Workplace Violence – Part One

Workplace Violence

Understanding the problem of workplace violence is the first step to a solution

Over the past few years there have been numerous high profile incidents of workplace violence.  They have gone from a level of an extension of domestic violence between spouses or partners, to large scale incidents at schools, malls and even churches.  Anyone can analyze an event when they have time and can focus on an individual.  The truth of the matter is the analysis of the offender has been going on long before an incident.  People, management, behavioral professionals and in some cases, even law enforcement had information there was something wrong, long before the violent incident occurred.  The breakdown occurred when the information was ignored, discounted, and available processes were not enacted.

This discussion will be directed towards the workplace organizations.  It is not possible to eliminate all violence issues from the workplace.  It is possible however to minimize the risks and provide a course of action for identification and intervention.  This subject will be broken down into three selected parts.  The first part will be helping an organization to define workplace violence.  The second segment will cover policy and training.  The third segment will deal with active intervention.  The fourth segment will cover active incident response and preparing for the aftermath.

Workplace violence can be defined as the following:

Any action, incident, or threat that departs from reasonable conduct in which a person is assaulted, threatened, harmed, injured in the course of, or as a direct result of, his or her work.  Workplace violence includes:

  • Threatening behavior – such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects.
  • Verbal or written threats – any expression of intent to inflict harm.
  • Harassment – any behavior that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms or verbally abuses a person and that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome. This includes words, gestures, intimidation, bullying, or other inappropriate activities.
  • Verbal abuse – swearing, insults or condescending language.
  • Physical attacks – hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking.

Workplace violence is not limited to incidents that occur within a traditional workplace. Work-related violence can occur at off-site business-related functions (conferences, trade shows), at social events related to work, in clients’ homes, or away from work but resulting from work (a threatening telephone call to your home from a client).

As you can see, workplace violence entails a broad spectrum of incidents and actions.  An organization must be prepared to deal with these situations.  We will discuss the foundations for an organization in the next segment.