Workplace violence refers to any act of intimidation, harassment, or physical violence that occurs in the workplace, and may also refer to a threat of physical violence or harassment. The perpetrator of workplace violence can be an employee, contractor, customer, or visitor. Because workplace violence can disrupt the operations of your business and cause trauma to customers and employees, it is essential that you take steps to prevent it from occurring. Although there is no perfect method for predicting workplace violence, there are often warning signs. To prevent workplace violence, you must watch for potential problems and know how to deal with them.
One of the best ways to prevent workplace violence is to screen potential employees prior to hiring them. Through the use of interview questions, drug testing, and thorough background checks, you can estimate the risk of future violence associated with each potential employee. If a potential employee’s drug test or background information indicates that the employee might cause problems in the workplace, you can choose to hire someone else instead.
Another good way to prevent workplace violence is to educate current employees about their responsibilities. Inform employees that they must treat coworkers, supervisors, customers, and visitors with respect and dignity. If any violent or potentially violent situation does occur, employees must report the problem to management immediately, even if the problem doesn’t involve them directly. Employees must also take all threats of violence seriously and avoid confrontation with threatening individuals.
Even with the best pre-employment screening and employee training programs, violence perpetrated by visitors and customers might still occur. To prevent this type of violence, you must develop a high quality security system for each of your buildings. For areas that aren’t open to the public, consider implementing a security guard service, installing coded key card readers, and issuing photo identification cards to all employees. In areas accessible to the public, consider installing security cameras or stationing a security guard in the building.
No matter how great your prevention methods are, there is still potential for the development of a threatening situation. All employees and supervisors should know how to recognize and deal with any problem that occurs. Indicators of impending workplace violence include aggressive behavior, belligerence, bullying, harassment, and intimidation. Individuals who have multiple conflicts with coworkers, supervisors, or customers might also pose a risk of workplace violence. Finally, an individual who brings weapons into the workplace, shows evidence of substance abuse, or makes statements that indicate desperation over personal problems might become involved in workplace violence.
If an employee notices indications of possible workplace violence from a customer, co-worker, or subordinate, he should notify his supervisor immediately. If an employee notices indications of violence from his supervisor, he should notify the supervisor’s manager. The supervisor or manager informed of the situation must be careful to take it seriously but not overreact.
If a violent incident does occur, an appropriate response from management is essential. Be sure to offer support to the victim of the violence and administer the proper consequences to the perpetrator. If the violent incident is traumatic to the victim, counseling might be necessary.