All organizations are inevitably faced with workplace violence


Irrespective of their size (small or large), activity sector (primary, secondary, or tertiary) or legal status (private, public, non-profit, cooperative, or other), every organization is likely to be faced with situations involving violence among staff members at one time or another. Some organizations are also more exposed to conditions that fuel interpersonal tensions and violence because they have many more physical constraints (noise, task intensity, production pace, heavy workload) and psychological constraints (emotionally demanding work, tense situations with the clientele served), but regardless, all organizations are at risk.

Interpersonal violence in the workplace, which is distinct from conflict or management rights, has become an increasingly widespread phenomenon, to the extent that in 2002 Québec adopted a legislative framework granting all employees a right to work in an environment free from psychological harassment. All organizations are legally bound to adhere to the provisions of the law, but many experience difficulties resolving their problems in this regard. A large number of workplaces still take actions that do little to address the underlying causes of such violence and thus experience repeated failures.


Based on the  Results of ten years of research on violence prevention, the process described here puts forward a practical approach aimed at sustainably preventing the phenomenon of interpersonal violence in the workplace.


Not only does violence have impacts on worker health, but also medium- and long-term consequences for the organization. The following examples illustrate some of the impacts violence can have on a workplace:

  • loss of productivity
  • short- and long-term absenteeism
  • compensation costs
  • deterioration in the work atmosphere
  • staff turnover
  • presenteeism (where employees attend work even if they know they have symptoms that mean they should stay at home)
  • damage to the organization’s image.


A population survey report published in 2011 estimated that more than 500,000 Québec workers considered themselves to be exposed to psychological harassment in their jobs, with nearly 70,000 reporting exposure to physical violence. According to recent (2011) CSST data, between 1,500 and 2,000 Québec workers are compensated every year for physical and psychological injuries associated with violence in the workplace. This represents total costs of between eight and ten million dollars annually for all business organizations in Québec.

In this context, many organizations therefore have to contend with high staff turnover, and are looking into means of retaining and recruiting a workforce in a market where they are competing with other businesses in the same activity sector. Human resources directors and managers who are facing this challenge want to make their organization an appealing workplace, and many are showing growing interest in their employees’ health, safety, and well-being.




CSST: Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, which is Québec’s occupational health and safety board