5 Actionable Steps to Prevent Abusive Conduct at Work


Employees are invaluable assets; they keep the business operational and serve as the “human side” of every organization. With such a critical role, employees deserve—at the bare minimum—a workspace free of abuse, hostility, and toxicity. That said, it comes as no surprise that one of the top concerns for employees is fair treatment in the workplace.

What Constitutes Abusive Conduct

Abusive conduct in the workplace is an umbrella term for a collection of hostile behaviors like bullying, discrimination, harassment, verbal abuse, and violence, that happens between and among supervisors and employees. These faces of abuse, while distinguishable, can sometimes overlap in nature. For instance, bullying can be considered harassment, and instances of harassment can come off as discriminatory. These abusive workplace behaviors may eventually lead to workplace violence.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines violence in the workplace as, “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) also cited violence and injuries in the workplace as the third leading cause of fatal occupational injuries. With so many ways risks and hazards manifest on the job, we’ve outlined five steps to nip workplace abusive conduct in the bud.

Steps to Prevent Abusive Conduct in the Workplace

  1. Understand your company culture and open your communication lines. This will help you recognize the dynamics that exist between and among employees and the administration, what potential communication styles will appeal to the majority, and which areas of abusive workplace conduct you should put emphasis on during training and prevention programs. You should also encourage employees to voice pressing issues concerning problematic workplace behaviorcorporate may not be aware of.
  2. Establish a comprehensive policy. Once you have analyzed your workplace and built a foundation on your policies, you can now formulate a fitting and inclusive policy on abusive conduct. The policy should address the basics like definitions, coverage, preventive measures, procedures (complaint, investigation, hearing, etc), disciplinary action and sanctions, anti-retaliation guarantee, and foci people. This said, policies are arbitrary and must evolve corresponding to the needs of the company and employees.
  3. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy. Having a zero-tolerance policy is a way to maintain the company’s stand on abusive and hostile behavior at work. While there is a delicate balance in nurturing a safe workspace and imposing disciplinary actions, zero tolerance should be a means of upholding a worker’s dignity—a way of telling employees that “you have not been treated right and we have your back.”
  4. Cultivate a healthy and responsive environment. By this, we mean welcoming feedback on the established abuse prevention policy as well as all work matters and adjacent issues that may affect the employees. Specifically, employees should be able to air their concerns without fear of reprisal or reprimand and your company must respond without malice.
  5. Innovate abuse prevention training. Conventional training designs simply don’t work—and worse—have backfired. Education on sensitive and serious matters like abusive workplace conduct should apply training that’s relatable and keeps users engaged. Common Ground 2, the new and improved version of our acclaimed anti-harassment training, Common Ground, explores topics on sexual harassment and abusive conduct while keeping participants grounded, informed, and entertained.


Keeping a happy and healthy workplace should be a goal for all companies. Not only does it keep employees positively engaged, but it also increases productivity and the bottom line while building a resilient workforce. It’s ultimately a long-term initiative in improving a company’s human capital.

If you’d like to see how a research based training program can dramatically improve your company’s culture and eliminate abusive conduct in the workplace, you can test drive Common Ground Business 2 by filling out this form.