What is workplace violence?
“Workplace violence” refers to physical acts of violence or threats to harm a person or property. Abusive behaviours, whether verbal, psychological, or physical, are also considered violence. More specifically:
- Verbal abuse can be using unwelcome, embarrassing, offensive, threatening, or degrading language.
- Psychological abuse is an act that provokes fear or diminishes a person’s dignity or self-esteem.
- Sexual abuse is any unwelcome verbal or physical assault.
Related: Causes of workplace violence
Workplace violence examples
You must comprehend the four basic types of workplace violence that pose a threat to worker safety.
The four are as follows:
A motive for the crime
The offender frequently also commits a crime in addition to violence and has no genuine connection to the company or its employees. Robbery, shoplifting, trespassing, and terrorism are only a few examples of these offenses. This group includes the great majority of workplace homicides (85% of them). Sanchez revealed it.
Client or customer
“The criminal has a valid commercial relationship with the establishment and acts violently while utilizing the establishment’s services.” Sanchez elucidated. Customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, and any other group to which the company renders services fall under this category. The victims are frequently patient caretakers, and it is thought that a sizable fraction of customer/client incidents happen in the healthcare sector in places like nursing homes or psychiatric hospitals. Other professions that could be affected by this type of workplace violence, which makes up about 3% of all workplace homicides, include teachers, police officers, and flight attendants.
An employee or former employee who attacks or threatens another employee or former employee at work is the offender. Approximately 7% of all workplace murders are worker-on-worker fatalities.
The attacker typically has a personal connection with the targeted victim but no connection to the company. Domestic violence battered or abused victims are included in this category. This category covers workplace assaults or threats against domestic violence victims, which make up around 5% of all workplace homicides.
Verbal, emotional, or physical abuse or threats, as well as actual assault on a person or their property by another person or group, are all examples of violence and aggression. Violence’s effect on a victim depends on the level of violence, as well as the victim’s own experiences, abilities, and personality.
Acts of violence include:
- Verbal abuse, whether it be in person or on the phone
- Verbal abuse
- Ganging up, intimidating, and bullying
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Armed theft
- Malicious destruction of personnel, client,
- Company property
It’s possible that workplace violence doesn’t always start as a dire or catastrophic situation. There may be a pattern of escalating behavior that progresses from irritation, verbal or written abuse and threats, and frightening body language, to physical threats or attacks.
Knowing the four primary types of workplace violence will help you come up with prevention strategies.
What are the signs of workplace violence?
A Significant Negative Change in Habitual Behavior
The first sign of a potentially violent person is a significant, unfavorable change in their habitual behavior. For instance, something has changed if a coworker who is usually affable and laid-back abruptly or gradually becomes rigid and reclusive. A tough or traumatic situation in their personal life, a change in their medicine, a sudden “falling out” with a coworker, etc. This change in conduct might just be transient, and it might not even come close to making the person violent or aggressive at work. However, it is usually preferable to be overly cautious in these circumstances because it is conceivable for a bad change to worsen.
Threats, Direct and Indirect
One in four full-time employees has experienced harassment, threats, or violence. In actuality, coworkers and customers were primarily responsible for the harassment. An employee may use direct or indirect threats to vent their anger and blame toward others. To induce dread, worry, and anxiety in their targets, they employ direct intimidation, verbal threats, and written threats, for instance:
- Indirect threats like “Someone is going to pay for this” or “He best watch his back” might result in violence at work.
- Direct threats include saying things such as, “If I had a pistol right now I’d blow him away,” or “I’m going to screw you up so bad you won’t know what hit you.”
- Direct threats can also be made nonverbally, including by flashing a weapon at someone during or after a fight.
Don’t discount a gut sense you have about someone who might act violently. To disclose your suspicions, you should speak with your boss right away.
Uncontrolled rage or stress
People without effective anger management or conflict resolution techniques might be dangerous on the job. This kind of individual might be impulsive and emotional, which could cause them to act out either against others or toward themselves. These people could display the following behaviors:
- Being obnoxious and acting eerily agitated
- Stating that they “have no other options”
- To harm property, one can hurl things or thrash about with their fist on a table.
- Behaves irrationally when refusing to abide by rules and procedures
People with paranoia believe that others are plotting against them.
Similarly to this, delusional individuals may profess outrageous conspiracy theories, make irrational claims, and assume that other people’s slip-ups and errors are on purpose and intended for them.
A person who has trouble handling stress or is paranoid or delusional may act violently at work. This is particularly true if the person feels undervalued or powerless in their professional life.
Verbal or physical abuse in the workplace can cause workplace danger. Bullying, threats, or disrespect can cause people to become fed up. Unfortunately, this type of workplace can be very toxic to employees and can occur between co-workers, management, or even with customers.
Not Ready for a Crisis
Effective managers are aware that being crisis-ready is a leadership duty. These managers treat crisis management with the same level of importance as all other management tasks. However, far too frequently, businesses are unprepared to handle a serious occurrence at work.
Here are some indicators that a workplace is not crisis-ready:
- Without a crisis response strategy
- Not conducting a risk management analysis
- Disregard warning signs
- Disregard for the demands of employees
- Improper handling of layoffs or other reductions in the workforce
- A lack of dialogue between the workers and management
- Omitting crucial details regarding situations
Related: What are the signs of workplace violence
How to handle workplace violence
First and foremost, it’s critical to state in your company policy that there is zero tolerance for violence in the workplace. Ensure that all staff members have access to information outlining the company’s policy on violent or aggressive behavior and the disciplinary measures to address it. By addressing this issue in your policies, you’ll also be able to inform employees about how to act in a potentially violent situation. For instance, you might advise:
Taking each issue seriously and taking the necessary steps to protect oneself and others
preventing conflict and reporting any instances of threatening or aggressive behavior. You can take another crucial step in preventing workplace violence by being aware of the most typical causes:
Watching for early warning indicators. These could consist of:
- Threatening or bullying behavior
- Employees displaying paranoia or nervousness around their coworkers
- A serious concern about their personal lives, such as an abusive or violent relationship, is brought up by employees to their managers.
- Sudden changes in work routines or behavior, such as tardiness, social withdrawal, drug or alcohol use while at work, or hypersensitivity to criticism or performance reviews
When it comes to enabling a business-wide strategy that lowers the risk of workplace violence, training might be especially crucial. Training in empathy and communication, for instance, can assist workers in acquiring the ability to discuss issues and come up with workable solutions to complex challenges that might otherwise become explosive and lead to conflict.
Managers must be able to communicate with staff members who are struggling personally in a kind and understanding manner. Strong communicators will also be better equipped to deal with potentially violent circumstances in the workplace.
Workplace violence is easier to forecast and handle if your workforce, from top management to junior workers, has been given enough resources, expertise, and training. This is true of many business difficulties and scenarios.
Related: Violence at the workplace: A Guide to HR Professionals
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