No workplace is immune to workplace violence. In fact, each week, an average of twenty employees are killed and about 18,000 are assaulted on the job, according to government statistics.
What triggers workplace violence? The top reasons: personality conflicts, work-related stress, family or marital problems, mental illness, firings and drug and alcohol abuse. An American Management Association survey found that the most violent incidents occurring on the job involve (in order):
Employee and employee
Employee and supervisor
Customer and employee
Employee and spouse/significant other
Also, lawsuits surrounding workplace violence prevention are rising. Legal action often centers on negligent-hiring and negligent-supervision issues. So, what can you do? If you tolerate negative behaviors among the employees, you supervise, or display those behaviors yourself, you can contribute to an unsafe work environment. That is why it is best to:
1. Address misconduct right away. Allowing aggressive or inappropriate conduct without acting can foster a workplace in which employees feel harassed or intimidated. Notify HR with concerns about discipline or potentially explosive situations.
2. Provide a clear rationale for decisions. Making employee-related decisions without employee input or explanation can lead to frustrated employees who do not feel valued as anything but “worker bees.”
3. Treat employees fairly and equitably and apply rules consistently. If you are inconsistent or unpredictable, your employees will be unsure of your expectations and become frustrated. Communicate clear standards of performance and behavior, then set a good example yourself.
4. Provide feedback throughout the year. Saving up all your critiques for performance reviews can intensify anger and spark violence.
5. Get to know your employees but keep them professional. Remember that engaging in relationships with employees that are too personal or too informal may lead to misunderstandings, as well as to other employees feeling alienated.
Feel free to use this to educate your supervisors. Paste the content into an email, company newsletter or other communication. Edit as desired.
About the Author: Joseph “Paul” Manley is the Founder and Principal of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC, a Training and Independent Consulting Firm with a focus on violence detection, prevention, response, and recovery. Paul is a retired Massachusetts Police Lieutenant, Adjunct Lecturer, Board-Certified Workplace Violence and Threat Specialist, Security Expert, and Trainer.