Workplace violence is an enormous problem, as homicide is the second largest cause of fatal injuries at the workplace, and one of every seven workplace homicides are committed by a coworker or personal associate (Dessler, 2011). In a recent year, workplace assaults resulted in over 1 million lost workdays (Dessler, 2011). Violence occurs on some jobs more than others, with 22 job characteristics correlating to violence on the job, as discovered by researchers (Dessler, 2011). Some jobs that have a high likelihood of violence are jobs that involve the physical care of others, physical control of others, decision making that has influence over the lives of others, gun handling, weapons handling, security functions, and interacting with frustrated individuals (Dessler, 2011). Though workplace violence is a huge problem, there are some steps that employers can take to reduce the chances of workplace violence from occurring.
Heightened security measures are an employer’s first line of defense against workplace violence (Dessler, 2011). Some examples of heightened security measures are improved external lighting, the use of drop safes to minimize cash on hand, silent alarms and surveillance cameras, an increase in the number of staff on duty, staff training in conflict resolution and non-violent response, and daytime business hours (Dessler, 2011).
Improved employee screening is a great step to take toward reducing workplace violence, by screening out those who are prone to workplace aggression (Dessler, 2011). Certain background facts can suggest the need for a more in-depth background investigation, such as a gap in employment or prior violent behavior on the job, so a thorough background check is a great way to screen out potentially violent applicants (Dessler, 2011). Workplace violence training can also go a long way to reducing workplace violence. Employers should train supervisors on what workplace violence is, what its causes are, tips to prevent workplace violence, what to do when violence occurs, and identify clues that typically precede violent incidents (Dessler, 2011). Some clues that precede violent incidents include the typical profile (male, between the ages of 25 and 40, an inability to handle stress, manipulative behavior, and steady complaining), verbal threats, physical actions, frustration, and obsession (Dessler, 2011).
Research has found that workplace violence typically occurs in response to a perceived injustice (Dessler, 2011). Therefore, to reduce violence in the workplace, strive for fairness and justice in the workplace (Dessler, 2011). When confronted by an angry employee, one needs to make eye contact with the employee giving that person your full attention (Dessler, 2011). It’s also important to speak in a calm voice, be honest and open, as well as let the employee have his or her say (Dessler, 2011).
If worse comes to worse, and one needs to dismiss or discipline a potentially violent employee, it is important to analyze the situation before it happens to go into the situation with foresight, and have security nearby when the dismissal or disciplining takes place (Dessler, 2011). Before a dismissal of a potentially violent employee, clear away furniture or objects that the employee might throw, and don’t wear loose clothing that the person might grab (Dessler, 2011). Also, maintain the person’s dignity during the dismissal and try to emphasize something good about them (Dessler, 2011).
Workplace violence is always an unfortunate occurrence, but the good news is that there are many things that employers can do to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence from occurring at their organization.
Source: Dessler, G. (2011). Human resource management (Columbia College Custom Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.