Workplace violence includes threatening behaviors, verbal abuse and physical assault. In any given week about 20 workers are murdered in the United States (Bruce& Nowlin, 2011). This can include the harming of an employee or client/customer of an organization by another employee, client/customer, or member of the general public. Many internal and external factors, including socioeconomic conditions, problems related to drug and alcohol abuse, layoffs, dictatorial workplaces, stress over job security, and domestic problems, are leading causes of workplace violence.
Organizations have to deal with human productivity and economic costs from incidents of workplace violence. For example, employees and customers or clients can be seriously injured or killed. In addition, a loss of productivity generally occurs during the incident because the business may be closed or on reduced hours pending investigation and employees may fear that another incident could occur within days or months.
Some employees also may quit as a result of fear of another incident or dissatisfaction with the employer for failing to prevent or properly respond to the incident. Physical injuries or emotional difficulties that result from the violent incident may cause increases in workers’ compensation claims. Organizations with policies on workplace violence are more likely to implement practices that can reduce the potential for workplace violence.
The managers in these organizations indicated that counseling for potentially violent employees, investigating unfairness in the workplace, disciplining/arresting people responsible for violent acts, mandating fair treatment for terminated employees, using mediation to resolve disputes that have the potential for becoming violent, and intervening in problems between employees were part of their workplace violence policies.
These elements are further evidence that organizations that initiate formal policies for workplace violence are more likely to consider ways to be proactive, rather than reactive. Organizations must take steps to ensure that employees feel safe and secure. While organizations are unable to anticipate all situations, basic preventive measures can deter some violence in the workplace.
While every employee with the potential for workplace violence cannot be pre-identified at the point of hire, organizations should have a variety of pre-employment assessments in place to ensure selection of individuals whose credentials, work experience, personality, and life experiences appropriately correspond to organizational needs and values. At the pre-incident strategy stage, the organization should create a zero tolerance policy. The organization should document all forms of aggression that have occurred against people and property associated with their organization.
Employees should be encouraged to report incidents of which they are aware. Furthermore, for a second strategy, pre-employment screening should include psychological testing, background checks to validate an applicant’s resume, reference checking, employment history verification, or even integrity interviewing. Training should include interpersonal communication, conflict resolution techniques and hostage survival skills to ensure that employees are prepared for any violence that should occur in the workplace.