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Workplace Violence – An Increasing Threat

Monday, February 13, 2017

Although you hope it will never happen in your place of work, the fact is that workplace violence is an issue for many Americans.

According to some estimates, two million Americans face some form of workplace violence every year. In 2013 alone, there were nearly 400 homicides in the workplace, 80% of those from firearms.

The service sector is the worst affected, with 88% of the most violent incidents. In fact, more than half of all workplace violence incidents happen in public settings. Although it’s the murders that make the headlines, they certainly don’t tell the whole story.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.”

It’s not necessarily working conditions or practices that drive workplace violence either. In over two thirds of workplace homicides, the perpetrator and the victim had no known relationship, either in the workplace or outside it.

It’s the one third of instances we’d like to focus on. What can you as a business owner or manager do to remove the risk of workplace violence and ensure that your employees have a safe and happy work environment?

Hire the Right People

It all starts by hiring the right people for your teams. Travelers Insurance urges businesses to have a rock-solid recruiting process that helps attract the best applicants. When you’re interviewing, get a good idea of the candidate’s interpersonal skills and ask them how they’ve handled conflict in the past. Conduct background checks and follow up on references.

Make Sure Your Employees Feel Safe

Keeping a safe and healthy workforce is vital. Make sure you’ve got the right training, support, and equipment to reduce any health and safety risks for your employees. Feeling vulnerable at work can lead to difficult and tense situations between team members.

Create a Safety Culture in Your Workplace

One of the best ways to reduce workplace violence is to create an environment where employees look out for themselves and each other. Make your team personally accountable for their safety and wellbeing and encourage clear communication and escalation procedures if there are any issues.

Get Policies and Training in Place

Understand what workplace violence is and make it clear to your employees that it will not be tolerated. Provide training on how to resolve conflicts and deal with difficult interpersonal situations. Make sure you have proper communications channels in place so employees can report workplace violence incidents without fear of repercussions.

Promote Harmony in Your Teams

Recognize and reward individuals and teams who work well together. Demonstrate how a harmonious team environment makes the workplace better for everyone. Give your employees autonomy, and let them choose how they do their work. Encourage managers and team leaders to provide praise and constructive feedback to foster a better working environment.

Deal with Grievances Quickly

If people do have issues with others in the workplace, provide a clear path for how they can get the issues resolved. Have a proper grievance procedure that’s fair to all parties and lets everyone’s side of the story be heard. Be supportive of all your employees, protect your people from harassment, and provide effective security.

Taken together, these techniques can help to substantially reduce or even eliminate workplace violence. Increased staff morale leads to a more pleasant working environment and ultimately makes your business a great place to work.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.