Violence at the workplace: A Guide to HR Professionals

Violence at the workplace: A Guide to HR Professionals

What is violence in the workplace?

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive defines workplace violence as “any incident in which a person is mistreated, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances relevant to their work.”

The following definition is provided by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

Any act of physical aggression, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that takes place at the place of employment is referred to as workplace violence.

It’s important to note that both of these descriptions make mention of threats and intimidation, which can occur verbally just as often as they can physically. Because of this, employers’ perceptions of and responses to the problem of workplace violence must go beyond physical assaults and situations in which an employee suffers some type of physical harm. You must safeguard your employees from physical harm, but you also need to be aware of the dangers posed by verbal abuse and threatening behavior.

Related: What are the signs of workplace violence

Examples of violence at the workplace

Workplace Violence Examples

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
  • Harassment
  • Threats
  • 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.

Related: Workplace violence examples

Causes of violence at the workplace

Causes of workplace violence

One of the most crucial things any employer can do to address the issue of workplace violence is to take into account the probable causes of this problem and look at strategies to handle them because prevention is always better than treatment.

As said above, when another crime has occurred on your property, there is a chance that violence will occur there as well. There could be a chance that one of your employees could be threatened or hurt physically if a trespasser can enter your property and try to steal something, for example.

There are several potential factors to watch out for when it comes to workplace violence involving individuals connected to the business, such as hostility between coworkers or between clients and staff.

Employees may feel under a lot of pressure to succeed and may be concerned about their job security, for instance, if the company is having financial problems. This could result in a more tense and volatile work environment, which would raise the likelihood of violent occurrences between employees.

When people are under a lot of stress, have heightened emotions, or are dealing with personal issues outside of work, the likelihood of workplace violence is always likely to rise. This is just one of many reasons why it’s crucial to have a clear plan in place to handle workplace mental health.

Related: Causes of workplace violence

How to handle workplace violence

How to handle workplace violence

1. Scan the working environment for any dangers

Assessing possible vulnerabilities is the first step in combating workplace violence. Analyzing the physical surroundings, geographical location, and administrative procedures (such as scheduling and operations) that may be associated with potentially violent situations is part of this process.

2. Put in place suitable procedures and training

Vulnerabilities identified by the needs assessment should be addressed through policies and procedures. Employer rules ought to cover what should be done following an act of workplace violence. This can entail following reporting procedures, reporting instances to the police when necessary, alerting victims of their legal right to bring charges against the offender, and giving staff members immediate access to medical care. Other actions could include offering post-event counseling to the impacted workers and discussing the issue with managers and supervisors to guide future policy and training decisions.

Finally, a policy is useless if it is not put into practice. Make sure your rules are followed consistently. Additionally, regular training on your company’s rules and procedures regarding workplace violence should be provided to both employees and managers.

3. Perform a pre-employment investigation

Review your pre-employment screening procedures, giving particular attention to identifying and taking note of “red flags” that may arise throughout the screening process. Pre-employment screening procedures can occasionally be made to show whether a candidate has behavioral traits that could result in harassment or violence at work. If done carefully, criminal background checks and checking references from previous employers can also aid in identifying problematic habits.

4. Give termination and post-termination procedures careful thought

Exercise caution and be as respectful and considerate as you can while firing someone. Employees may have a constructive and controlled opportunity to express grievances, disappointments, and concerns during a leaving interview. Providing severance money and/or allowing a claim for unemployment benefits can both reduce hostility and, as a result, violence threats.

From a logistical perspective, think about terminating workers after other workers have left for the day. Bring or arrange to send the employee’s possessions rather than having them return to their office. Before them departing, make sure you return all corporate belongings, including any keys, badges, or similar items. Consider alternate options to guarantee they depart the premises peacefully if you are not comfortable escorting them out or having someone else do so. Notify the police and think about boosting up security if you think the employee offers an even greater risk.

5. Quickly look into and deal with harassing occurrences

If left unchecked, harassment can and frequently does result in violence. (And sometimes the victim turns to violence; it’s not always the harasser.) Importantly, harassment of people who belong to a protected class is prohibited by regulations. Employers are required to look into allegations of harassment made against workers who belong to legally protected classes.

A discrimination complaint and an investigation are frequently the outcomes of such instances. The investigation will check to see if the business has anti-harassment measures as part of its examination. It will also check to see if the company adhered to that policy, paying attention to whether it routinely checks compliance and promptly and effectively responds to individual problems.

Crafting violence in the workplace policy

Workplace violence policy
Source: designer491 / shutterstock

The goal of the workplace violence policy is to inform employees of what constitutes workplace violence and to encourage them to report any early warning signals or threats. We strive to offer a secure environment where respect for one another is taken for granted by our employees. Everyone is expected to act ethically and professionally at work.

All workers, independent contractors, members of the general public, clients, and anybody else that employees interact with while at work are covered by the policy’s scope.

Related: How can we prevent workplace violence

Procedure for Grievance

Implementing our policies and ensuring that there is no prejudice in any of our processes are the responsibilities of all managers and supervisors.

Employees can report to HR or their immediate supervisor if they see, suspect, or are the victim of violence. Hence, should look into things fast and covertly. The goal is to safeguard victims against abuse and violence.

Disciplinary Repercussions

Violence is not tolerated in our company. Any such conduct will result in the proper disciplinary action, which may include termination, dismissal from boards or committees, as well as possible criminal charges.

How to prevent workplace violence

Employer policies should outline security precautions to prevent workplace violence, such as data security and premises security (such as access control systems, illumination, protocols, and regulations) (e.g., measures to prevent unauthorized use of employer computer systems and other forms of electronic communication). Many organizations also have regulations that restrict or oversee visitors who are not employees, such as:

  • Only a small fraction of the building is accessible to the public.
  • Visitors are screened at the check-in or sign-in counter.
  • more illumination in the parking lots or on the property.
  • entrance systems with access cards.
  • ID cards for both visitors and staff.
  • Inside and outside the building, there is video surveillance.
  • security officers walking the grounds, parking lots, or buildings.
  • After hours, provide an escorted service to and from the parking lot for the staff.
  • metal detectors at the entrances to buildings.
  • Taxis for workers that stay late.

Additional choices and recommended actions to lower the likelihood of workplace violence are provided below:

  • Verify the backgrounds of every employee.
  • Have guidelines for preventing workplace violence, allowing firearms on the job, preventing harassment and discrimination, using drugs and alcohol, and following safety protocols.
  • Make sure that firm policy are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that they address concerns regarding workplace violence prevention, anti-harassment, security, and safety.
  • Consider every grievance carefully. “Regardless of whether a complaint is made orally or in writing, you must look into it. That is very important, so you should look into any concerns made by employees who are uneasy about other employees or even outside suppliers. 
  • Conduct regular risk assessments to evaluate security protocols and identify potential threats.
  • Provide a means for workers to report violence and possible violence.
  • Tell people how to report. Your superiors and coworkers must know how to report a possible violent incident. What do they do next? What ought to be included? Be very specific about what they should do in a prospective situation in both your policy and your training.
  • Train managers to avoid careless recruitment and retention.
  • Make a plan of action for emergencies.
  • Share the emergency action plan with all staff and relevant organizations.
  • Learn the emergency action plan with everyone.
  • Put your emergency action plan to the test.
  • Elect a corporation representative for public relations.
  • each first aid and CPR to staff.
  • Provide a program for employee assistance

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