What is Workplace Violence?
Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths (Osha 2018). Bullying is now considered workplace violence because it has become more common and is also a factor that leads to physical violence. Workplace bullying includes acts of continual hostile conduct that deliberately hurt another person emotionally, verbally, or physically (Mondy 2016).
Bullying can be broken into two parts, the first is physical and the second is psychological. Physical bullying is intimidating or threatening actions like screaming or shoving. Another example would be the invasion of a person’s personal space. Psychological bullying is not as instant, yet a tactic that involves emotions and thinking. Some examples are ridiculing a person in a harmful manner or staring at someone with hostility. Bullying behaviors are now included in most companies’ workplace violence policy. Ultimately, workplace violence is a major issue for employers and employees. This paper will discuss the types of workplace violence, the causes, the impact, statistics, the warning signs and prevention methods for workplace violence.
Types of Workplace Violence
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), there are five categories of workplace violence. The five types include; criminal intent, customer/client, worker-on-worker, personal relationships, and ideological. Criminal intent is when there is no relationship to the company or an employee. This type of violence occurs while another crime is being committed like shoplifting or robbery. Employees at gas stations and liquor stores, taxi drivers, police officers, and convenience store managers working night shifts face the greatest danger (Mondy 2016). Next is a customer/client affair that transpires while the victim is at their workplace. Social service workers and healthcare workers are the main targets for this mishap.
Following that is worker-on-worker violence. This attack is just what it sounds like, a current or former employee has decided to attack a current employee in the workplace. This could be considered the most common because there are plenty of reasons a person gets irritated or fed up with a coworker. Other reasons are a laid off employee or an employee that was hired without a thorough background check. The next type is personal relationships. This type goes hand in hand with domestic violence.
Typically, the perpetrator has no intentions or bad relationship with the company, they are only focused on the person they know. Women are victims of personal relationships way more than their counterparts. Lastly, ideology is focused on the assassins more than the victims. Ideology is rooted from religious or political views. The type of people associated with this are generally extremists or value driven groups. Examples would be an active shooter or terrorist attacks.
Causes of Workplace Violence
All five types of violence can occur at any time for any given reason. Now we will discuss some of the causes of workplace violence. An employee could be stressed or in denial and those are two causes. Human Resources plays a part in the other two causes which are a lack of pre-employment screening and a lack of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Stress is a natural occurrence in any workplace that all employees encounter. Stress could cause an employee to become angry, frustrated or hostile with others. Employers all try to enforce the, “leave your stress at the door” method, but we all know that is not the case. Personal stress could also lead to a workplace incident. Some employers refuse to accept the warnings and behaviors of stressed employees and this covers denial. By ignoring the signs of an employee, the company is putting their employees at risk. Acting as if there is no problem when a potential problem is occurring is equally as dangerous as the workplace violence taking place.
Human resources has two opportunities to lessen the causes by processing a full background check and enforcing the Assistance Programs the company offers. If Human Resources does not run a thorough background check, then there is the possibility that a person with a violent past or a person that is prone to violence might be hired. An EAP is a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee’s performance. An EAP could diffuse a situation before the employee has a chance to act.
The Impact of Workplace Violence
Workplace violence undoubtedly affects the person involved, but is also impacts coworkers, executives, clients and the community. Medical bills, workers’ compensation and legal fees are direct losses for a company. While a decrease in productivity, low-morale and negative image are all indirect losses. According to Lower & Associates, as many as half a million employees miss an estimated 1.8 million work days each year resulting in $55 million in lost wages (Ricci 2018). The impact of workplace violence is substantial and can also carry an immense cost to a company.
Every year 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. Of that 2 million, it is estimated that 25% of workplace violence goes unreported (National Safety Council 2018). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 409 people were fatally injured in work-related attacks in 2014 (National Safety Council 2018). According to Injury Facts 2016, workplace violence is the third leading cause for deaths overall (National Safety Council 2018). The workers experiencing the most workplace violence are healthcare workers, employees in professional and business services like education, law and media. According to OSHA, taxi drivers are more than 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers (National Safety Council 2018). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are overwhelmingly victims when it comes to workplace violence (Ricci 2018).
Before workplace violence occurs, there are warning signs. Whether the signs are physical or psychological, verbal or non-verbal they still can be strong indicators to a potentially violent situation. An employee that is experiencing a high level of stress may display the following actions; crying, sulking or temper tantrums, excessive absenteeism or lateness, pushing the limit of acceptable conduct or disregarding the health and safety of others, disrespect for authority, swearing or emotional language, an inability to focus, talking about the same problems repeatedly without resolving them, or social isolation. These are some additional warning signs that lead to workplace violence; sweating, trembling or shaking, flushed or pale face, clenched jaws or fists, a change in voice, glaring or avoiding eye contact, or violating your personal space. These are all examples of signs that could be clues to a person’s future behavior, but they are also signs that could be prevented.
Now that we have covered what workplace violence is, the types, causes and warning signs, we will discuss some prevention methods. A company that can recognize the potential of a workplace incident are in the best position to prevent it. Establishing a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence is the best prevention method an employer can offer. With that being said, there is no way an employer can avoid the risk completely. Incidences of some unbalanced person coming in and shooting people happen randomly, and organizations can do little to anticipate or prevent them (Mondy 2016). Companies can do three things to prevent workplace violence. First, there needs to be a plan of action for detecting angry workers. Second, there needs to be training on handling employment issues. Third, the company should form a workplace prevention program or add to the current program and policy. It is critical to ensure that all employees know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly (OSHA 2018).
Before we conclude, we must incorporate Saint Leo’s Core Value: Respect. Respect is a vital role in our everyday actions. Respect should be given to all people, especially in the workplace no matter if the person is the manager or subordinate. Giving a coworker/employee respect could make all the difference in the result of workplace violence. In conclusion, nothing can guarantee that an employee will not become a victim of workplace violence. Workplace violence is a serious act and can cause major damage to all that are involved.