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How to Handle Employees Fighting in the Workplace

Christine McDade is a human resource professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 20 years in the public sector.

Employees who fight at work bring a lot of unwanted drama to the workplace. Here's how to manage these tensions.

Employees who fight at work bring a lot of unwanted drama to the workplace. Here's how to manage these tensions.

Employee Tempers Flare and Egos Abound

Fight, fight, fight! We have all heard the schoolyard chant that accompanies two kids about to engage in a physical altercation. A crowd gathers as shouts and taunts are hurled at the two who are about to make a spectacle of themselves until the teachers come along to break up the mayhem.

Unfortunately, this behavior sometimes continues into adulthood, and even into the workplace. Fighting-inclined people will bring their tempers and bullying antics to work to pester and even provoke co-workers into meeting outside to settle some dispute that is causing a disagreement at work. These hostile behaviors become an embarrassment to the organization, the employees who participate, and to the co-workers who find themselves in the position to witness such childish activity.

Fighting between employees at the job site brings on a host of issues that management must deal with immediately. When hostile activity goes unchecked, employees are forced to deal with uncomfortable disruptions that prevent them from getting their work done.

A Form of Workplace Violence

Fighting between two employees should be regarded as a form of workplace violence because someone will likely get injured from the altercation. An argument can escalate from a verbal confrontation to an actual exchange of punches at a fairly rapid speed.

In some instances, an employee could use a weapon to harm a co-worker. When a weapon is involved, an innocent bystander could likely be hurt in addition to the party fighting with the co-worker. Managers should immediately contact their security staff and call 911 if a fight escalates to such a level.

Investigating the Fight

Once the dust has settled, managers must investigate the matter as soon as possible. Some things to remember while you are reviewing the matter are:

  • Conduct interviews immediately: To get to the bottom of the matter, it will be important to conduct interviews with those who participated in the fight as well as any witnesses to the ordeal as soon as possible. It will be most important to get input from those who personally witnessed the situation. Those whose jobs may be on the line (the employees who did the fighting) will need an opportunity to defend themselves for their actions.
  • Review policies and procedures: Since there will be disciplinary actions up to and including discharge for those who participated in the fight, managers should review the policies and procedures manual for policy violations. Some policies are very explicit as to what repercussions are required for those who participate in a fight. There may be details in the policy about disciplinary actions to be handed out depending on whether the fight is physical or verbal.
  • Pull personnel files and review for past violations of a similar nature: It is a good idea to review the personnel files of those involved in the fight to determine if this fight was the first offense for both participants. If yes, there may be some consideration given to their length of tenure, good work record, performance history, etc.
  • Order administrative leave for those directly involved in the fight: In many situations, it is prudent to place the two employees involved in the fight on an administrative leave of absence. By having the employees on administrative leave, they will be removed from the worksite to prevent any conflict with those who must participate in an investigation.
  • Hold the employees accountable for their actions: Once all testimony of the participants and witnesses has been reviewed, management will want to work with Human Resources to determine whether the employees should be fired, suspended, or otherwise disciplined. There should be some expediency for closure regarding this endeavor to allow employees to move forward from the unfortunate situation.
  • Coordinate professional training for co-workers: To prevent another fight from occurring in the workplace, management will want co-workers to move forward productively. Employers often take an opportunity after something negative has happened to educate employees on how to make better choices when it comes to getting along with co-workers and how to deal with difficult personalities.

Employees who fight at work must be ready to suffer the consequences of such inappropriate behavior. When both employees lose their jobs, management is left to pick up the pieces and move forward with the rest of the team who witnessed the unfortunate situation. When both parties in the fight are handled appropriately and held accountable for their actions, the rest of the team will be able to move forward from the fight.

Now You Know!

Fighting that occurs between co-workers at the workplace is unfortunate because it can result in people being injured and/or losing their jobs. The reasons people fight vary, but disagreements can be common when one considers the differences in opinions, backgrounds, and personalities that are present in the workplace. Human nature can bring about jealousy over work assignments, promotions, raises, and any personnel action that occurs.

A difference in personal beliefs and values can bring about a diversified workplace where differences may come up between co-workers. Employers must have policies in place that forbid fighting and any verbal altercations that are hurtful or inappropriate for the workplace. To prevent workplace violence and any form of hostile work environment, management must hold violators accountable. Annual training on the topic of teamwork and dealing with difficult personalities will assist in the prevention of unproductive behavior such as fighting.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Duncan Mutokaa From Kenya on August 27, 2019:

Ilove it

Duncan Mutoka on August 27, 2019:

Thanks very much it is very impotant

Junwin C. Dayanan on June 04, 2019:

if two employee fighting and we call them for settlement. the offender was asking for forgiveness but the defender was telling him that he must pay the expenses of medical like fare, medicine and hospitals expenses and also he said to offender that he must also pay the amount or rate of job on the days that the medical certificate state for medication. so is it possible that the defender can force to offender to pay the damages that he caused? thank you

Sayed Mahmood on June 13, 2018:

I enjoyed reading the topic,

Thank you on November 11, 2017:

If 2 aggressive men fighted in a company, one beat other pretty badly ..what should i do as employee and what is the role as a supervisor. How does any fight effect the organisation? Can communication change human nature? explain please

Christine McDade (author) from Southwest Florida on April 23, 2017:

Absolutely. Most employers have specific rules or policies regarding fighting in the workplace. As employers must maintain a healthy work environment for employees, it is important that fighting or disagreements be addressed by supervisors. Depending on the circumstances, employees could find themselves without a job as a result of fighting with a coworker, customer, etc. in the workplace.

francis santos on April 23, 2017:

can fighting in a workplace be a ground for termination

Christine McDade (author) from Southwest Florida on June 17, 2013:

Bullying is a real problem that is finally getting recognized as a workplace issue. Thanks for your comment.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on June 15, 2013:

In the Postal Service, where I work, they always preach a policy of zero tolerance for workplace violence but violators always are reinstated. We had a supervisor who struck a letter carrier, the letter carrier was temporarily dismissed and I think the supervisor got moved around and then quietly promoted. Sometimes upper management confuses "bullying" with effective management skills and rewards instead of punishes it.

Christine McDade (author) from Southwest Florida on June 05, 2013:

Thanks for the comment. The Human Resource Department in any organization often finds itself in the middle of difficult situations. It is the nature of the work performed. Looking out for the workplace so that employees can have a healthy, productive and rewarding experience is paramount. Doing so means dealing with tricky situations that balance the employee's rights with the needs of the employer. HR must care for their employees.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on June 05, 2013:

I've seen employees fighting and there are some instances even the bosses get some action. When the bosses are slugging it out, it's hard not to bring out your phone and take a video of them - of course for documentation purposes. Apart from dealing with the fighting employees, the management or HR dept should also reeducate the rest of the employees regarding professional conduct and behavior. Moreover, sanctions for fighting must be highlighted as well.

Christine McDade (author) from Southwest Florida on February 26, 2013:

Thanks. Fighting is an unfortunate part of human nature from time to time. When it happens in the workplace, there are many problems that can arise for both management and the co-workers who are affected by it.

Dilip Chandra from India on February 26, 2013:

An excellent hub, i must say i enjoyed reading the same. :) Very well written and well explained. The pics you have chosen are cool. Good hub really.