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Understanding the Causes of Workplace Violence

Updated: Feb 3

Workplace violence, a significant concern for employers and employees worldwide, encompasses any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior at the work site. These acts can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. Let us delve into some common causes of workplace violence:

1. Inadequate Pre-employment Screening

Companies that do not conduct comprehensive background screenings on potential employees may inadvertently hire individuals with a propensity for violence or a violent past.

2. Stress and Personal Issues

Employees often bring their personal issues into the workplace. Violent behavior is more likely when individuals face stressful situations. These can include company mergers, job layoffs or terminations, demotions, disciplinary actions, or significant changes in job duties. Major personal losses, such as a divorce or death, financial difficulties, or even the holiday season can also trigger violent behavior.

3. Absence of Employee Assistance Programs

Workplaces lacking robust violence prevention programs and protective regulations may be more susceptible to incidents of violence.

4. Denial of Situations or Conditions

Ignoring or denying certain situations or conditions in the workplace can inadvertently lead to violent incidents. For example, not addressing interpersonal conflicts or ignoring signs of employee distress can escalate into violence.

5. Disgruntled Customers and Former Employees

Unhappy customers or former employees can also instigate violence in the workplace. This could be due to perceived mistreatment, dissatisfaction with services, or unresolved disputes.

6. Specific Work Conditions

Certain work conditions can increase the risk of violence. These include exchanging money with the public, working with volatile or unstable individuals, working alone or in isolated areas, providing services and care, and working in environments where alcohol is served. The time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, can also be risk factors.

By understanding and addressing the causes of workplace violence, we can take proactive steps to prevent it, thereby creating a safer work environment for everyone. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.

About the Author

Joseph “Paul” Manley is the Founder and Principal of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC. This firm is an Independent Security Management Consulting and Training firm, specializing in violence detection, prevention, response, and recovery. Paul is a member of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC) and a retired Massachusetts Police Lieutenant. He also serves as an Adjunct Lecturer teaching courses in criminal justice, security studies and behavioral sciences. His credentials include being a Board-Certified Workplace Violence and Threat Specialist (WVTS), a Certified Crisis Intervention Specialist (CCIS), and a recognized Security Expert and Trainer. Paul holds a master’s degree in criminal justice administration, further equipping him with the knowledge and expertise in his field.

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