By Robert Dahl
About 2 million people are affected by workplace violence each year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This includes robberies and other crimes, frustrated or dissatisfied clients and customers, disgruntled co-workers or former employees, or domestic incidents that move into a place of business, according to the Labor Department. >
Costs of these incidents are astonishing considering not only the physical damage, but the emotional and psychological injuries that occur.
As the program manager for AMERIND Risk, the only 100 percent tribally-owned and operated insurance solutions provider in Indian Country, I want to provide an overview about workplace violence and how to mitigate the potential for problems.
Formed 30 years ago, AMERIND Risk was created to protect Indian Country, and is passionate about helping tribal entities reduce workplace injuries, by providing educational resources and coverage to keep employees safe. It customizes insurance packages to individual tribes and tribal businesses, including gaming operations, after assessing safety, but honoring culture and tradition.
Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. These incidents can happen inside or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide. The incidents can stem from various people, including co-workers, former employees, clients, customers, patients, vendors, delivery people, friends and family of employees or ex-partners. It can also come from criminals and terrorists.
There are several different causes of workplace violence. Employee-related violence is caused when someone reacts to a trigger in a violent manner. These triggers are often related to something going on in the workplace. For example, when a business struggles and needs to lay off employees, those laid off can be angry, and some could react violently.
Employees who are fired for disciplinary or other reasons may also become violent—either at the time of firing or later on. Current employees who are warned about bad behavior may have a negative and violent reaction. Perceived unfairness could also lead to violence in some situations. For example, a situation could arise if one employee was promoted over another who believed he or she deserved the promotion more. Either the promoted employee or the supervisor who did the promoting could be the target of violence.
Identifying and responding to threats of workplace violence can help to prevent incidents. Some of the signs:
• Coworkers, customers, or others who threaten to get even
• People who start blaming others for problems
• People who talk excessively about violence in the news, in the movies, on TV or about weapons
• People who hold grudges.
Immediate threats to be aware of include:
• Coworkers, customers, or others who make verbal threats or threatening moves
• People who raise their voice
• People who use abusive language
Using the proper procedures for reporting threats or violent incidents will help mitigate a possible escalating situation. First, remain calm and speak in a moderate tone of voice and show respect to people even when they become upset. Then, focus on the problem by asking for details about the situation and going over possible solutions. If you still feel the person could become violent, alert a coworker with a prearranged danger signal. Other tips include:
• Reporting any threats of violence or situations in which you feel unsafe around another person. No action can be taken to prevent future threats if human resources doesn’t know about the ones that have occurred.
• Not arguing with agitated people, telling them they’re wrong to be upset, or raising your voice.
• Never respond to an angry person’s behavior with anger. This will only escalate the situation and make it worse.
• Think about how you should respond in a potentially violent situation to help defuse the situation and protect yourself and your workplace. Other measures include:
• Using security cameras, silent alarms and other security equipment to protect employees.
• Keeping doors locked, especially places where the public enters. Never let any unauthorized people enter the workplace.
• Keeping the workplace well-lit inside and outside to discourage crime and other potential violence, and reporting any broken or burned out lights to maintenance.
• Establishing procedures for reporting problem behavior on the part of coworkers, customers and others.
• Encouraging employees to learn conflict resolution techniques to help deal more effectively with situations that could erupt into violence.
Think about these security measures in the workplace and how they help protect you from workplace violence. ♦