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Addressing Workplace Violence

Date: 03/28/2007 | Category: Business | Author: Diana Heeb Bivona

Violence in the work place is becoming a regrettable common occurrence. It is now ranked as the third leading cause of occupational death and the fastest growing type of homicide in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), there were 551 workplace homicides in 2004, out of a total of 5,703 fatal work injuries. The actual number of incidents is probably much higher, but incidents of violence are likely to go unreported.

The assumption that it can only happen elsewhere can prove deadly. Work place violence happens every where and does not discriminate. Its causes are many and varied and can range from everything from a supervisor who just wouldn’t listen, to a job termination or layoff, to feeling like they have been unfairly treated by other employees or a client. The point is that it can happen anywhere. So, what can you do to prevent workplace violence?

Create and Implement Policy. Create and communicate a clear policy of zero tolerance for workplace violence, verbal and nonverbal threats and related actions. Make sure that your managers, supervisors, coworkers, clients, and visitors are aware of the policy. More importantly, practice what you preach. Zero tolerance means zero tolerance.

Encourage Employees to Come Forward. If an employee is being victimized, they need to be encouraged to come forward without fear of reprisals. Communicate that fact to your employees. Consider ways in which employees could anonymously report incidents which could then be thoroughly investigated and addressed.

Maintain a Physically Safe Work Environment. Consider security measures such as i.d. photo badges, individually coded card keys for access to the building, good lighting throughout the building and parking lot and/or security cameras on the premises.

Learn to Recognize. It is important to be able to recognize behaviors that contribute to workplace violence. Behaviors such as substance abuse and episodes of emotional disturbance leave signs that can be noted if you know what you are looking for. If you observe a distinct pattern of such behaviors and attitudes that cause you concern, take the appropriate actions.

Behaviors of potential concern:

  • Upset over recent event(s), i.e. a work or personal crisis
  • Recent major change in behavior, demeanor, appearance
  • Withdraws from normal activities, family, friends, co-workers
  • Intimidating, verbally abusive, harasses or mistreats others
  • Challenges/resists authority
  • Blames others for problems in life or work; suspicious, holds grudges
  • Use/abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Has talked about committing acts of disruption or violence

Attitudes of potential concern:

  • Is isolated or a loner
  • Morally superior, self-righteous
  • Feels entitled to special rights and that rules don’t apply to them
  • Feels wronged, humiliated, degraded; wants revenge

Employers not only have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees, but can actually be held liable if it’s proven that there was negligent hiring, negligent retention and/or inadequate safeguards to provide a “safe and healthful workplaceâ€?. Prevention is critical in avoiding incidents of work place violence. While incidents of disruptions and violence may be increasing, early intervention can assist in preventing more serious and deadly acts.

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