We are somewhat in a post-pandemic era and that implies that most businesses are back open for operations. Even though this is good news for many as a lot of people will be able to get back to earning a living, it also means that they are back in the jaws of occupational hazards and workplace violence. There is an unspoken tension in the air especially among essential workers or workers who have taken more responsibility and have had to adjust to a new way of carrying out tasks. There is also PTSD from the entire lockdown time and it will take a while for people to get in the right headspace for work.
According to the United States Department of Labor, workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior at the workplace. Workplace violence can include but is not limited to threats, verbal abuse, physical assaults, and even homicide. The behavior can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors. In certain industries and sectors of business, workplace violence is almost a normative occurrence that affects the lives of all those who are stakeholders in said sectors and industries. Statistics from various studies have shown that the most vulnerable demographic, when it comes to workplace violence, are women, disabled people, and minors who take up entry-level jobs or menial tasks within the organization.
The issue has become so widespread that many companies now take active measures to hire and fire employees, or set up workplace rules that avoid such a fate. Here are some of the ways you can avoid workplace violence in your company in 2021.
- Do Background Checks
Workplace violence prevention methods begin way before one hires someone or decides to work with someone new. Carrying out a thorough background check on every employee (potential or current) can reveal information that may suggest a pattern of violent behavior in the past. If such information is discovered, we would recommend that you confront said employee for a possible, reasonable explanation and then decide on whether or not you’d like to work with them based on the gravity of the situation. References, investigative works, and interviews with family and friends could aid in background checks of a potential or current employee.
- Implement Necessary Policies
Workplace harassment scandals and issues dampen productivity and organizational trust amongst the workers. It’s important to create strict policies against harassment with grave consequences befitting the degree of offense/violence. These policies should cater to not only physical and verbal assault but sexual assaults as well.
- Encourage your employees to accept individual differences
The employer must encourage the workers and help instill traits of tolerance and empathy with them. This will allow the employees to understand one another, work on their collaborative skills and further protect the vulnerable and highly susceptible colleagues (women, disabled workers) against violence in the workplace.
- Identify organizational risk factors that could lead to violence
There are certain areas, policies, and environments within the organization or workplace that could serve as a deterrent to workplace violence. Take a thorough look at your routine operations and be especially careful when unfavorable conditions like working while understaffed, inadequate security, power outages, and security camera failure arise. This also has to do with internal policy factors. So if you, consciously or unintentionally, give out the notion that violence is tolerated or that victims are unable to properly report incidents, expect more violent scenes at the workplace.
- Create a Functioning Line of Communication between Employees and Employers.
Studies have shown that effective communication within the hierarchical structure of any organization encourages workers to speak up when in danger of violence or when violence has been witnessed. Be sure to provide everyone access to conflict-resolution resources and tools so it helps them feel safe while communicating with the appropriate authorities.
6.Teach Employees to Recognize Potential Threats
Teach employees to be alert and look out for warning signs which include some or all of the following:
- Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
- Behavioral changes that include poor job performance and aggressive behavior
- Depression or withdrawal
- Repeated violation of company policies
- Severe reaction to criticism or evaluations
- Create a Mediation Program to Resolve Employee Disputes.
Having a dispute within an organization is normal but one must have a deescalation process in order to keep the peace and serve as a preventive tool for potential workplace violence. Workers should, therefore, be encouraged to air out their grievances respectfully and in a controlled environment and in the presence of a neutral third party or appropriate authorities. This can really foster a sense of healthy communication in the organization.
- After an incident or near miss, perform a thorough analysis.
Should a violent incident occur for any reason, it’s important that you analyze and study the cause for the sole purpose of prevention. Violence as an action is unpredictable but not unexpected. Employers and employees can learn from past situations and use such situations to run a simulation when in danger of a potential threat. It’s a classic tactic of preventing history repetition within the confines of an organization.
- Have a fail-safe safety policy in place for extreme situations.
Extreme scenarios involving the use of a weapon such as a gun, knife, or any other lethal tool require that an organization has a set of processes and backup security ready for reducing the damages and disarming the assailant be it an employee, employer or customer. Having a workplace violence prevention program in place helps reassure the organization members of safety. And backup security ensures there is no serious damage to anyone’s health or property.
The above are some of the numerous ways workplace violence can be avoided within organizations and workplaces. As mentioned earlier, we are in a post-pandemic era and there is still much fear and uncertainty all around.
However, this cannot be used as an excuse to inflict violence on colleagues and customers. Organizations must encourage utmost professionalism and empathy amongst workers and provide safe spaces for the vulnerable ones amongst them. The rampant increase in workplace violence will only dampen the efficiency and productivity level of an organization. There’s much to gain from eradicating violence in our workspaces and that eradication is very possible if its prevention is taken on as a priority.