Business Ethics - Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is an action of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or any other type of disruptive behavior that takes place at the worksite. It includes all forms of behavior, starting from threats and verbal abuse to various forms of physical assaults and even the act of homicide. Workplace violence can affect and engage employees, clients, customers and/or visitors.

Risk Prone Areas

Violence can occur anywhere, anytime, and everyone is at risk. There are various factors that may increase the risk of violence for select workers or at certain workplaces. The factors include jobs that involve exchanging money with the public and places where people have to work with volatile, unstable people. Places where one has to work alone or in isolated sites are also vulnerable.

Places of providing services and care, and places where alcohol is served may also increase the potential occurrence of violence. Working late at night or in areas with high crime rates are also more prone to violence.

Workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, customer service agents, public service workers, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups are at higher risks.

Preventive Measures

The risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. A zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence is a good way to start with.

By taking their worksites into consideration, employers can find out the methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring. A well-written and implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls, and training can help to reduce workplace violence issues.

Types of Aggressive Behaviors

We can categorize aggressive behavior into three types −

  • Disruptive Behavior − It disturbs a normal workplace environment. Disruptive behavior may include screaming, swearing, waving arms, punching gestures, verbally abusing colleagues, and denying response to a legitimate request for information.

  • Threatening Behavior − It includes moving very close to a person aggressively or making oral or written threats to people or property.

  • Violent Behavior − It includes physical assaults, which may be unarmed or armed. It also includes any action, a reasonable person would believe is potentially violent.

For example, throwing stuff, pounding on a desk or door, smashing workplace objects, or threatening to hurt or shoot another person fall within violent behavior.

In general, how to deal with employee performance problems or interpersonal conflict?

  • Quick intervention is the key. Letting problems faster is a recipe for violence.

  • Checking with the firm’s HR department to find the proper role in handling the situation is desirable.

  • Determining all the facts of the situation is desirable. This information should be secured from all parties engaged in the conflict.

  • Set clear expectations for need of quick resolution of the conflict

  • When all parties have agreed for a solution, monitoring its implementation and getting re-involved is necessary.

Warning Signs

Always be on the lookout for the following warning signs of probable workplace violence. The signs of troubling behavior include −

  • Being upset over a recent work or personal incident
  • Suspicious behavior
  • Appearing unprepared at work
  • Withdrawing from normal work and after-work activities
  • Yelling or being verbally abusive to others
  • Not following a supervisor’s directions
  • Blaming workers for problems at work or at home
  • Being suspicious of others
  • Having grudges
  • Using alcohol or showing up to work drunk
  • Having an inappropriate romantic attachment at workplace
  • Following a supervisor or colleague
  • Threatening to take violent action against a supervisor
  • Developing an unusual fascination with weapons
  • Being fined or booked for a violent act outside work
  • Disclosing plans to hurt or attack people at work

Attitudes that might suggest potentially violent actions include −

  • Desiring to stay alone
  • Acting morally superior or self-righteous
  • Having a sense of personal entitlement
  • Getting abused, or feeling wronged, or victimized
  • Believing that no other options exist except violence

Knowing about imminent violence and violent behaviors can help minimize the occurrence of workplace violence.

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