Take a stab at talking about workplace violence.
When incivility and workplace bullying descend into violence, the financial and emotional toll can be stunning.
In the United States, there are 1.7 million violent victimizations in the workplace every year. 1.4 million people are regularly abused at work.
The hidden costs of lost productivity from turnover, absenteeism, and other factors range from $17,000 to $24,000 per victim. Estimates of individual settlements from employers who tolerate workplace violence range from $500,000 to a whopping $3,000,000 per victim.
All told, workplace violence costs the U.S. economy and U.S. employers billions of dollars every year.
While it seems easy and sometimes even logical to simply terminate an employee who presents a violent risk to the organization, such actions raise compelling ethical and legal concerns. Mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence are often issues.
Poor mental health, domestic violence, and substance abuse can contribute to workplace violence. Riccardo Cuppini/Flickr
As a company grows, the need for a threat assessment grows with it. Identifying the most likely (and most dangerous) threats to your people (and your company), and responding in advance with sound policies and procedures, will help you to avoid friction and confusion
if when violence becomes an issue.
A proper threat assessment has three major functions: identifying potential perpetrators, assessing the risk from each at any given time, and evaluating and managing your findings.
While employees can be a source of workplace violence, they aren’t the only one. Customers, suppliers, and even family members can all be violent towards staff. When identifying potential attackers, consider what specific factors at your workplace and in your staff’s lives could cause someone to become violent.
Sure, the clown at the company picnic could turn out to be a zombie and try to eat everyone, but it’s not very likely. Focus on plausible issues. Develop an anonymous reporting mechanism, so that staff concerns about their colleague’s substance abuse or domestic assaults can be rectified before they get even more serious. It’s important that people get the help they need.
Evaluate and Manage
Are risks increasing? What can be changed so that they decrease? Who should be informed? Is it time to contact the police? Could intervention be dangerous? How can you inform people of the risk without embarrassing or stigmatizing the source?
The most important thing you can do to prevent workplace violence is have an open dialogue. When people are comfortable talking about their problems, they’re open to finding solutions that are in everyone’s best interest.
Sources: Ghosh, R., Jacobs, J.L, & Reio, T.G.Jr. (2011). “The Toxic Continnum From Incivility to Violence: What Can HRD Do?”. Advances in Developing Human Resources 13(1). 3–9.; Fein, R.A., Vossekuil, B., & Holden, G.A. (1995). “Threat Assessment: An Approach to Prevent Targeted Violence.” National Institute of Justice: Research in Action. 1–7.