Workplace violence is any act or threat of real violence, harassment, intimidation, or any other threatening, disruptive behavior that occurs at work (Korgen & Furst, 2012). Violence in the workplace acts in the form of threats, physical assault, and even homicide. It affects and involves all employees, clients, customers, and visitors to workplaces. Violence in the workplace is caused by many different stressors in our environment, but preventing violence in the workplace is possible. There are different strategies that can be used to help end violence in the workplace.
Violence in the Workplace
Violence is defined as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, or another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation” (Korgen & Furst, 2012). Nearly 2 million Americans report being victims of workplace violence every year, and in 2010, 506 homicides were related to workplace violence (Korgen & Furst, 2012). Violence in the workplace often goes unreported out of fear for more violence. Unfortunately, people are afraid of speaking out as it sometimes makes their attacker become more forceful.
There are many factors that can contribute to creating the violence in the workplace, such as working with people that suffer from mental illness, substance addiction or abuse problems, or volatile and disruptive behavior disorders. Another contributing factor may be working alone, in isolated areas, or in locations with high crime rates. Working in an isolated area or alone can make a person a target for violence because there is no one to witness the violence.
Is Violence in the Workplace a Social Problem?
Violence in the workplace is considered a social problem because it represents a global social pattern from which millions of people worldwide suffer. In the United States alone, violence leads to about 51,000 deaths per year, while globally, violence accounts for about 1.5 million deaths per year (Korgen & Furst, 2012). Violence also creates in injury, psychological trauma, and neglect at every level of society, including those in power. Injuries and trauma of any kind then requires the need of more medical personnel when they could be needed for other accidents.
Because of downsizing, layoffs and mergers, employees are working more hours. Stress levels are at an all-time high among American workers and as they continue to climb, these workers become ready to explode (Korgen & Furst, 2012). It’s almost like these people are walking a tightrope, and when they fall, they fall hard, and often resort to violence. Stress can be the cause of many evils, but when people are over stressed they are more quick to lose their temper and react in ways they may not normally react to situations. Employers being aware of their employees’ stress levels can mean the difference between life or death.
Individual and Social Implications
Employees who are the focus of a violent attack or who witness a violent attack may develop a variety of emotional reactions to the fear and anxiety they experienced (Anonoymous, 2009). A victim of violence will cope, or not cope, with that fear and anxiety in their own way. Some of the more common reactions include depression, withdrawal, increased use of drugs and alcohol, emotional upheaval, and post- traumatic stress syndrome (Anonymous, 2009). These kinds of emotional traumas not only affect employees but also contribute to lower productivity levels, which leads to lost revenue for the organization.
Violence in the workplace also can damage a company’s image in society. People can read reports of violence in particular workplaces and decide not to work there or buy from that company. Bad publicity and a negative image in the public eye can ruin or bankrupt an company forcing it to close down and in turn result in loss of jobs.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has risk management techniques to reduce workplace violence. There should be a workplace violence prevention program that can be implemented into the handbook or operating manual (Zinkewicz, 2003). OSHA says companies should follow steps to prevent violence in the workplace, such as providing safety education for employees so they know what conduct is not acceptable, what to do if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence, and how to protect themselves (Zinkewicz, 2003).
Employers should secure the workplace by installing video cameras, extra lighting, and alarm systems. Video surveillance cameras and alarm systems allow for a employee to feel that they are safe from outside violence. They should also give every employee identification badges and electronic keys or codes to get into the building. Creating a feeling of a “team” is important in the workplace. People need to feel that they belong within the group and have peers to turn to if they need to talk about something that may be bothering them, such as violence in the workplace.
What Society is Doing to Fix the Problem?
We cannot control what other people do but we can recognize warning signs of a troubled person and try to help them or gear them in the direction of help. People always show signs that they are under stress or fear. Employees and employers should always take any types of threats seriously. It may be a cry for help. Find ways to assist the person by listening empathetically or giving them the phone number to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)-Work and Family Representatives, refer a community mental health agency, or recommend a stress management program (Canada News Wire).
People need to acknowledge when something is not right and do something positive to correct it. Many people turn their back because it’s a lot easier to not get involved, but that won’t solve anything. People need to become accountable for creating violence in the workplace and a way to do this is by others reporting violence they witness to their supervisors. People stepping up and reporting violence will make violators think twice before creating any type of violence in the workplace.
Diffusing situations that create violence in the workplace is essential. Employers should be aware if employees are working too long hours or are over worked and over stressed. They shouldn’t allow these kinds of situations to occur, especially on a regular basis.
Is it Working or Do We Need An Alternative?
For the most part these systems work and are helping reduce violence in the workplace. People having others to turn to when they are in fear of any violence is a good outlet. A way to help lower violence in the workplace may be by making the consequences more severe if a person is caught. Termination should be an automatic consequence of violence in the workplace The fear of losing one’s job or having criminal action against them may help deter violence in the workplace.
Keeping the lines of communication between employees and their supervisors is also an essential part of lowering violence (Estrada, 2010). Sometimes supervisors may seem unapproachable, which can make communicating with them seem like it’s not an option. This is an unnecessary situation. Management need to make themselves available and easy to talk to so that their employees can communicate with them of violence if need be.
Violence in the workplace is a serious and growing concern in society. It has the potential to arise in any workplace or organization. As a society, people have to acknowledge the reality of it and work together in creating a solution. There are many ways that organizations and employees can work together to help reduce and hopefully end violence in the workplace. Organizations need to be aware of all the signs associated with violence and create a working environment that is not tolerant of it.
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This reference will look at how human resource departments in workplaces can prevent violence.
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This reference explains the costs of workplace violence for the public and private sectors. They state several conditions that must be present for violence to occur.
Canada NewsWire. “Media Advisory-Murder of Ottawa Transit Employees by Former Employee: Why does Workplace Violence Occur and What can We Do to Stop it? Internet. Dow Jones Interactive Publications Library
This reference illustrates the extreme acts of violence and indicates how common they are becoming. The author imparts that seminars, presentations, and workshops are imperative for the prevention of workplace violence.
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This reference examines why violence in the workplace starts and what can be done to
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This reference offers a safe-at-work program for organizations to prevent workplace
Korgen, K. & Furst, G. (2012). Social Problems: Causes & Responses. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
This reference will explain statistics about violence in the workplace and what can be done to help.
Zinkewicz, P. (2003). Violence in the workplace a growing threat. Rough Notes, 146(11), 70-73. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/200312320?accountid=32521
This reference states what the expert (OSHA) suggests should be done in the workplace to prevent violence.