Violence in the Workplace
Violence and harassment in the workplace are pervasive, and affect the health and productivity of both victims and their coworkers. Severe stress can precipitate other trauma; as an example, it can precipitate a cardiac event. This is important, for many of these incidents trigger Workers' Compensation and other claims.
Attackers are more likely to be customers, while harassers are usually coworkers or bosses. FBI statistics report that customers are responsible for 44% of the violent behavior that businesses experience. Strangers trigger 24% of the incidents, with coworkers the source of 20%. While former employees get a great deal of attention when they return to the workplace and commit a violent act, they actually are responsible for only 3% of the incidents. Workers in small restaurants, convenience stores, teachers and taxi drivers all have a high incidence of assault perpetrated against them.
The high degree of emotion generated by these events - we call it Critical Incident Stress - can last for a lengthy period of time, if not treated. It occurs when you leave the incident, but the incident doesn't leave you. It stays with you. Any time another critical incident occurs, even if it is not at your workplace, it brings back the memories of prior events.
There are a number of general characteristics of a potentially violent parson. They often suffer paranoia and feel they are being singled out. They are rigid and chronically disgruntled. They frequently change jobs and have difficulty accepting responsibility. They make threats and often demonstrate an unusual interest in firearms. These people provide multiple warning signs to multiple people long before the incident occurs. Substance abuse is a very common contributing factor.
It is essential that your company develop a crisis plan to prevent and control workplace violence. This should be a priority, and should include a management group to create policy, an educational program on early warning signs and the development of crisis procedures.
Key steps in preventing violence in the workplace include fostering a harmonious work environment and training supervisors in conflict resolution because workers need to feel they are being heard. Security, harassment and grievance policies must be implemented Also it is very important to provide job counseling for employees who are terminated.
Once an event has occurred there must be critical incident response. If acute stress is not treated quickly, post traumatic stress disorder can develop, and this is much harder to treat and much more costly. One of the key tools is Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, which has been proven to reduce the negative impact of trauma and as a result lower the incidence of claims through early intervention.