One of the greatest threats facing both employees and the companies they work for, is workplace violence. It has become the leading cause of death for women and the second leading for men, following closely behind motor vehicle accidents. In fact, the best estimates now being reported show that 1-in-4 employees will be the victim of workplace violence this year alone.
While the media is quick to highlight the most deadly attacks that occur, the fact is that most employees will be lucky enough to only suffer from simple assaults. However, this is not to downplay the almost 400,000 aggravated assaults, 51,000 rapes and sexual assaults, 84,000 robberies, and nearly 1,000 homicides reported each year. I simply want to acknowledge that the average employee will not have to worry about death so much as being intimidated, struck, or threatened to comply with the assailant either through force or the threat of violence.
Spotting Early Earning Signs
As with all self-defense situations, correct action requires proper understanding so that we can know where to direct our awareness. Knowing what to look for will allow us to notice when something may be brewing and thereby allow us to take preemptive measures to prevent the danger from ever manifesting at all. After all, the ultimate goal of any reality-based protection program should be to set things up so that danger never touches you at all.
Workplace violence situations can be seen to have three aspects or characteristics that work together to produce the damage that inevitably results. Assaults always stem from a causal-based conditioning and never "come out of nowhere." These three parts or aspects are:
1. The assailant or perpetrator of the assault,
2. The preexisting or conditioning factors that cause the assailant to see violence as a justifiable means for attaining their goals, and...
3. An environment that allows for or permits the violent act to be committed without intervention, deterrence, or resistance.
Assaults never happen in a vacuum. They, like everything else, are the products of cause and effect. And, once set into motion - once these three factors are present - the force or conditions will play themselves out sooner or later.
In her book, "Risky Business: Managing Employee Violence in the Workplace", Dr. Lynne McClure describes eight categories of high-risk behaviors that may indicate the need for management intervention. She says these high-risk behaviors are everyday behaviors that occur in certain patterns. While the following clues are just that, possible warning signs, they will give management and employees enough of a basic understanding to cue in on the possibility of danger brewing on the horizon. The warning signs that may signal an impending workplace violence issue include:
- Actor behaviors: The employee acts out his or her anger with such actions as yelling, shouting, slamming doors, and so on.
- Fragmentor behaviors: The employee takes no responsibility for his actions and sees no connection between what he does and the consequences or results of his actions. As an example, he blames others for his mistakes.
- Me-First behaviors: The employee does what she wants, regardless of the negative effects on others. As an example, the employee takes a break during a last minute rush to get product to a customer, while all other employees are working hard.
- Mixed-Messenger behaviors: The employee talks positively but behaves negatively. As an example, the employee acts in a passive-aggressive manner saying he is a team player, but refuses to share information.
- Wooden-Stick behaviors: The employee is rigid, inflexible, and controlling. She won't try new technology, wants to be in charge, or purposefully withholds information.
- Escape-Artist behaviors: The employee deals with stress by lying and/or taking part in addictive behaviors such as drugs or gambling.
- Shocker behaviors: The employee suddenly acts in ways that are out of character and/or inherently extreme. For instance, a usually reliable individual fails to show up or call in sick for work. A person exhibits a new attendance pattern.
- Stranger behaviors: The employee is remote, has poor social skills, becomes fixated on an idea and/or an individual.
It can no longer be seen as a luxury or add-on to include procedures and training for dealing with workplace violence in your company's health and safety system. The costs, financially as-well-as to productivity, employee stress, and more, are far too great. Understanding and awareness are always the first step in to developing an effective plan. But, a solid, intelligently throughout and administered plan includes procedures, strategies, and techniques for, not only prevention and intervention, but deterrence and defensive action as well. The safer employees feel at all levels of an organization, the more relaxed the atmosphere and the greater the productivity.