Workplace Violence: Identify Risks and Prevention Tactics

People going to work generally don’t think much about violence taking place within a professional environment, but unfortunately, there are 2 million assaults and threats of violence against others in the workplace annually, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). In some cases, this violence may even result in death. In any company, it is important to keep everyone safe, but how can you keep an eye out for violent tendencies before it’s too late?

Classifications of Workplace Violence

While workplace shootings have received quite a bit of attention in recent years, there are a few different classifications that fall under workplace violence:

  • Criminal Intent: This includes robbery, shoplifting, trespassing or acts of terrorism. With criminal intent, the offender is not always associated with the business, but it can be internal.
  • Customer/Client: Violence of this nature occurs when a customer, client, patient, student or inmate becomes violent while interacting with an employee. It most typically takes place in the healthcare industry with patients acting out against caregivers, but police offers, flight attendants and teachers are also at a higher risk.
  • Worker-On-Worker: All businesses are at risk of this violence taking place as it is done by a current or past employee attacking or threatening others within the company. Comprehensive background checks upon hiring may help to lower risks of this occurring, but certain actions such as layoffs may increase the risk of someone acting out.
  • Personal Relationship: This occurs if someone not connected to the business targets a specific employee, typically those who are victims of domestic violence in their personal lives. If a business is open to the public, such as retail, it can be difficult to prevent this violence.

Although these are all different situations, any violence runs the risk of death, so it is vital to take necessary precautions to prevent such actions.

Recognize the Warning Signs

While it may not always be obvious as to who may present a risk for workplace violence, there are certain warning signs that could indicate a higher likelihood:

  • An excessive or increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Unexplained absences, behavior changes or a decline in job performance
  • Observed depression, withdrawal, or expressed suicidal comments
  • Resistant to change or repeated complaints about unfair treatment
  • Violation of company policies
  • Reacting with emotional response to criticism and mood swings
  • Paranoia

In general, even if you do not have a particular employee that is showing warning signs, it is recommended to address any workplace negativity to prevent any potential violence from stirring up. Employees can experience a loss of confidence, control or community, so once you hear of any negative feelings, they must be addressed openly with everyone as soon as possible.

Preventing Workplace Violence

Much like the warning signs, you may not always be able to prevent workplace violence, but you can do your best as a company to make it as safe an environment as possible for all employees.

  • Set a zero-tolerance policy for any violence committed in the workplace and be sure to enforce, suspending, or terminating the offending employee as needed.
  • Get to know your employees. This will help you identify any odd behavior changes that may be red flags.
  • Train all staff about identifying unusual behavior and reinforce that reporting to HR is beneficial for all.
  • Ensure HR is taking action on any reported unusual behaviors.
  • Establish and enforce all workplace policies and procedures.
  • Do not allow any terminated employees access back to the business, and make it known that any presence will result in notification of authorities and potential charge of trespassing.
  • Have an emergency plan in place for all current employees should an incident occur, and practice mock training exercises with local law enforcement.
  • Direct any employee that may exhibit violence to help and counseling rather than simply removing them. One such organization includes the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which can help with alcoholism, drug abuse, marital problems, financial issues, emotional instability, or legal problems.

Another way to identify any underlying issues within the workplace is by performing exit interviews for any leaving employees. Providing a way for individuals to express concerns anonymously, such as through our ExitRight® Employee Interview survey will give you more comprehensive information about particular areas in your business rather quickly, allowing you to take swift action as needed. Taking all necessary precautions in order to keep your business safe for employees will create a positive environment, showing that you care about everyone’s wellbeing.

For more information about our ExitRight® survey, or to schedule your demo, contact us today.