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Work place violence refers to work related violence where people are abused threatened or assaulted at work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, well-being or health.
There are three types of workplace violence:
Non physical violence (abusing, threatening)
Physical violence (punching, kicking)
Aggravated physical violence (use of guns, knives, bottles, glasses, etc)
Workplace violence is a matter of great concern for the management. It leads to poor morale and gives a bad reputation to the company. It also leads to additional costs for the company in the form of higher insurance premiums and legal fees, fines and compensation to be given to the victims.
History of Workplace Violence:
Workplace violence has been generating concern among public and private sector organizations in United States in 1990 and the awareness has increased steadily. While it was considered as a threat there was no statistical information present for development of polices and programs to deal with workplace violence.
In September 1993, the Chicago based National Safe workplace Institute released a study pegging the cost of workplace violence at $4.2 billion annually. It was estimated that in 1992, over 111,000 violent incidents were committed resulting in 750 deaths. In recent years this has further grown.
In 1994, the Workplace Violence Research Institute conducted a study in which it interviewed more than 600 professionals of different professions who were affected by workplace violence. The incidents were divided into 5 categories: fatalities, rapes, aggravated assaults, threats and acts of harassment. The results also showed that workplace violence resulted in a $36 billion annual loss.
Recent Incidents of Workplace violence:
August 3, 2010 - Manchester, Conn, 8 people dead at a Beer distributor warehouse.
July 12, 2010 - Emcore Corp, Albuquerque, North Mexico, employee kills 3.
March 9, 2010 - Angry Janitor shoots two at Ohio State University.
March 7, 2010 - Portage, 19 year auditor of Indiana Department of Workforce Development, apparently distraught over a job review, opened fire with a shotgun.
Feb 13, 2010 - Teacher kills 3 at University of Alabama.
Jan 16, 2010 - A 51 year old dishwasher walks into a Buffalo restaurant and fatally shoots the chef and injures the chef's father and the restaurant manager.
Jan 12, 2010 - Kennesaw, Georgia, An angry former employee shoots five, killing two, at a Penske truck rental facility.
Jan 7, 2010 - St. Louis, A factory worker of an electrical equipment company shoots and kills 3 co workers and injures five others at an electrical equipment company.
Nov 5, 2009 - Ford Texas base, Texas, An army psychiatrist kills 13 and wounds 30.
Causes of workplace violence:
The causes of workplace violence vary from economical, societal, psychological and organizational issues. Even those employees that wouldn't ordinarily be violent may resort to workplace violence in some instances. Some possible causes for violence on the job are:
· Drug abuse and Alcohol consumption
· Gambling addiction
· Stress caused by financial problems like credit card debt or investments gone wrong
· Loss of job
· Mental illness
· Crises in family such as terminal illness, loss of loved one, or divorce
· Abuse outside of work and domestic violence
· Job strain
· Disagreement with a co worker
Violence may occur in the workplace by some who are not even employed there. Violence could be caused by the following situations that are unrelated to the job:
Acquaintance of a current employee or abusive spouse or partner
Types of Workplace Violence:
There are three main types of workplace violence:
Type I- Violence by Strangers and outsiders
The offender does not have a legitimate relationship with the business or its employees. Robbery is most often the motive. Most workplace violence falls into this category.
Retail and liquor store employees
Hotel and motel staff
Steps to prevent Type I workplace violence:
Installation of alarm systems and panic buttons.
Having physical barriers to protect employees.
Have bright and effective lighting.
Making sure that there are enough staff members.
Install video surveillance equipment so that all the activity can be monitored.
Install locks on doors that give access to staff only area.
Make use of drop safes in order to limit the amount of cash on hand. Ensure that there are signs clearly telling the people that there is only limited cash supply.
Have controlled or limited access within the facility.
Type II:Violence by people receiving services
The victim is a service provider and the offender is receiving services.
Police and public safety professionals
Medical care providers
Attorneys and judges
Steps to prevent Type II workplace violence:
Ensure that the worker never works alone.
Train workers in order to deal with violent situations.
If employees have concern about their safety, then they should have a platform to express it.
In some cases it is better to have a no uniform policy.
Type III:Violence by acquaintance or employees
The offender has some type of relationship with the business or an employee. Most offenders are current or former employees, current or former friends of employees, relatives of employees or current or former customers.
Steps to prevent Type III workplace violence:
Have a clearly written policy regarding workplace violence.
Have an enquiry about any act of workplace violence that has occurred regardless of however minor it may be.
State clearly what will be treated as workplace violence and what kind of behavior is not acceptable.
Train all the staff to deal with violent situations.
Set up a system to help employees report any problems they might be facing.
Look out for warning signs.
Impact on Organizations:
It has been agreed by experts that billions of dollars are lost every year in time, litigation, productivity, and additional security measures as a result of violence at work.
Direct costs: The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index released in 2006 reported "assaults and violent acts" as the 10th leading cause of nonfatal occupational injury at a compensation cost of $400 million. In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that workplace violence costs employers $727.8 million in lost productivity, with more than 7.9 million paid workdays lost each year. Other additional costs result from providing insurance, covering the cost of injuries and illnesses, crisis intervention, and counseling for victims, witnesses and their families.
Indirect costs. To find the indirect costs of workplace violence, we must take into account more than costs quantifiable in dollars and work hours. Whether an incident of violence or harassment at work involves just two people or more, it will create a wide circle of response, diverting attention and resources from the business at hand. It will require attention from management, most often immediate supervisors, HR managers and staff, but also senior management, safety and security, medical and legal advisors.
Shareholders and the public. An incident of workplace violence draws the attention of shareholders and directors. An incident may cause concern in the public, especially if there is injury or loss of life to its members. The organization suffers a loss of public trust, damage to reputation and public image, and loss of business relationships. Many times, workplace violence draws the attention of the media and may necessitate a coordinated public response.
Law enforcement. In addition to managing the impact on employees and their families, an incident of workplace violence will lead to intervention of outside interests. Criminal actions may involve law enforcement with authority to interview witnesses and make arrests. Government agencies have authority to conduct investigations, interview victims and witnesses, and issue citations, levy penalties and, in extreme cases, impose criminal sanctions.
Impact on Employees:
In a survey conducted by SHRM (Strategic Human Resource Management) India, HR professionals talked about the effects of workplace violence on employees to be decreased sense of personal safety, increased levels of stress and decreased morale. Respondents from large and medium organizations, compared with those from small organizations, indicated that greater numbers of employees experienced decreased productivity and morale, increased stress levels and feelings of being less unsafe.
Large organizations reported 3 to 4 times higher incidences of absenteeism and increased fear among employees after workplace violence incidents. Large organizations (27%) were three times more likely than small organizations (9%) to display a greater concern for work/life balance after violent incidents.
For victims of domestic violence in the workplace, there are special concerns about security, management issues, liability, productivity and performance issues, and physical and mental health care. Employers may expect employee victims of domestic abuse to miss work, to work more slowly, to have to do work over again and to feel unable to work.
Workplaces Prone to Violence:
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), USA, provides information that shows that anyone can become victim of a workplace assault, but the risks are greater for workplace violence in certain industries and occupations.
The following factors increase a worker's risk for workplace violence:
Contact with public.
Delivery of goods and services.
Working late at night.
Working alone in small numbers.
Working where alcohol is served.
Working in areas having high crime rate.
Guarding expensive goods.
Working with unstable persons in health care,criminal justice systems etc.
Based on the above factors the NIOSH concluded that the highest number of workplace violence incidents occur in the below work environments:
â€¢ Security and detective services.
â€¢ Eating and drinking establishments.
â€¢ Justice and public entities such as courts and law enforcement offices.
â€¢ Jewelry stores.
Behaviors that may predict Workplace violence:
In her book, Risky Business: Managing Employee Violence in the Workplace, Dr. Lynne McClure,a nationally-recognized expert, describes eight categories of high-risk behaviors that indicate the need for management intervention. She says these high-risk behaviors are everyday behaviors that occur in certain patterns - they occur long before threats or actual workplace violence.
The eight categories of behavior are:
Actor behaviors: Actions showing anger such as yelling, shouting, slamming doors, and so on.
Fragmentor behaviors: The employee takes no responsibility for his actions and sees no connection between what he does and the consequences or results of his actions.
Me-First behaviors: The employee does what she wants, regardless of the negative effects on others. Example, the employee takes a break during peak time, while all other employees are working hard.
Mixed-Messenger behaviors: The employee talks positively but behaves negatively. As an example, the employee says he is a team player, but refuses to share information.
Wooden-Stick behaviors: The employee is rigid, inflexible, and controlling. He/She won't try new technology, wants to be in charge, or purposefully withholds information.
Escape-Artist behaviors: The employee deals with stress by lying and/or taking part in addictive behaviors such as drugs or gambling.
Shocker behaviors: The employee suddenly acts in ways that are out of character and/or inherently extreme. For instance, a reliable individual fails to show up or call in sick for work.
Stranger behaviors: The employee is remote, has poor social skills, and becomes fixated on an idea and/or an individual.
Cases of workplace violence
Floria was a 62 years old lady working in a well known national chain of drug store. She was a Cuban by birth and came to USA in search of a better life about 30 years back and since then worked with the drug store. She was very committed worker and had respect of her co-workers and customers. She visited her daughter the night before she was murdered. According to her daughter"I could tell she was upset. She was almost in tears and a nervous wreck. I knew why, of course. It was the continuing problem at work. It was him."
Her daughter was referring to 32 years old Robert who was working with Floria in the same store. He was very short tempered and violent by nature. He had several complaints of behaving violently with customers. On such an incident; the assistant manager on duty at the time told that "He was out of control, wanting to fight this guy. We had to hold him back. He (Robert) said he was going to go to his car and get his gun to shoot the guy." He also had incidents when he shouted, threatened and abused his co-workers. He usually left his work incomplete and in a mess. Floria complained to him about his worker. Robert got angry and started yelling at her and abusing her. She became scared and complained to store manager about the incident. She also said that she is very fearful to Robert because of his violent nature. After sometime, a day Floria arrived at worked and found that a customer was given wrong medicine by Robert. Customer came complaining and asked for replacement. Robert got angry and strated fighting with the customer. The customer ran off but Robert anger was not satisfied. He started abusing Floria. Next day Floria wrote a letter to district manager of the store and to the HR department. But no action was taken.
Later that year, regional manager concluded his annual report and Floria for her 30 years of service received the highest accolades for her job performance.
Robert was rated as "needing to improve in all areas". "In my entire career in the industry, I have never had someone react to an evaluation the way Robert did." The regional manager would later admit. "It's not unusual for people to be disappointed or defensive when given a poor job performance rating, but Robert immediately began to raise his voice. He was shouting at me and telling me I didn't know what I was doing. It took me over an hour to calm him down. He left, saying he would consult a lawyer and sue the company." In response Robert wrote a long letter and delivered it in personal to the local administrator office.
Before the murder of Floria a meeting was called which was attended by Floria, Robert, the store manager, two employees of the store and a district manager who had been newly promoted and on the job for less than a month. In that meeting Floria was asked if she was afraid of Robert. She admitted that and then Robert was asked why she was afraid of him. He responded that he is not going not hurt her till she hurts her. The meeting concluded without any firm conclusion. Robert didn't come to work the following day. Floria asked again that if she or Robert can be transferred to other store as she is very scared to work with him. Store manager asked her to manage for a few days as something will be done for sure. Next day as the time of Robert's arrival approached, Floria got tensed and went to store manager. She pleaded to him with tearful eyes if she can leave the work in order to avoid any encounter with Robert. The store manager consoled her and asked her not to worry as this is just a matter of couple of days and then everything will be fine.
Robert arrived at work at usual time and was very silent. He didn't respond to his colleagues and was busy doing his work when a phone from district manager came. He enquired about the long distance calls made by him from the store. Listening to this Robert lost his tempered and started screaming at phone. He abused him and asked him to come to store and fight him. At this point Robert slammed the telephone down, picked up a stool and smashed a computer to pieces. Floria and another employee walked quickly away from the area. Robert followed, seized Floria by the neck with his arm, drew the diminutive woman to him and shot her twice in the head at point blank range.
Floria died instantly.
The Xerox Murders
In November 1999, a deadly shooting spree occurred in Honolulu at a Xerox Corporation warehouse. No one ever expected such large-scale violence in a state known to have the lowest murder rate in the nation or in a company that had never experienced a workplace homicide in its 50-year history. But, it did occur and the horrific incident became known as Hawaiis largest mass murder case.
Byran Koji Uyesugis from childhood was fascinated with guns and was a member of his school's rifle team. He was very quiet and was considered of good nature. He was also known to have several hobbies, such as collecting rare goldfish, guns and cigars. His father knew he has some problem while controlling his anger and had several past incidents when he was very hard to stop. An ABC News article entitled No Motive in Hawaii, reported that Byran had such a problem with his temper that he was arrested in 1993 for kicking in an elevator door and threatening his supervisor. The charges were later dropped, but Byran was ordered to seek psychological help to gain more control of his behavior. According to the Honolulu Star Bulletin,some of Byrans colleagues at the Xerox Engineering Systems office, where he worked as a copier repairman for fifteen years, began to worry because he was leaving threatening notes to some of his co-workers. Co workers feared that he can breakdown someday and can do something very scary.
On November 2 1999, Bryan bought a 9mm handgun and ammunition before going for work. He reached 2ndfloor and started firing in which 2 employees got dead. After that he went in conference room where a meeting was going on. He opened fire on them killing 7 of them. He was reported to be laughing and waving goodbye to the victims when he was killing them. . In total, he fired twenty rounds and took seven lives before fleeing the scene of the crime in a green company van.
George F. Lee wrote in his article, 7 Dead in Nimitz Hwy. Xerox Shooting, that shortly after Byran fled, SWAT teams and helicopters converged on the area, evacuating the building and sealing off several blocks in the downtown area. Bryan managed to escape from police for about 2 hours after that he was caught by them. Finally, a jogger spotted Byran sitting in the front seat of a van in the upscale neighborhood of Makiki Heights. The police were immediately notified and called to the scene.
ABCNews.com reported that police cordoned off an area of half-mile around the van in order to prevent any more unnecessary deaths in the event of a shootout. They also enlisted the help of Byrans brother Denis, who helped the police talk his brother into surrendering. After several hours, Byran surrendered to police and was taken into custody.
After his arrest police searched his house where 17guns were found. Many of them were unregistered. He was sentenced for life imprisonment and was asked to pay $70,000 restitution to the families of the slain victims. DiPietro wrote that Byran felt justified for the murders because he was merely trying to prevent being fired.
How to prevent workplace violence
a) By forming a committee of specialist:
As seen from the above cases, workplace violence is due to professional and personal reasons both. Personal reasons like psychological issues, uncontrollable anger, tensed personal life or inferiority complex can give rise to unwanted incidents. Professional reasons like peer jealousy, bullying, sexual harassments etc. can also produce very negative results. In order to prevent all these organizations must have committees that can take care of their employees. Specialists like psychiatrists; sociologists etc can really help employees. There should be a committee to handle complaints about workplace violence efficiently and effectively in order to avoid any miss happening.
b) Communicate to all employee:
Communication can be a very effective tool to handle workplace violence. Communicating organizational ethics and values can reduce incidents of workplace violence. Organizations must make sure that its norms are followed well at work place. There should be a transparent communication system in the organization. Any complaint concerning any sort of violence must be entertained with utmost urgency. There should be a clear message to all employees that violence of any sort will not be tolerated at any cost. Action must be taken immediately against those who practice such behavior so that others can learn from it.
c)Offering training and employee orientation:
Employees must be offered proper training so that they can behave in a desired way. Many times employee comes from very different background where he may have seen violence or gender abuse. The locality where someone has lived in past has a vital impact on shaping one's personality. Sexual harassment, racial abuse or violent behavior is result of these things. So when someone joins an organization, then organization must ensure that he/she has gone through proper training and orientation. These will help him to modify their nature in accordance with the workplace requirements. Also there must be regular orientation programs for existing employees. Compulsory meeting with psychiatrists can be a very helpful in preventing workplace violence.
d)By having a 360 degree behavioural feedback system:
360 degree behavioral feedback system can really help management to judge an employee's behaving at workplace. All the feedbacks taken together should be analyzed and if any problem is identified then it must be dealt immediately.
e)By responsible management:
From many recent examples it can be seen that management has played a vital role in all the incidents of workplace violence. Generally management is too busy in business prospects and profit making that it neglects these issues at all. Even if someone complains about peer behavior then also no action is taken. This irresponsible nature of management needs to be changed. Management must take seriously any complaint made and also should be unbiased while evaluating anyone. A responsible and active management can reduce incidents of workplace violence to a great extent.
f)Heightened security measures:
Security measures must be of high quality so that occurrence of any violence can be minimized. Everyone must be checked on daily basis before he/she enters organizations premises. There must be regular background check of every employees to ensure that he/she is not in any illegal activities.
Sexual and racial abuse can only be cured by proper awareness. Proper educations by organization to its employees about these issues can help them to resolve complication they have in themselves. There should be regular orientation programs that educates employees about these issues and help them to resolve their problems if any.
h)By proper recruitment:
Organizations should make sure that they are hiring a desired candidate, not only skill wise but also mentally and psychologically. At the time of hiring a psychiatric test or presence of a sociologist can help in this direction. There should also be proper background check before hiring anyone to ensure that he/she doesn't belong to criminal background.
Do's and Don'ts for Dealing With Potentially Violent Individuals
Project calmness. Move and speak slowly, quietly, and confidently.
Acknowledge the person's feelings and indicate that you can see he is upset.
Ask for small favors such as asking the person to move to a quieter area.
Establish ground rules. State the consequences of violent or threatening behavior.
Employ delaying tactics that give the person time to calm down. For example, offer a glass of water.
Be reassuring and point out choices.
Let the speaker know that you are interested in what he or she is saying.
Help the person break down big problems into smaller, more manageable problems.
Accept criticism. When a complaint might be true, use statements such as, "You're probably right" or "It was my fault." If the criticism seems unwarranted, ask clarifying questions.
Listen attentively and encourage the person to talk.
Make sure there are three to six feet between you and the other person.
Arrange yourself so that your exit is not blocked.
Don't make physical contact, jab your finger at the other person, or use long periods of eye contact.
Don't make sudden movements that may seem threatening.
Don't reject all demands.
Don't pose in challenging stances: directly opposite someone, hands on hips, or with arms crossed.
Don't speak rapidly, raise your volume, or use an accusatory tone.
Don't challenge, threaten, or dare the individual. Never belittle the other person.
Don't attempt to bargain with a threatening individual.
Don't make false statements or promises you cannot keep.
Don't try to make the situation seem less serious than it is.
Don't criticize or act impatient
Don't try to impart a lot of technical or complicated information when emotions are high.
Don't invade the individual's personal space.
Workplace violence is increasing day by day because of work pressure, peer jealousy, gender issues, racial issues and personal problems. It has been now a primary concern for all the organization to prevent such incidents in order to secure employees well being. Not only such incidents brings bad reputation for the organization but it also affects its productivity as it loses talented workforce. So it is very important that some measures should be taken in order to avoid such incidents. Top management plays a very important role in this direction as they have the power to take hard actions towards such incidents. An active and willing management can make a big difference in order to control workplace violence. But to make this mission successful there should be a proper feedback and educating program in every organization. Organization should also seek the help of sociologists and psychiatrists as needed in order to help its employees to solve their problems. There must be a proper and transparent communication system in the organization so that employee can feel free to talk with their issues and can feel safe. Proper security measures must be made to avoid violence incidents.