When most people hear the term “workplace violence,” they envision a physical attack or altercation between a boss and a direct report, or between two co-workers, possibly resulting from a workplace conflict or misunderstanding. But this is just one example of a wide range of behaviors that fall under this category, all of which can and should be prevented by proactive measures on the part of a responsible employer.
Workplace violence can include a variety of situations including, but not limited to: written or verbal threats, harassment, intimidation, bullying, pranks, retaliation, or aggression on the part of customers or members of the public. Violence can be subtle or blatant, and can be enacted through invisible means, such as written, email, or text messages, voice messages, rumors, or property destruction. Behavior that demeans, alarms or embarrasses can also fall into the category of workplace violence.
Situations that Increase the Likelihood of Violence
There are several situations that appear to statistically escalate the possibility of violence in the workplace, including those listed below. Employers should increase vigilance and preventive measures during these occasions.
Interactions between employees and the public.
Any transactions that involve the exchange of money or prescriptions drugs.
Transactions involving inspection or rule enforcement on the part of government employees or superiors.
Situations in which employees are working alone or in small groups in isolated, low-traffic areas (for example, workplace vehicles or buildings disconnected from the central workplace).
Certain time periods also correspond with higher incidents of workplace violence, including the following: Early and late hours of the morning and evening, pay days, periods of intense organizational change, performance evaluations, and holidays.
Protecting Your Workplace from Violence
In order to protect your workplace from violence, you’ll need to begin by assessing your level of risk. First, review your history of documented violent incidents and search this history for specific patterns. Then conduct research evaluating the history of violence in similar workplaces and similar industries.
Once you’ve estimated your level of general risk, you can begin drafting a policy that clearly defines “workplace violence” for your purposes and describes all categories of unacceptable behavior. The policy should clearly state the consequences for these behaviors, and whether or not a no-tolerance rule will or won’t be applied.
Be sure to include representatives from both the employee side and the management side of the table as you draft this policy, and include buy-in from vendors, contractors, and all other parties who conduct business in your workplace.
For more information on how to prevent violence and abuse in your workplace, reach out to the staffing and management team at Lift Temp.