees in the workplace.

Workplace Stress

Stress induced by work and by personal issues can increase the risk of workplace violence. On the other hand, stressed coworkers can be more vulnerable to bullying and more adversely affected by it.

A 2020 study on the relationship between workplace violence and work stress concluded that improving workplace conditions can significantly reduce occupational stress.

Poor Communication

Workplace communication must be bi-directional for the organization to function efficiently and sustainably. If the employees feel that their input isn’t valued and there’s no encouragement or team building, the workplace will be left disjointed, leading to miscommunication and negatively impacting performance. 

That, in turn, can contribute to the employee’s poor mental health and make them less engaged, thus more at risk of becoming bullies or being bullied.

Workplace Culture

Toxic workplace culture is a significant reason for the rise in workplace violence. In fact, the Workplace Bullying Institute reports that 48% of the blame for such culture lies with organizational factors, such as HR approaches and management’s response to complaints.

Moreover, 35% of American workers feel like their workplace culture actually enables bullying.

What are the Possible Consequences of Workplace Violence?

Physical Injuries

CONSEQUENCES OF PHYSICAL WORKPLACE VIOLENCE

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Injuries like bruises, cuts, black eyes, broken noses, or even worse, can be the result of physical workplace violence. As you can see from the infographic, injuries incurred in workplace violence can be very serious or even fatal.

Psychological Trauma

According to a 2022 study on mental health and workplace violence during Covid-19, workplace violence leads to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even suicidal thoughts.

Although the study focused specifically on public health workers, we can easily imagine how workers from other industries might be just as affected by workplace violence.

Lost Productivity

The more abused an employee is, the less engaged and, ultimately, less productive they are. Workplace abuse can lead to high levels of anxiety, which typically results in a drop in the employee’s productivity.

And if they’re bullied in the workplace, their motivation can also suffer, causing them to be less productive. On average, an employee’s lost productivity caused by bullying costs $14,000.

Increased Absenteeism

Unsurprisingly, employees miss work due to workplace violence. In extreme cases, such as those involving physical violence, they may have to miss work to seek medical treatment. But even in cases of emotional workplace abuse and bullying, employees often take more sick days or mental health days to recuperate.

A 2021 study by the Bureau of Labour Statistics found that over 20% of workers required 31 days to recover from workplace violence. That’s a huge rate of absenteeism, and if employers want to prevent it, they should take measures to prevent bullying – some of which we’ll discuss below. 

Decreased Morale

It might sound obvious, but an employee who is subjected to workplace violence on a frequent basis is not gonna be the most engaged staff member.

This low morale can, in turn, lead to missed deadlines, low team productivity, and increased workplace conflicts. And these conflicts can easily turn into more workplace violence, making it a vicious cycle.

In many countries, employers have a duty of care to their workers, including protection from workplace violence. For example, workplace harassment is illegal in the UK under the Equality Act 2010. 

In terms of financial consequences of workplace violence, absenteeism, and low morale caused by it cost companies up to $330 billion every year. If you take into account the fact that the average cost of defending a harassment lawsuit is $250,000, such figures are no surprise.

Increased Staff Turnover

In 2021, 67% of bullied workers left their jobs to escape further mistreatment, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. However, only 23% left voluntarily, and 29% were forced to quit or were fired.

Preventive Measures to Reduce the Risk of Workplace Violence

WORKPLACE VIOLENCE SECURITY MEASURES

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Workplace Violence Prevention Policies

A safety or workplace violence prevention policy is an important first step toward combating workplace violence. However, for it to work, it must:

  • Be clear and concise
  • Be as specific as possible
  • Be enforceable and spell out the consequences

In addition, all employees must be aware of the policy and its contents. As of 2022, 55% of American workers didn’t know their workplace violence policy or even if there was one.

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment report by itself will make little difference to workplace violence. But it’s pivotal for identifying the key risks of workplace violence in an organization. It can identify the hazards, assess the workers’ vulnerability and help you make decisions on how to control risks.

A risk report must account for behavioral patterns and mental health of employees, how the workspace is set up, staff security, and other factors that can aggravate or mitigate workplace violence. For the risk assessment report to have an impact, it must be acted upon.

Training & Education Programs

After you have the risk assessment report in place, consider implementing training programs based on its findings.

For example, many organizations can benefit from communication and conflict resolution training. In addition, if the report reveals that employees aren’t aware of the security measures in place in the organization, extra security training may be helpful.

Culture of Respect

CULTURE OF RESPECT

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Workplace harassment of all types is not only dangerous but is also deeply disrespectful. In many cases, though, the fish rots from the head, and it’s the responsibility of managers to foster a culture of respect within the company and set expectations of respectful behavior.

This can be done by:

  • Leading by personal example through leaders’ behavior
  • Implementing and enforcing a Dignity and Respect Policy
  • Having a zero-tolerance policy toward acts of aggression and bullying
  • Establishing procedures for reporting workplace violence and protecting whistleblowers

Provide Resources for Employees

There are many apps and resources to help manage stress and mental health issues these days that can help to provide a workplace productivity boost. Many of them offer enterprise solutions that management can offer their employees to support them.

Some organizations also offer company therapists, coaches, and other mental health benefits to support their employees. As studies show that such support can significantly reduce the risk of workplace violence, we encourage managers to consider them.

Other solutions that we have already mentioned can include training programs and whistleblowers’ hotlines.

Improve Security Measures

As we saw, physical violence in the workplace is, unfortunately, an acute issue. To combat it, managers should take security measures. Here are some examples:

  • Using background check software to veto new hires (both pre- and post-hire) 
  • Security monitoring on premises
  • Visitor registration and monitoring
  • Video cameras
  • Facility maps marking all exits and stairwells
  • Regular review of security measures and regular employee training

Encourage Reporting of Incidents

Finally, organizations should encourage the reporting of workplace violence and support and protect those who report it. One way of doing this is through whistleblower hotlines such as SpeakUp.

Whatever reporting method you have in place, however, it’s important that employees know how to use it and that it’ll come at no risk to them. And that begins with the culture of speaking up – no hotline can protect an employee if they’re not encouraged to use it.

Top Takeaways – Key Workplace Violence Statistics & Insights

  1. Taxi drivers are 20 times more likely to be killed on the job than other individuals in other professions
  2. 35% of Americans working remotely experienced bullying during group virtual meetings, and 9% via email
  3. 70% of all American workplace shootings were carried out by disgruntled employees
  4. 47% of UK physical violence incidents result in severe bruising
  5. Absenteeism and low morale caused by workplace violence costs companies up to $330 billion every year

Is Workplace Violence a Big Problem?

The short answer is yes. Statistics tell us that almost 25% of the global workforce has, at some point, experienced workplace violence.

But it’s not a problem that cannot be solved or at least addressed. The responsibility of addressing it is on lawmakers and employers, as well as employees. By having adequate legal protections in place against bullying and harassment, zero-tolerance policies for workplace abuse, and strong practices for stress and conflict management in the workplace, we can significantly mitigate the issue of workplace violence.

References

Kate Sukhanova Senior Statistics Contributor

Kate Sukhanova Senior Statistics Contributor

Kate is an accomplished tech writer and SaaS (Software as a Service) founder, renowned for his expertise in the technology industry. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the esteemed University of Exeter, where she honed his critical thinking and analytical skills.

Beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors, Kate is a true statistics geek. She revels in the world of data and derives insights that drive decision-making and business strategies. This penchant for numbers enhances her ability to craft data-driven articles, guiding readers through complex topics with clarity and reliability.

Kate's passion for knowledge and curiosity about emerging technologies drive her to learn and stay ahead of the curve continuously. She is deeply committed to sharing valuable information about innovations that have a tangible, positive impact on businesses and society.

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