Not too long ago, going off to work for most people was a positive experience. You enjoyed the work you did, you liked your colleagues, and were happy about the contributions you made to your company’s growth and success. Unfortunately, things have changed for a lot of workers, and not necessarily for the better. Today, workers are facing a lot of conflict with collegues, bullying, and are often having to deal with verbal and physical assaults. These are not isolated instances – in fact, last year over 20 million workers reported violence in the workplace. Plus, many incidents were not reported, so the numbers are probably larger. In fact, statistics show that today one out seven people don’t feel safe at work.
The statistics are alarming, especially because they are growing. Over 60 million workers have been bullied at work, and 30,000 women reported sexual assaults at work, and 33% of women who have experienced sexual harassment have reported that things are getting worse instead of better. Violence in the workplace crosses all types of job categories, from nurses to teachers to law enforcement to factory workers. Sadly, as of April of this year, there have been 26 fatalities tied to workplace violence. And workplace violence is costly – over $130 billion in one year alone. But according to a comprehensive article published by OneRep, there are many things employers can do to help avoid workplace violence.
Different Types of Workplace Violence
To grasp the severity of workplace violence, it’s important to understand its different types faced by employees. According to the FBI, there are four basic categories.
First is the violence committed by criminals who have no connection whatsoever with the place of employment. Often, it could be violence committed during a crime, and the victim just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The second type of violence is one that is committed against employees by customers, parents, students, clients or patients. This is often due to dissatisfaction with service received, or by an argument over having to wait for a long period of time, for example. This is common in the healthcare field
The third type of workplace violence is committed by current or former employees. This violence is usually based on a perceived grievance, job demotion or termination, pay or budget cuts, bad relationship with a supervisor and other factors. It can also be triggered by perceived bullying or retaliation.
Finally, the fourth type of workplace violence is often committed by a person affiliated with an employee. It could be a spouse, partner, someone the employee is dating. When the relationship ends, there is often a desire for revenge. Because there are often warning signs preceding this type of violence, having workplace violence prevention programs operating can help to keep employees and their coworkers safe.
The workplace itself can be a cause for violence, with a hostile work environment, lack of supervision of managers or financial problems, among many other issues. Any of these factors can trigger violence in vulnerable employees.
Strategies to Avoid Workplace Violence
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, having a proactive plan with policies and set procedures in place designed to prevent workplace violence can do wonders for reducing the risk to employees and their loved ones.
It all starts before employees are even hired, by doing comprehensive pre-employment background checks that search for any prior issues that would be a cause for concern. Make sure you have specific policies in place, and enforce them regardless of who is involved, including top management. Let employees know that there is a zero-tolerance force in place against any harassment, violence, intimidation or retaliation.
Be sure to have a comprehensive reporting system in place so employees know who to contact if anything happens that requires management intervention. Always acknowledge an employee’s concern, and have a system in place where you report back to the employee who reported the violation.
Because conflicts can trigger workplace violence with vulnerable employees, it may be worth the cost to have conflict resolution services available to help mitigate the problem and minimize the resulting actions.
Treat all employees with respect, including those who are performing below par or who are on the brink of being terminated. These are the more vulnerable employees, who are more likely to perceive that they’re being treated unfairly. With proper protocols in place, including security personnel, exit interviews and a policy to immediately deactivate any passwords or entry codes, they’ll have less access to other employees.
Something else to consider is having your facilities monitored by security personnel and/or a variety of electronic surveillance equipment. Their very presence can become a barrier to employees who are planning to commit acts of violence, and can expedite the appropriate responses if violent actions are apparent.
Have key employees in places to react to complaints and have them practice how they’ll respond when situations occur. This is a critical area of proactive planning, and with training and practice can help create a sense of safety and preparedness.
Following best practices to prevent workplace violence is extremely important, but constantly reviewing and refining your practices is equally important as well. Being a company that is committed to a safe workplace with zero tolerance for any type of violence or harassment will go a long way in helping to recruit and retain top employees, while fostering a safe environment for everyone.