Violence at work is a broad subject addressing any actions between members and/or non-members of an organization within the workplace, which could cause psychological or physical harm to the people involved. Violence at the workplace can occur between people who are part of an organization, those related to them, or outsiders with no legitimate connection to a business, as long as it occurs within the business premises. It can be emotional, physical, or psychological and the consequences can range from intimidation to death in extreme cases.
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The effects of violence in the workplace are damaging to the employees, customers and the business. Where there is no safety, employees and customers will chose to leave. They may be forced to incur heavy expenses if caught up and hurt in violent situations. Some employees may suffer intimidation and reduced levels of confidence may affect their performance at work. For the company, its reputation is ruined, there are damages on life and property and the costs incurred to deal with the consequences are high.
Solutions should be mainly preventive but there should also be measures to deal with violence when it happens. Preventive measures include recognizing trouble early, resolving conflicts early, counseling and education, and proper security measures to prevent external attacks. A business must have proper first aid and medical measures to help victims who are caught up in physical violence and medical help for those who may be involved in extreme psychological violence. The paper recommends these solutions for Chester enterprises to ensure a violence free workplace.
Violence at the workplace
According to Chappell & Vittorio (2006), “many people think of violence at work to solely consist of physical attacks on a member of the workforce by a member of the public”. However, violence at work is a broad subject comprising of any actions between members and/or non-members of an organization within the workplace, which could cause psychological or physical harm to the people involved. Many times, these actions are aggressive and abusive and in extreme cases, they could threaten the safety or life of the victim. Violence in the workplace is broadly categorized into three types: violence by a person with no connection to the company such as thugs and robbers, violence committed by an outside person receiving services from the business such as clients, and violence committed by someone who is has a legitimate relationship with the organization such an employee, their spouses, a supplier or a business partner (Kinney, 2000).
Workplace violence can take many different forms and shapes. It can be physical, verbal or emotional. Common forms of workplace violence include name calling, verbal or physical intimidation, menacing stares, verbal threats, physical assault, use of weapons, forcing employees to carry out actions that are against company policies, threats to fire someone if they don’t oblige to specif demands, sexual assault, exhibiting ones sexual organs to another person, among many other actions. Depending with the form of violence, the effects vary from reduced efficiency at work, physical hurt, legal costs, damaged company reputation, increased absenteeism and in extreme situations, death (Gill, Bonnie & Vaughan, 2002).
To help understand the background of the problem, a study of several books and articles proved very helpful. Chappell and Vittorio highlight how much of a problem violence at work is as discussed in a conference in Geneva in 2006. A majority of representatives from different multinationals agree that it is a major challenge for organizations, especially for those that have to accommodate employees from different cultures and traditions.
In their book, Gill, Bonnie and Vaughan discuss violence at work, its causes, patterns and prevention. According to the authors, the best way to manage violence at work is to identify threats early and deal with them. This can be done through open channels of communication between a company, its employees, customers, suppliers and other people who may have regular contact with each other in the company’s premises.
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Kinney, in his book, discusses violence at work taking into consideration the external effects. He explains measures that can be put in place to ensure safety for everyone such as investing in proper security measures and putting in place surveillance measures to identify potential threats. Murray and Andrew on the other hand discuss how a business can protect its employees and assets against the consequences of violent activities. The book highlights consequences such as medical bills and damages to property when fights break out in a business.
From the emergency journal, Schnieden discusses the issue of workplace violence in his article. The author looks at the problem from a health perspective and highlights medical situations that may arise from violence at work. They include physical injuries, permanent disability and in extreme conditions death. Chappel and Martino in their part discuss the role of technology in enhancing good relationships at work and preventing violent situations. The author argues that technology allows a timely communication of any threats or issues that may bother people in an organization.
From a survey done in multinational companies in the European region, Packham analyzes the results and helps the reader understand the trend in different industries. From the study, violence at work is most common in the police, nursing, banking and education industries. The National Criminal Justice Reference Service agrees with the findings from their research on the same and information from reported cases in the past. According to their report, violence at work is more common among women and a big percentage of the cases are those between employees.
Kelloway, discusses violence at work and highlights measures that can be put in place to protect employees from external attacks. The article focuses on extreme violence which could result in major injuries or fatalities, and how to deal with them. The article also discusses personal and organizational effects of violence at work. From the journal of applied psychology, LeBlanc discusses predictors and consequences of workplace violence and aggression in his article. The author offers an insight on how to prevent such happenings by putting in place measures that could help an organization predict threats minimize their effects or stop them before they materialize.
Effects of violence in the workplace
“Violence harms workplace efficiency and wastes resources by destroying staff morale, motivation and performance” (Murray & Andrew, 2000). In many instances, some people ought to leave a company than deal with constant abuse or the threat of it happening at work. If left unattended, the vice has potential to cause a complete shut down of a business.
Every business must work towards creating a safe environment for its customers. If customers are involved or exposed to a violent situation at work, they may not have the interest to return. A business’ corporate image is tainted and the relationship between an organization and its customers is destroyed. In the case where the customer is part of the violence or is caught up in it, they may get hurt and incur many costs of treatment. A business may be obligated to compensate them or take care of any costs they incur as a result of the incidence. Violence at work does affect the quality of work and employees relationship (Kelloway, 2004). The result is inconsistency in the quality of goods and services offered by the business.
Several factors influence employees’ decision on whether they want to work for an organization or not. Among these factors is safety, which is threatened by violence at work or the possibility of it happening. Depending with the intensity and level of violence, an employee may be hurt physically or psychologically. The cost of treating such kinds of hurts may be high on the employees, especially when an employer does not help them with the expenses. Violence at work may cause intimidation and affect an employee’s level of confidence at work. The result is lower productivity and poor results on their work. Employees’ relationship is a major asset in any business. When violence occurs, whether physical, psychological or emotional, the relationship is strained and all the resources put into building it go to waste. A strained relationship between employees also mean lack of coordination and weakened team work.
Violence at work can have devastating effects on a business. Reputation, which is a big business asset, is adversely affected by any form of violence in the work place. When violence is between an employee and customers, the business may lose the customers, who may influence a larger group of customers and affect their level of loyalty. The results are reduced sales, a bad reputation and diminishing profitability if the situation is not resolved immediately. When violence is between employees, the relationship between them is damaged, negatively affecting their level of corporation at work. In an era where team work is very important, anything that sabotages it should be a cause of alarm for any business.
Avoiding violence at work
Recognizing trouble early
When addressing violence at work, preventing it is better than dealing with it when it has already happened. Prevention can be done through several ways. The most important step is ensuring proper and efficient channels of communication between a business and all its stakeholders. Employees, customers, suppliers, casual laborers and visitors must have proper channels through which they can communicate their dissatisfaction with each other. There should also be means through which they can report any potential threats to the responsible department.
Such measures include emergency numbers and alarm bells.
“Conflict management is the management of a long or short term conflict in a way which is intended to take care of both parties interests” (Schnieden, 2003). The purpose of conflict management is to find a solution or agreement between two people or groups of people who have disagreements over something before it escalates to violence. Conflict management can be applied in simple disagreements such as gossip and can also be applied in very grave disagreements such as a physical fight between two people at the work place. The type of skills used in every situation will be defined by the circumstances and the people involved. Conflict management can only happen when the parties involved recognize and admit there is a conflict and when both are willing to work it out.
Violence at work not only affects the people involved but also affects the company. People involved must have a clear understanding of the implications of their behaviors on the business and other people (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2006). As a mediator between employees, the human resource manager must be able to clearly explain the concerns that such a situation may create. The mediation process must also avoid a situation where people feel accused, which may make them shut down on the process. There should be a chance for both people to explain themselves and give their side of the story. A chance for both parties to defend themselves is also important. This part is very important in violence and conflict management because sometimes there may not even be a real conflict, it may be a simple case of misunderstanding between two parties.
Counseling and education
Counseling or education is a very important measure when trying to ensure a peaceful environment at work. It is mostly applicable where violence is or might arise as a result of ignorance or lack of knowledge by one of the parties (Chappel & Martino, 2005). Many cases of internal violence arise as a result of misunderstandings or lack of proper information on an issue. It is mostly so when a conflict is arising as a result of disagreements on a decision. One party may insist on a decision which may not be beneficial on a certain aspect or one which may prove risky or damaging.
In such a case, education can be used to make the person understand the consequences of their arguments or the benefits of agreeing. It is mostly applicable in situations where a boss or a colleague is educating the other members of a team on why he/she has to take certain measures or why he/she is opposed to certain developments. It is also applicable in a situation where the offender does not fully understand the consequences of their mistakes. Counseling on the other hand is an applicable skill where the other person is in denial of a conflict which may develop to violence (Packham, 2009). It is also applicable when one person is hurting others without realizing it. In such circumstances, the offender’s actions are not intentional and the person may need help realizing it.
Investing in security measures
Security measures are an important investment, especially for protection against external attacks. Security measures include well trained security personnel, surveillance cameras and a thorough inspection of incoming visitors. A company should have restricted entry to its premises and the compound must be fenced to further restrict entries. Other security measures include a proper response unit in a case where violence breaks out and well marked emergency exits in bigger attacks, which may not be easily manageable by the security personnel. The security measures must be regularly updated and upgraded.
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Workplace violence can take many different forms and shapes. It can be physical, verbal or emotional. There are different forms of violence starting with a simple frightening stare to more extreme forms such as actions that could lead to death. Depending with the form of violence, the effects vary from reduced efficiency at work, physical hurt, legal costs, damaged company reputation, increased absenteeism and in extreme situations, death. Violence at work has adverse effects on the business, its employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
The best way to deal with workplace violence is through preventive measures. They include open communication channels, protective security measures and efficient reporting channels. Other measures include education and counseling and other conflict management strategies. In the case where it happens, a business must be well equipped to deal with the consequences by ensuring proper first aid measures, medical attention and disciplinary actions for the culprits.
As LeBlanc (2007) points out “violence at work has reached epidemic levels, making health and the well being of its people a big concern for businesses today”. Bullying is the most common form of workplace violence. For Chester enterprises to ensure a violence free workplace, they need to put in place proper preventive measures to ensure it is stopped before it happens. The business must embrace open communication channels between itself, its customers, suppliers, visitors and other stakeholders. This way, it is possible for the business to be notified of any probable violent acts before they develop to fully blow disasters.
The business must put in place proper and strict disciplinary measures and ensure everyone is aware of the consequences of not adhering to them. To protect their business from external attacks, the business needs to invest in proper security measures such as restricted entry to the business premises, full time surveillance systems, fencing and a well equipped response team. Conflict management is an important investment for the business through counseling, education and mediation channels when people disagree. The business should also ensure any violence threats against the business are reported to proper authorities for investigations and protection. When such measures are in place, employees’ confidence levels are raised and the company’s reputation is improved.
Chappel, D. & Martino, V. (2005). Violence at work. Communications Technology. New York: Routledge.
Chappell, D. & Vittorio, D. (2006). Violence at work. Geneva: Intern Labor Office.
Gill, M., Bonnie, F. & Vaughan, B. (2002). Violence at work: Causes, patterns and prevention. Cullompton: Willan.
Kelloway, K. (2004). Violence at work: Personal and organizational outcomes. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2(1), 63-71.
Kinney, J.A. (2000). Violence at work: How to make your company safer for employees and customers. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
LeBlanc, M.M. (2007). Predictors and consequences of workplace violence and aggression. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(3), 444-453.
Murray, M.F. & Andrew, A.A. (2000). Violence at work: How to safeguard your firm. New York, NY: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
National Criminal Justice Reference Service. (2006). Violence at work.
Packham, C. (2009). Crime Survey: Violence at work. Web.
Schnieden, V. (2003). Violence at work. Emergency Medicine Journal, 10(2), 79-85.