One of the common elements that characterize contemporary organizations is workplace violence. It refers to physical, verbal, or emotional acts of aggression that compromise the health and safety of employees (Park, Cho, & Hong, 2015). Majority of workplace violence cases do not involve incidents with extremely unfortunate or dire consequences. They involve simple assaults such as verbal and emotional abuse.
However, there have been a few cases of homicide in the workplace involving coworkers or external attackers. Men and women have equal chances of being victims of workplace violence. According to occupational health and safety experts, workplace violence often has significant negative impacts on victims in terms of their perception about work, fellow colleagues, and the workplace (Park et al., 2015).
Behavior and attitude of employees act as good indicators of the effects of workplace violence. Violated workers suddenly lose their motivation to work and often develop a negative attitude towards the violator or the workplace in general (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). Cases of workplace violence have been on the rise. There is an urgent need for occupational health and safety experts to work closely with organizational leaders in order to create workplaces free of any danger. The stakeholders should focus on developing more effective ways of defining workplace violence, its causes, effects, and the best possible solutions.
Impacts of workplace violence
Workplace violence has a number of negative impacts on employees and the general workplace. It is important to note that workplace violence is a real and nearly unexpected occurrence that can happen any time. Studies have established that the occupations that suffer the most effect due to workplace violence are health care workers, correctional officers, teachers, retail workers, social service officers, and public service workers (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). People that do this kind of jobs are highly prone to mugging, physical attacks, threats, and torture (Park et al., 2015). One of the negative impacts of workplace violence is the development of a negative attitude. Employees associate their workplaces with important things such as security, growth, and prosperity.
An ideal workplace environment should allow employees to feel secure, work on building their careers, and becoming successful in life (Dillon, 2012). However, any acts of aggression implicated on anyone in the workplace lead to the development of a negative mentality, especially if the violence causes harm to anyone. Experts argue that an ideal workplace should offer betterment to employees by helping them realize their career goals and achieve monetary freedom (Park et al., 2015).
Workplace violence changes the mental state of employees with regard to their occupational health and safety. In addition, workplace violence kills the morale of employees to work. It also reduces the ability of employers to attract highly skilled individuals in the future (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). For example, the brutality witnessed during the Oklahoma City bombing changed the perception of most people about the safety of some workplaces.
Causes of workplace violence
There are numerous factors that lead to workplace violence. It is important to note that these factors come from the internal or external workplace environment. According to occupational health and safety experts, some of the main causes of workplace violence include stress, conflicts between coworkers, dissatisfied customers, and exasperated former workers (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). Others include inadequate screening of potential employees, denial, and lack of programs to provide services such as counseling to employees. These factors often contribute a lot to cases of aggressive behavior in the workplace. Organizational leaders should ensure that all potential employees are screened thoroughly in order to assess their likelihood of causing violence in the workplace (Dillon, 2012).
Experts argue that it is risky for employees and organizational leaders to refute the possibility of former workers returning to vent their anger on someone, especially if their circumstances for leaving were bad. Cases of employees being wronged are common in workplaces, especially if there is a lack of programs to provide counseling and other essential services (Dillon, 2012).
Studies have established that violence at home can easily be transferred into the workplace (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). This is a good example of external causes of workplace violence. If an employee has issues with their personal life, the chances of channeling their frustrations on colleagues are very high. Such kind of workplace violence often leads to dire consequences for all the involved parties. Personal issues such as divorce, unstable relationships, uncooperative roommates, and financial problems often impact negatively on the performance of employees in the workplace. Stress at home and in the workplace can lead individuals to have numerous violent eruptions that affect their coworkers and the general productivity of the organization (Dillon, 2012).
Studies have also established that internal factors such as threats to sack an employee often contribute to cases of workplace violence. Threats directed towards an employee can make them respond in an aggressive manner if they feel they are being disrespected (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). Dictatorial management, poor interpersonal relationships in the workplace, too much pressure, and lack of growth in one’s career can also lead to workplace violence if not addressed effectively.
The way forward
Cases of workplace violence are a common feature of most contemporary organizations. It is important for leaders and other stakeholders to develop effective strategies for ensuring the occupational health and safety of employees is guaranteed all the time (Dillon, 2012). There is an urgent need for organizations to develop placement assistance programs geared towards helping employees deal with various challenges encountered in the workplace (Park et al., 2015).
Such programs help employees to reduce stress, minimize work related risks, and develop good interpersonal relationships through interactive activities such as team building. Developing training programs for employees can also be an effective strategy in addressing the challenge of workplace violence. Employees need enough training on important issues such as conflict management, disaster preparedness, good customer service, and the importance of recreation. Experts argue that most cases of workplace violence erupt because employees lack knowledge about essential elements of good interpersonal relationships (Park et al., 2015).
Conflicts are also common in the workplace. Therefore, employees also need enough training on the most effective ways of addressing them whenever they arise in the workplace. Organizations can also address the challenge of workplace violence by providing employees with counseling services (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011).
Employees need professional direction or advice with regard to their decisions and actions in the workplace. The workplace environment can be very stressful and hard to deal with, especially for employees who lack essential skills such as emotional intelligence. A highly stressful workplace can make employees to be aggressive and eventually compromise the safety of their coworkers. Organizations can also address workplace violence by developing a zero-tolerance policy on abusive behavior in the workplace (Park et al., 2015).
Types of workplace violence and their occurrence rates
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workplace violence occurs through three major categories. First, there is stranger violence, which involves acts of aggression in the workplace done by an alien that is not connected to an organization (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). A good example of stranger violence is robbery, where criminals attack an organization and cause harm to employees. Occupational health and safety experts argue that cases of stranger violence in the workplace are not common. They account for about sixty percent of most cases of workplace violence reported. Second, there is client violence, which involves acts of aggression from a company’s customer directed towards the workers (Dillon, 2012).
Cases of client violence are common and account for about thirty percent of all reported cases. Customers can feel wronged by a business because of the kind of service offered or quality of products among other factors. Customers often vent their anger by attacking workers at the workplace (Dillon, 2012).
Third, there is coworker violence, which involves acts of aggression done by an employee towards a colleague. This type of violence is also common and constitutes about ten percent of the number of cases relating to workplace violence (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). The reason for this is that employees spend a lot of time together and can easily develop differences that can lead to the eruption of violent behavior if not addressed effectively.
How they arise
Most cases of workplace violence are triggered by internal factors. Cases of workplace violence often arise from conflicts, discrimination, isolation, and various forms of disagreements. Experts argue that career ambitions also trigger violent behavior in the workplace (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). For example, this can happen if someone is promised a promotion, but it ends up being awarded to someone else. In addition, employees often have tendencies of intimidating coworkers whom they think have the potential to pose a challenge for an employment position. Other forms of workplace violence, such as homicides arise from external factors not connected to an organization.
However, in some instances, employees turn against their colleagues and kill them (Dillon, 2012). Factors such as stress and bullying in the workplace contribute to cases of employees killing their colleagues because of unbearable working conditions. According to occupational health and safety experts, creating an inclusive and safe workplace environment helps to reduce cases of aggressive behavior because employees develop good interpersonal relationships (Park et al., 2015).
Handling the situation
There is an urgent need to develop effective mechanisms of handling the challenge of workplace violence. The intensity of workplace violence has heightened since the turn of the century, as most organizations continue to deal with numerous effects of the problem (Dillon, 2012). Some of the measures that organizations can use to address this challenge include creating stress management and assistance programs for employees. Organizations often overwork or put so much pressure on their employees, thus creating an intimidating environment. In such cases, the employee can suffer from work related stress, which can lead to deadly results if not addressed effectively (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011).
Assistance programs for employees are very effective in reducing cases of workplace violence. The reason for this is that employees often get a chance to analyze a potentially violent situation before deciding on the course of action. Experts argue that most employees use violent behavior in the workplace when no one seems to recognize their needs or even offer a solution when they speak them out (Park et al., 2015). Employees choose violence as a way of getting the attention they crave. Therefore, an assistance program for employees can be very effective in addressing this challenge because angry or stressed employees will have a chance to talk to an impartial person on the issues affecting them at the workplace (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011).
Preventing workplace violence
Organizations with the capacity to recognize the causes of workplace violence are in a better position to deal with the challenge compared to those that do not have essential mechanisms in place (Park et al., 2015). Preventing workplace violence has been a major challenge for most organizations. However, studies have established that there are numerous preventive measures that organizational leaders can use to effectively guarantee occupational health and safety in the workplace (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). One of the most effective measures is developing a clear comprehension of factors that influence aggressive behavior in the workplace, as well as their sources. Organizations can do this by examining their corporate values and the existing programs that focus on the welfare of everyone in the workplace.
Occupational health and safety experts argue that identifying all potential dangers and their causes helps an organization to build a safe workplace that motivates employees to focus on their jobs (Dillon, 2012). Another suitable measure for preventing workplace violence is training employees on their safety and health. Employee involvement in addressing this challenge is very important because it helps to increase efficiency (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). This measure is effective because it ensures that employees violated in the workplace do not get retaliation when they report their ordeals.
The two measures can act as a good platform for an organization to implement a zero tolerance policy on workplace tolerance. However, experts argue that the implementation of measures to prevent workplace violence is one of the hardest tasks carried out by organizational leaders (Park et al., 2015). Professionals argue that the ability to succeed in preventing workplace violence depends a lot on the kind of personnel that develop and oversee the implementation of prevention programs. Effective implementation of such programs helps to eliminate violence in the workplace by establishing consequences and reprimands for anyone who engages in acts of aggression (Dillon, 2012).
Educating and training employees on the programs also increase their efficiency. The success of the prevention programs is determined by the ability of employees to enjoy their workplace environment because they feel safe. Experts argue that happy and satisfied employees are the most important element for prolonged success in every organization (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011). Effective management of conflicts is another indicator that an organization has successfully managed to prevent workplace violence.
Over the years, workplace violence has increasingly become one of the main elements that compromise occupational health and safety in the workplace. Workplace violence often has significant impact on victims with regard to their perception and attitude about the workplace. Some of the most affected occupations with regard to workplace violence are health care workers, correctional officers, teachers, and public service workers among others.
Some of the main causes of workplace violence include work related stress, conflicts between coworkers, and dissatisfied customers. Dictatorial management, poor interpersonal relationships, too much pressure, and lack of career development can also lead to workplace violence. Creating an inclusive and hazard free workplace environment helps to reduce cases of workplace violence. Organizations with the capacity to recognize the causes of workplace violence are in a better position to deal with the challenge compared to those with no mechanisms in place. The success of the prevention programs is determined by the ability of employees to enjoy their workplace environment.
Bruce, M. D., & Nowlin, W. A. (2011). Workplace violence: Awareness, prevention, and response. Public Personnel Management, 40(4), 293-308. Web.
Dillon, B. L. (2012). Workplace violence: Impact, causes, and prevention. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation, 42(1), 15-20. Web.
Park, M., Cho, S. H., & Hong, H. J. (2015). Prevalence and perpetrators of workplace violence by nursing unit and the relationship between violence and the perceived work environment. Journal of nursing scholarship, 47(1), 87-95. Web.