The Types of Trouble

Lesson 1: Topic 4 of 9

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There are social, psychological, biological and spiritual elements that contribute to a person’s decision to act violently. They may be conscious; others subconscious. Some factors stem from childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma. Intensely stressful experiences, such as poverty, unstable relationships, substance abuse, and so on can also be contributors ― however, there are many people who undergo the same or similar trials who do not resort to violence, so we urge you not to “profile” employees or others who enter your place of business. Instead, be on the lookout for warning signs on a case-by-case basis. You can also work to build a culture where everyone can have healthy and realistic self-esteem and self-worth. These things are discussed in more detail further on. 

NIOSH and the FBI separate workplace violence into four distinct categories: 

  • TYPE 1: Criminal Intent This type has nothing to do with the work site, the people who work there, or their duties other than proximity (e.g., a mugger loiters in a parking garage waiting for a victim arriving at or departing from work). It may be completely random, such as a drive-by shooting. The perpetrator is a total stranger.

  • TYPE 2: Customer/Client-on-Worker Assault This sort of thing is common in Emergency Rooms and psychiatric facilities, but can also happen in restaurants, amusement parks, and just about anywhere there is direct contact between employees and the public. Like Type 1, this may be caused by a stranger, but might also come from a known (repeat) customer. 

  • TYPE 3: Worker-on-Worker Assault You will sometimes see this referred to as “lateral violence” or “horizontal violence.” It encompasses vindictive, offensive, and humiliating behaviors from a coworker or supervisor, and ranges from verbal/emotional abuse to homicide. 

  • TYPE 4: Personal Relationship Violence The real-life scenario described in the introduction is an example of this type. Unlike the previous categories, the perpetrator is not a coworker, but is known to the intended victim ― usually intimately. In this category the targets overwhelmingly are women. Violence from this assailant can, of course, easily spill over to other employees. According to the FBI, approximately 5% of workplace homicides fall into this category.
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Making physical contact with the intent to cause harm is known as battery. Assault is further categorized as either ‘simple’ or ‘aggravated’ (sometimes referred to as felony assault), the latter being more serious. Note, however, that assault does not necessarily involve actual physical contact. It encompases a credible threat of violence ― that is, when a person can reasonably assume that an attack is imminent based on what another person is saying or doing. This is where the bully enters the picture.