Workplace violence is a significant issue across the United States. The U.S. Justice Department reports that an astonishing 2 million people are victims of workplace violence every year. Moreover, approximately 1,000 people are killed as a result of workplace violence annually. Due to these alarming statistics, and the very real people who exist behind these numbers, it behooves all employers to develop and implement a meaningful workplace violence prevention program.

Commonplace Scenarios That Result in Workplace Violence

There is a myriad of different underlying causes of workplace violence. Having said that, there are some specific scenarios that more commonly result in workplace violence. These include:

  • Acts perpetrated by disgruntled coworkers
  • Acts perpetrated by disgruntled former coworkers
  • Dissatisfied customers or clients
  • Robberies and other crimes perpetrated by third parties
  • Incidents of domestic violence that spill into the workplace

Employee Responsibilities and Workplace Violence Prevention

All employees, including those in management, have certain responsibilities when it comes to workplace violence prevention. (Management team members have some additional responsibilities as well, which are discussed in a moment.) These responsibilities need to be clearly delineated in workplace violence prevention policies. Employees must:

  • Interact responsibly with fellow employees, supervisors, customers, clients, and others
  • Become fully aware and understand workplace violence prevention policies
  • Report actual as well as threatened acts of violence to appropriate authorities (including management within an organization and law enforcement outside an entity)
  • Cooperate fully in investigations of allegations of workplace violence
  • Inform appropriate management personnel about restraining or protective orders related to situations involving domestic violence or stalking

Management Responsibilities and Workplace Violence Prevention

In addition to the employee responsibilities enumerated a moment ago, management has other obligations and duties that include:

  • Inform employees of a company’s workplace violence prevention policy and program
  • Take reports of incidents of workplace violence seriously
  • Investigate acts of workplace violence as well as threats of workplace violence in a timely manner
  • Take appropriate action in regard to incidents of workplace violence and threats of workplace violence
  • Provide feedback to employees in regard to the outcome of reports concerning workplace violence
  • Request assistance from community experts as needed
  • Remain consistently cognizant of situations that have the potential to result in violent behavior and address such conditions promptly
  • Encourage employees who appear to be dealing with issues associated with domestic violence or stalking to seek appropriate assistance, including from law enforcement
  • Provide appropriate workplace violence prevention training to employees
  • Provide opportunities for conflict resolution and stress management assistance.

The Work Environment and Workplace Violence Prevention

A workplace violence prevention plan and program need to include considerations associated with the work environment itself. There are specific steps that need to be taken to create a professional, safe, and healthy work environment for all workers. These include steps to:

  • Promote open and timely communication among managers and employees on issues associated with workplace violence prevention
  • Offer opportunities for professional development
  • Foster an employee-friendly work environment
  • Maintain reliable mechanisms for submission and processing of worker complaints and concerns
  • Promote broad quality of life issues such as job satisfaction and worker-friendly facilities
  • Maintain a consistent and impartial employee discipline system

Workplace Violence Prevention Education and Enrichment

A comprehensive workplace violence prevention program needs to include ongoing education and enrichment programming. This element of a workplace violence prevention program needs to include:

  • Communication of an awareness among employees, supervisors, managers, and others regarding all elements of a workplace violence prevention program. 
  • Educate employees and communicate to them techniques designed to deal effectively with conflict resolution, stress reduction, and so forth. 

Indicators of Potential Issues That Might Lead to Workplace Violence

Management and employees must have a solid understanding of indicators associated with potential issues that might lead to workplace violence in some situations. These include:

  • Attendance problems
  • Adverse impact on the supervisor’s time
  • Decreased productivity
  • Inconsistent work patterns
  • Concentration problems
  • Safety issues
  • Poor health
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unusual behavior
  • Change in behavior
  • Evidence of drug or alcohol use, abuse, or addiction
  • Evidence of stress in a worker’s personal life
  • Continual excuses or blame
  • Persistent depression

Forms of Violence Among Co-Workers

A workplace violence prevention program and plan must take into account the broad range of different types of conduct that fairly is classified as workplace violence. These forms of conduct that equate with workplace violence include:

  • Concealing weapons
  • Using weapons
  • Physically assault
  • Actions designed to damage property
  • Intimidating others
  • Frightening others
  • Harassing another person
  • Stalking another person
  • Physically aggressive actions
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats

Ideally, the development of a workplace violence prevention program and plan is a joint effort of management and employees alike. All components of a business enterprise must buy into a workplace violence prevention program and plan for it to have a chance of success. All people within the employ of a company must make direct commitments to the quest to prevent and protect against workplace violence.