What is violence in the Workplace?

 Violence in the Workplace

Workplace violence.
That’s something that happens to people in high-risk jobs, right? Like people who handle money, work late in public places, or deal with high-risk sectors of the community. Sadly, that’s not the case. Although it’s rare, and as much as you may think it could never happen to you, or would never happen in our organization, the truth is that workplace violence can happen to anybody, whatever their role and whoever they work for Remember, we’re not just talking about physical violence – verbal abuse, threats, and other forms of aggression also constitute workplace violence. Workplace violence is any form of violent or aggressive behavior that creates a hostile work environment. We’re lucky to work in a supportive and non-hostile environment, so these issues rarely arise here. But if you or a colleague did become a victim of workplace violence, would you know what to do? We’re now going to look at what you can do to protect yourself, and how we work as a company to protect you, your colleagues, and the public
from workplace violence.

Preventing Violence in the Workplace
Zero Tolerance We operate under a policy of zero tolerance toward workplace violence. Don’t Stay Silent If you are subject to, or witness, violence in the workplace, you should report it immediately. You can find out who to report to here. Don’t Remain a Victim Violence in the workplace could also constitute a criminal offense and require law enforcement involvement. Know Who Protects You It is imperative that you report an incident of violence in the workplace as soon as possible to the relevant internal person or department. If you don’t know who to report incidents to, you can find out here.

Preventing Violence in the Workplace
These people have agreed to share their experiences of violence in the workplace.

Anita’s story
“In my previous company, Ushi was known for verbal abuse and threatening behavior toward colleagues and customers, so it was no surprise when she punched a colleague. We reported the incident and Ushi was dismissed. I always wondered if the incident could have been prevented if we’d reported her behavior sooner.”

Jason’s story
“A colleague of mine had seemed pretty down for weeks. One day, I overheard him on the phone talking about suicide. I felt bad reporting what I’d heard, but I knew I had a duty to call HR. They discovered he had some major domestic problems. With time off to resolve the issues, my colleague was soon back at work. Guess I made the right call!”

Todd’s story
“In my first job there was a guy called Javier who had these crazy mood swings. He started taking a lot of unexplained absences until, one day, he stopped coming in to work altogether. We found out later he was in rehab. Maybe if we’d notified HR he could have got some help earlier.”

Elijah’s story
“I had a summer job at college where I worked with a young woman who spoke often about death and dying. She was fascinated with any kind of violent acts in the news, and one day she even brought a gun into work. The gun wasn’t loaded, but I reported it and the young woman lost her job. I learned later that she had a history of committing violent acts.”

Roberta’s story
“Last place I worked we had a really good team, except for one guy! This guy became obsessed with another team member, Susie, and started ringing her in the evenings and sending her creepy emails. When Susie didn’t respond, he threatened her in a text message. I helped Susie file a grievance for harassment and we reported him to HR. HR responded swiftly and he was dismissed.”

Aggressive Colleague
Miranda works with Phillip and believes that his behavior is causing a negative environment in the workplace. Over coffee one morning, she and her colleagues discuss his behavior. After the meeting she runs through Phillip’s behaviors and asks you which ones are a sign that action is required?
Select the four worrying behaviors and then Submit.

  •  “I’ve noticed how much time he’s been taking off with no explanation. He doesn’t even call in!”
  •  “If I try to make one little change to his work, he totally overreacts.”
  •  “You should have heard the abuse he gave that customer. He just exploded!”
  •  “We had the weirdest conversation; he seems obsessed with those shootings that were in the news last week.”
  • “Last week he had flu and had to take three days off sick.”

Overreacting to a normal request, abusing a customer, taking a lot of time off with no explanation, and obsessing with shootings are all potential red flags for workplace violence. Of course, no single one of these signs is a sure indicator that someone may turn violent, but they should be enough to alert you to the possibility that action may need to be taken.

Threatening Behavior
The next day Phillip becomes verbally threatening and reduces Miranda to tears. Miranda and her colleagues ask you what they should do. Select the four correct actions.

  •  Call Human Resources or Legal immediately and report the incident. They can handle this type of situation and involve local law enforcement if appropriate.
  •  Notify local law enforcement and call security to remove him from the building.
  •  This does not need to be reported. It’s how Phillip reacts when someone does not agree with him.
  •  Recognize that we all have a part to play in the implementation of our zero tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by employees.
  •  Learn how to recognize, avoid, or defuse potentially violent situations.
  •  Alert supervisors, line managers, etc., to any concerns about safety or security and report all incidents immediately.

Thanks for helping Miranda
Human Resources or Legal can handle Phillip’s inappropriate behavior internally and will only involve local law enforcement if appropriate. The team shouldn’t try to tackle the issue themselves. It’s your duty to recognize the warning signs for workplace violence, and to implement our zero tolerance policy by reporting all incidents and concerns immediately. If you’re not sure who to ask for help, then just find out who you should contact here before making a decision. You will never be asked to intervene with an individual directly. The appropriate department will manage any interventions. Remember, it’s important that you:

  •  Understand what we mean by workplace violence.
  •  Recognize the signs that an intervention may be necessary.
  •  Understand the actions you need to take to protect yourself and others.

This is an extract from our workplace conduct course.

Download our Workplace Conduct booklet.
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