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Reducing workplace violence by creating healthy workplace environments

Bob Bowen (CEO of The Mandt System, Inc., Richardson, Texas, USA)
Michael R. Privitera (Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, USA)
Vaughan Bowie (Adjunct Fellow at the University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 10 October 2011




The purpose for writing this paper is to help develop and apply integrated models and methods of best practice that can prevent and manage workplace incivility (WPI) and workplace violence (WPV).


This approach uses the framework of the public health model to integrate neurobiological, behavioural, organisational, mental health, and educational theory into a holistic framework for the primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of WPV. The key concepts built into this model are those of organisational violence (OV), trauma‐informed services, and positive behaviour support (PBS). This approach is further illustrated by case studies from organisations that have successfully implemented safety protocols that demonstrate the effectiveness of such an integrated approach. This method is derived primarily from qualitative data based on the expertise and experience of the authors in the areas of psychiatry, social work research, and instructional implementation as well as reviews of the current literature.


This model suggests that understanding WPI and violence as reactions to a combination of internal and external stressors is key to interrupting these violent responses. Responding to WPV requires that organisations first take responsibility for their own role in generating WPV and recognize the impact of organisationally generated trauma on staff and services users. In this behavioural model, WPV and WPI have functions which require the teaching of replacement behaviours that help individuals to escape from these stresses in ways that do not cause harm to themselves and/or others. Thus, management must instruct staff how to teach and reinforce appropriate social and communicative behaviours in order to replace those behaviours leading to WPV and WPI.

Practical implications

The practical implications of this paper are that it provides human service practitioners with: an understanding of the functions of reactive violence at work; a methodology to identify different types WPI and WPV; a framework to proactively teach violence replacement behaviours, empowering people to address the causative factors in ways that do not cause harm to self and/or others; skills that can be taught to management and staff individually or in group settings, as well as to service users; and implementation models from various organisations that have achieved significant reductions in WPV. Another important outcome demonstrated through the case studies is that significant financial savings can be achieved through reduction of WPI and WPV which may in turn lead to a related improvement in the quality of life for staff and service users through changes in workplace practices. This outcome has implications for organisational practice and theory as well as human services education and training.

Social implications

One key social implication of the model, if integrated into the company's social responsibility policies and practices, is the potential for improving the quality of life for staff and patients in health care settings as well as employees, customers, and service users in other settings.


The originality shown in this paper is the way the three key concepts of OV, trauma‐informed services, and PBS are built into a public health model to prevent and mitigate WPV. This paper is of particular value to boards of management, organisational directors, supervisors, HR and training departments as well as direct care staff, service providers, and regulatory bodies.



Bowen, B., Privitera, M.R. and Bowie, V. (2011), "Reducing workplace violence by creating healthy workplace environments", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 185-198.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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