Dr. Renee Thompson: Signs Your Coworker Could Become Violent

Dr. Renee Thompson: Signs Your Coworker Could Become Violent

Many years ago when my daughter was in college, she met a boy. Outwardly, he was the perfect boy. He had a full scholarship to an expensive school, had graduated valedictorian from high school, and was obviously super smart. Yay!! My daughter hadn’t always made good decisions regarding boys in the past so I was thrilled and relieved when she told me about Josh.

However, over the next year, something didn’t seem quite right with Josh. My daughter shared a few things that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Random things like an occasional angry text message to her or that he would go days without talking to her because of something very minor. Once she shared that he got angry with her for something minor and threw a brush across the room. Now, Josh never physically hit her but Josh was cruel. After two years of hearing stories about Josh, my gut instincts were screaming, ”SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH JOSH!!! ABORT ABORT!!!”

But of course, my daughter justified his behaviors and at times, even blamed herself (classic victim behavior).

My friend works in a domestic violence clinic and agreed to meet with my daughter to talk about Josh. She reminded me that anything my daughter said would remain confidential. But luckily, my girls tell me everything!

After talking for over an hour. They both recognized that Josh is a time bomb just waiting to explode. Josh demonstrated common patterns of non-violent behavior that typically escalate over time to physical violence.

My husband (not my daughter’s father) is a detective specializing in crime and violence protection. He also shared my concerns about Josh’s behavior and corroborated my friend’s information about domestic violence too. But violence just doesn’t happen at home or on college campuses. Violence happens in the workplace too.

By understanding the escalation of violence, you can look for these signs in your workplace:

FIRST, involves verbal assaults. These assaults might start as openly criticizing, sending hostile emails or text messages, and inappropriate angry comments in front of others or when alone with this person.

I read some of Josh’s text messages to my daughter. Shocking and nasty!!!

SECOND, involves inanimate objects. Throwing things, kicking a chair, or punching a wall. Have you ever seen a coworker throw things?

Josh started throwing things – a brush across the dorm room, his books against the wall, etc.

THIRD, involves people. This is when their anger escalates to physical violence towards people.

Luckily, my daughter finally broke up with Josh. As a mother, I can’t tell you how relieved I was. I was so afraid I would get that call – you know, the one every parent dreads. If you are working with someone who you think has the potential for violence, start paying attention. Remember, violence starts with verbal assaults, then assaults against inanimate objects, and then violence against people.

Intervene early. Talk to your manager. Talk to security. Find out what the process is to alert security if something does happen. Don’t wait for someone to get violent and then have regrets. In many cases where a coworker gets violent, people say that they had a feeling something wasn’t right or that something was going to happen. Don’t wait until it does!

We all deserve to work in a safe workplace! Have you experienced violence in your workplace? Share your story with us on Facebook

Thanks for reading. Take care and stay connected.


Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author, award-winning nurse blogger, and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate workplace bullying. To find out more about Renee, please visit her website. American Sentinel University friends and family can get 25% off Renee’s great anti-bullying products – simply enter in the code: AMSENT16.

Empower yourself with knowledge through an online RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in case managementinfection control, and executive leadership.

Learn what American Sentinel has to offer:

Let us answer any questions you have. Fill out the form below, and we will be in touch quickly.

By clicking the button above, Post University has your consent to use automated technology to call, text and email you regarding its educational services at the contact information provided above. It is not a requirement to provide this consent to attend Post University. Post University’s Terms and Privacy Policy apply.

Becoming a Preceptor to a New Nurse
Nurse Keith: Your Untapped Nursing Brilliance