Responding to Workplace Stress and Violence

In more than two decades in law enforcement and safety training, I have led teams that have trained more than 70 thousand people with survival tactics in response to violence and active shooting. Over these years, I have witnessed the steady growth of fear, stress and anxiety as violent incidents have increased and grown all too common in our workplaces and schools. But I have also observed newly discovered confidence and hope in people who we train to understand threatening situations and provide more options for survival.

Pandemic Increases Pressure

The COVID-19 public health crisis has only magnified existing workplace stress as companies have closed, reduced staffing or continue operating with employees working remotely. As workplaces reopen, employers have an obligation to turn this climate of stress into a culture of safety. The right training teaches employees how to be vigilant, respond to violence, and learn critical survival skills.

How Can Employees Protect Themselves Against Workplace Violence?

Empower Employees with Awareness and Training

Awareness and training protect employees against workplace violence. Employees who are trained to recognize external stressors from a pandemic (family death or illness, unemployed spouse, political tension and more) can significantly impact this colleague’s demeanor at work. You can observe escalating stress in several scenarios:

  • Decline in job performance
  • Unexplained absenteeism
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use
  • Depression or suicidal comments

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that amidst COVID-19 lockdowns, 22-35 percent of employees experienced symptoms of depression often. What’s worse, only 7 percent of those employees reached out to a mental health professional to deal with depression-related symptoms.

When employees are trained to encourage a coworker to seek counseling or other mental health resources, or feel comfortable reporting violent behavior to superiors, they become part of the solution to make your company a safer place for everyone.

How to Handle Workplace Bullying

Bullying creates an offensive work environment and the behavior often serves as a warning for violence. Employers take a proactive approach by creating a strict policy that prevents harassment and/or other troubling behavior that intimidates others. This kind of policy addresses any workplace complaints efficiently and privately, and it’s a crucial step in preventing the possibility of violence.

How Do You Recognize Workplace Violence?

Violence includes so much more than the obvious physical assaults. It exists in extreme vulgarity, verbal abuse, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, theft and harassment/bullying.

Employees who witness these violent behaviors – take them seriously. ALICE Active Shooter Response Training teaches people what to do when they recognize danger. Certified instructors talk you through vivid, real life scenarios so your team learns to take decisive action to respond during a violent incident.

How Do You Deal with a Violent Employee?

We may never know when or where violence will strike. But we can train our people to respond to violent employees no matter where they are in the workplace. Options-based training helps your team feel empowered to act with confidence with real strategies for survival.

Make training part of your transition back to the open workplace. Give employees the knowledge and tactics they need to respond to violence. Navigate360 offers ALICE Training® online sessions. In the half-day virtual training session, your organization learns actionable tactics based on the best of on-site ALICE Training. We tailor the training to your industry, and the virtual seminar is accessible anywhere, anytime.

Manage Workplace Stress

Workplace stress affects sleep, health, productivity, relationships and more. In addition to safety training, your organization can help employees manage their stress in other ways:

  • Provide wellness tips or programs
  • Offer yoga or meditation classes
  • Make sure workers take regular breaks and take time off
  • Encourage daily exercise
  • Promote a healthy work-life balance
  • Suggest new hobbies

These are all ways for your company to let employees know – you value their safety. Investing in training programs like the ALICE Training Virtual Seminar tells them that safety is a priority in the organization and may alleviate some concerns they have around returning to work.

Employers work diligently to prevent violence, but you can’t prevent everything. As people return to work with pandemic-related stress, we have a responsibility to educate employees how to respond in the event that stress escalates to violence. ALICE Training is the first training methodology to focus on proactive response, leading a paradigm shift in response protocols across the United States.


By Chad Cunningham
Chad Cunningham is one of the leading National Trainers and maintains the quality standards in all of the ALICE National Trainers.