Preventing Workplace Violence

Violence in the workplace has become an increasingly serious problem, in fact, it is the fastest growing form of murder, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Each year, more than 1,600 are murdered at work and more than 2 million are assaulted on the job and 6 million are threatened in the United States.

Third Party Intrusion:  The greatest threat of violence occurs when a non-employee enters the workplace.  It can be an estranged or divorced spouse, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend or emotionally disturbed person.

Disgruntled Employees:  They usually direct their violent acts toward coworkers or supervisors.  The motive is usually revenge.  The violent worker usually believes:

  • Something very important has been taken away from them like a promotion, raise or assignment or transfer.
  • If the business does not give it to him, he is willing to risk everything to strike back.

Major Stressors for Employees:  A death in the family, a divorce, job loss and a physical move.

“Red Flags” or Warning Signs:

  • History of violent behavior
  • Verbal, nonverbal, or written threats or
  • Intimidation
  • Unwanted romantic interest in co-worker
  • Paranoid behavior
  • Does not accept criticism
  • Holds a grudge
  • Family, financial and/or personal problems
  • Unacceptable job performance ratings
  • Non communicator—loner
  • Extreme reactions to new policies; doesn’t listen to authority figures
  • Change in quality of work; attendance and tardy problems
  • Blames everyone else
  • Feelings of being victimized
  • Uses alcohol or other drugs
  • Steals or sabotages projects or equipment
  • Self-centered or aloof
  • Displays of unwarranted anger
  • Drastic change in belief system
  • Expressions of hopelessness or heightened anxiety
  • Lack of concern for the safety of others
  • Irrational beliefs and ideas

At Risk Work Environment

  • Chronic labor/management disputes
  • Frequent grievances filed
  • Large number of injury claims
  • Under staffing or excessive demands for overtime
  • High number of stress personnel
  • Authoritarian Management Approach—Aggressive style where management tells employees what  
  • and when to do everything.  Absolute obedience to management authority is required.
  • Polarization between employees and managers

Ways to Prevent Workplace Violence

  • Employees should be encouraged to advise their supervisor if they’re involved in a domestic conflict, so management can be more alert.
  • If an employee has a Personal Protection Order against someone, management and security should be notified to be on guard.
  • A temporary duress alarm may be installed in the workplace of the person who is threatened.
  • Escorts should be provided
  • For disgruntled employees, there should be a non-harassment policy.
  • There should be zero tolerance on any weapons in the workplace.
  • Encourage employees to report incidents of harassment, intimidation, threatened violence, etc., to their supervisors.
  • Train employees to recognize warning signs of behavior that could lead to violence.
  • Conduct background investigations on employees prior to hire.
  • Provide a healthy work environment
  • Advise employees of counseling services; recognize and minimize workplace stress.
  • Develop a threat management plan on how to respond to a potential crisis, including the human resources department, security, employee assistance services, legal counsel, senior management and maintenance department representatives.

Threat Management Team

The Team’s responsibility is to balance the rights of the person who made the threats with the rights of the co-workers or supervisor who may be the object of the threats.
The person who reports the threat and any witnesses should be interviewed and all information documented in detail.  
If available, a specialist in assessing potentially violent employees should be contacted to review and evaluate the information.
If additional investigation is needed, the Threat Management Team should be formed.  After a review of the situation, the following questions must be asked:
Should the person who made the threat be offered counseling?
Should counseling be voluntary or become a condition of further employment?
Should the person be offered a chance to resign?

If the Threat Management Team decides the person is an immediate danger to himself or others, the questions to consider include:

Should criminal prosecution take place?
How will the business handle the person’s separation from the workplace?  Will it be temporary or permanent?
What types of attacks might the person make?
Should the business seek a restraining order?
What should the scope of added security be, and for how long should it be in place?
Ultimately, the subject who made the threat or displayed the violent tendencies or behavior will need to be interviewed and advised.  Security must be in place for this interview.

Threat Management Planning

Train managers, supervisors and employees about the potential of violence and the profile of the perpetrators.
Establish written policies about the warning signs and what to do if the signs are observed.
Train supervisors how to handle terminations, layoffs and downsizing in the most humane and sensitive manner.
Establish investigative procedures for handling reports of threats.
Establish procedures for action after a threat assessment has been completed.

Model Policy for Workplace Threats and Violence click here

Source:  American Crime Prevention Institute