Workplace violence seems to be increasing. Whether the frequency of the events has gone up in recent years or the reporting of them has, it seems like tragedies that were once rare are now almost commonplace.
Workplace violence is a topic none of us wants to talk about, but it’s something we have to talk about. More than that, we have to take steps—all of us—to try to prevent it in our workplace and minimize its devastating effects on our employees.
Workplace Violence in the Spotlight
While last week’s attack on members of Congress practicing for a charity baseball game wasn’t at their place of work, it was definitely work-related. And the incident is shining a white-hot light on the heart-wrenching issue of workplace violence at the moment.
But, sadly, this attack was far from the only one. Seemingly every week we read about a shooting or a stabbing, and those are just the events that rise to national news. There are many forms of workplace violence, and not every incident comes to light, even to employers.
Workplace violence is 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.
Homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4,679 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2014, 403 were workplace homicides. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a major concern for employers and employees nationwide.
Take Steps to Prevent Workplace Violence
If there’s any silver lining to this topic, it’s that there are actions you can (and should) take to help keep your employees safe.
In an article published last week in the Alaska Dispatch News, HR expert Lynne Curry outlined a plan to help identify threats and prevent workplace violence at your company. She also stressed the importance of taking action.
The many incidences of workplace violence tell every employer that they can’t view it as a random event, but instead must take a proactive stance to monitor potentially explosive workplace situations. Employees, too, have a responsibility to ensure their own safety by promptly reporting all potentially threatening violations of the workplace violence policy to their supervisors. The lives they save may be their own.
—Lynne Curry, Regional Director of Training & Business Consulting for The Growth Company (an Avitus Group Company)
Look for the Clues Behind Workplace Violence
Another possible silver lining is that there are clues that can help you in the hiring, managing and firing processes. Every new event provides a little more insight into the personalities, mental health and motivations of attackers.
According to the Washington Post, the people behind these attacks don’t fit a specific pattern. They tend to state wildly different views and motivations for their crimes, or they don’t tell us what their motivations were.
However, they do share one thing in common—domestic violence. The Post lists a number of recent attackers with histories of domestic violence, including the attacker at the Orlando nightclub and the man at the Congressional baseball practice.
One analysis of mass shootings from 2009 through 2016 concluded that at least 54 percent of mass shootings — or 85 out of 156 incidents — involved a current or former intimate partner or family member as a victim. Other research has found that those who abuse their domestic partners are also more likely to abuse children and animals, and that 68 percent of men in a sample of batterers exhibited other “problem behaviors,” such as fights, previous arrests…
Preventing Workplace Violence Takes Everyone
Although it’s not something you want to think about as you walk into the office, workplace violence is a real threat that seems to be on the rise. To protect your employees and yourself, you have to act.
In fact, we all do. Recent events show that identifying a threat before it becomes a reality is a difficult task that requires a group effort. We have to pay attention, view details in their larger context and take action. Only then—together—can we hope to curb this tragic trend.