Workplace Violence, Its Causes and Prevention

Executive Summary

Violence in the workplace can be explained by multiple factors; among the most important causes, one can distinguish the following ones:

  1. high levels of work stress;
  2. lack of communication between managers and employees;
  3. poorly-developed performance appraisal methods,
  4. unwillingness of managers to investigate bullying behavior.

Secondly, it is important to remember the failure of business administrators to use technologies that can identify potential threats at an early stage. The management can take several steps to minimize the risk of violence. They need to document and investigate every violent confrontation between employees. Managers should regularly communicate with workers who can be affected by stress or excessive workload. Furthermore, they should implement safety procedures that enable security personnel to identify people who can pose a threat to others and prevent them from harming the life or health of their co-workers.

Introduction

This report is focused on the problem of violence in the workplace. It is important to identify the causes of this problem and show how it can be addressed by the management. This paper will incorporate a review of research articles that throw light on various aspects of this phenomenon. Moreover, these sources will be important for the development of recommendations that can help employers to reduce the likelihood and impact of such events on individuals and the performance of an entire organization. Overall, it is possible to say that workplace violence can be primarily attributed to the lack of organizational safeguards that can eliminate the impact of various stressors or minimize the risk of violent confrontations between workers.

Literature review

It should be kept in mind that workplace violence can take many forms. For example, one can speak about the use of force, threats, verbal abuse, and sometimes even homicide. Such events can minimize the productivity of separate employees or even the entire organization. Furthermore, they can lead to significant financial losses. Scholars identify several circumstances when violence can occur. In particular, they mention violence committed by strangers who are not related to the company. For instance, one can refer to such incidents as armed robberies. Additionally, it is possible to speak about customers’ aggressive behavior1.

In many cases, these people can vent their spleen on employees. Finally, much attention should be paid to the violence of co-workers who can come in conflict with one another. These are some of the details should be singled out because they are important for designing preventive strategies.

To develop effective methods of preventing workplace violence, one should first identify the risk factors that contribute the violence in the workplace. It is possible to say that this phenomenon can be primarily attributed to flawed organizational policies. Researchers pay close attention to the work conditions. First of all, they speak about the failure of managers to minimize the impact of work stress on employees2. In many cases, people can experience this strain if they continuously have to meet urgent deadlines and work overtime.

Provided that employees continuously have to cope with such difficulties, they may reach a state of a nervous breakdown and use physical force against others. Furthermore, very often workers can be made accountable for the tasks or projects over which they have virtually no control. In particular, workers can be made dependent on the performance of other people or even blamed for their mistakes. Under such circumstances, they will more vulnerable to stress. Such individuals can eventually threaten other people or even use physical force. Therefore, business administrators should pay attention to how the work of employees is organized. They need to make sure that employees have specific responsibilities. Moreover, they should be asked to meet measurable and feasible objectives.

Furthermore, this problem is widespread in companies in which employees are not able to communicate directly with top-level management. As a rule, such people believe that only by relying on physical force, they can resolve the major problems that they have to deal with3. These people have to deal with managers who do not attach any importance to the work-life balance of employees or other needs of these people. This is why workers can feel helpless or even desperate. This is one of the details that should be considered. Thus, business administrators should remember that openness and accessibility are important for minimizing the risk of aggression in the workplace. They need to design policies according to which managers are required to communicate with employees regularly. This is one of the strategies that can be adopted.

Apart from that, business administrators should remember that employees can be prompted to use physical force, if they believe that they were treated unfairly by managers4. For instance, such situations are common if a worker believes that he/she has been unjustly denied promotion. Similarly, an employee can act violently, if he/she thinks that the performance is not properly evaluated. As a rule, the risk of violence can become very high if such conflicts occur very often.

Thus, senior executives should identify the criteria according to which the performance of workers will be assessed. More importantly, managers should explain what kind of mistakes a worker could have committed and what kind of changes should be made. This strategy will reduce the risk of conflicts in the workplace and increase the perceived fairness of performance appraisal. As a result, workers will believe that their contribution is not disregarded by managers, and they will be less susceptible to stress or anger. These are some of the benefits that can be singled out.

Furthermore, employees, who are extremely concerned about their job security, may threaten other people and rely on violence5. They are more likely to become aggressive to other people who can be perceived as potential competitors. They can also blame other people for their misfortunes. Additionally, they will be more vulnerable to work stress or depression. As a result, they can eventually behave aggressively or even commit homicide. Certainly, this behavior can be partly explained by the mental problems of an individual. However, at the same time, such behavior can be attributed to the aggressive behavior of managers who threaten employees with termination. Therefore, senior executives should keep in mind that their aggressiveness and threats can eventually lead to disastrous consequences.

Additionally, workplace violence is more likely to become prevalent provided that business administrators do not pay attention to bullying. This behavior is closely related to workplace violence. One should bear in mind that in many cases, people are accustomed to intimidating others. In many cases, such individuals believe that they occupy a privileged position in the company. Very often, they do occupy some positions of authority, and some workers are reluctant to take any actions6.

They can simply be afraid of reporting such events. The main problem is that such bullies can eventually use physical force. Furthermore, some of the victims can retaliate against this person, and their retaliation can be even more dangerous. In turn, the task of managers is to respond to bullying behavior as soon as possible. In this case, they may take several steps; for example, a business administrator can warn a bully or place him/her on probation.

Nonetheless, sometimes, a manager may be forced to dismiss this individual. This decision may be the only possible solution to this problem. Under such circumstances, business administrators should act as impartial judges who want to adhere to the rules and disregard personal attachments. In this way, they can make sure that employees feel secure enough in the workplace. Moreover, employees have to be informed about the laws according to which they can file a lawsuit against their offenders. This is how business administrators can remove one of the factors that contribute to workplace violence.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that many individuals become willing to use violence because in this way, they try to affirm their status7. In their opinion, the willingness to reach compromises can be regarded as a sign of weakness. As a rule, such people occupy relatively low positions in the workplace hierarchy. More importantly, they are not regarded as role models by their co-workers; in other words, their opinions are not usually valued by other people. This is why such people are more likely to respond to disagreements aggressively. This is one of the issues that can be identified. Therefore, business administrators should pay attention to people who have a previous record of violence. Additionally, managers should place such people on probation. This precaution can help a business reduce the number of conflicts in the workplace.

Apart from that, workplace conflicts can be explained by the failure of the management to promote diversity in the workplace. Modern companies hire people who can differ in terms of culture, ethnic origin, or race. Very often, management can overlook the racist attitudes of managers and workers8.

As a result, workers can come into conflict with one another because of racist or chauvinistic attitudes. Therefore, the probability of violent behavior also increases. In turn, the managers should address such conflicts at an early stage. More importantly, they should not tolerate racist comments that can provoke confrontations. In some cases, it may be necessary to provide counseling to people who became victims of racial discrimination. Moreover, a business administrator may have to dismiss people provoking interracial violence. These are some of the steps that can be taken.

Certainly, in many cases, the violent behavior of a person cannot be attributed only to workplace relations. One should not forget about such risks as alcohol or drug abuse, family problems, mental problems, and so forth9. In other words, these factors cannot be directly controlled or mitigated by the management. Admittedly, the risk of such events cannot be eliminated. In many cases, employers choose to hire a counselor who can communicate with at-risk workers and help them overcome their emotional problems. This is one of the points that can be made.

One should keep in mind that workplace violence is not always properly reported. Sometimes the managers just want to turn a blind eye to such cases, instead of documenting them10. This is one of the pitfalls that should be avoided. As a result, some minor cases of workplace aggression can eventually result in significant injuries, damage of property, or even homicide. Thus, management should investigate every form of violence that can take place in the workplace. They should discuss the causes of this violence with people who could be involved in these incidents. This is one of the suggestions that can be made.

It is also critical to remember that there are external risks of violence. In many cases, organizations have to interact with a great number of external stakeholders, for instance, customers. Certain clients can use force against employees if they believe that the organization cannot meet their needs properly. In this case, companies should hire effective security personnel to minimize the impact of their aggressive behavior. Additionally, such conflicts can become more dangerous if customers can easily get access to objects that can be used as weapons. Furthermore, this phenomenon can be partly explained by the inability of employees to resolve conflicts11.

Thus, these people should be skilled in their ability to de-escalate aggression. Moreover, employees can provoke violence by their rudeness or indifference to their problems of customers. This issue should also be considered by business administrators who should keep in mind that such cases usually undermine the reputation of a business.

Moreover, it is critical to speak about the risk of robbery which can also be regarded as a form of workplace violence12. Admittedly, such cases are not very widespread, but they usually disrupt the functioning of a business. Moreover, they can result in fatal injuries or even deaths. Such incidents can take place if a certain organization does not take sufficient security measures. Several pitfalls should be avoided. For instance, one can speak about the lack of video surveillance which can be viewed as an opportunity by potential offenders.

Furthermore, companies should not disregard the benefits that metal detectors can give to them. Furthermore, an organization should use identification badges to make sure that the workplace cannot be easily accessed by outsiders. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about those cases when outsiders or even employees try to smuggle weapons in the workplace. Furthermore, in many cases, workers do not have an opportunity to raise alert and warn other people about a possible threat. Thus, one can say that managers should rely on technologies that can make the workplace less dangerous. They can increase the security of employees.

Conclusions and recommendations

The examples incorporated in the literature review suggest that the risk of such cases can be reduced to the minimum provided that the management focuses on the factors that prompt people to use physical factors. Several areas require the close attention of business administrators. In particular, one should speak about workload, performance assessment, accountability of employees, and their communication with managers.

The main argument is that in most cases, this phenomenon can be explained by poorly-designed HR policies, absence of effective time-management methods, or unwillingness of business administrators to communicate with workers. Furthermore, the management should remember that the impact of such events can be reduced if the company fails to implement safety procedures. Therefore, one should not suppose that workplace violence is entirely beyond managerial control.

Several recommendations can be used by managers. First of all, they should remain open in their relations with workers. In particular, business administrators should encourage employees to speak about their major concerns. By discussing various questions such as workload or schedule with employees, managers will be able to reduce the risk of conflicts. Secondly, business administrators should identify the responsibilities of employees and explain the requirements that they are expected to meet.

More importantly, it is important to adopt performance appraisal methods that can accurately measure the performance of every worker, for instance, one can mention the so-called 360-degree assessment which increases the objectivity of evaluation. Additionally, the management should address the bullying behavior of people who want to affirm their status by relying on physical force or threats. In particular, the management should promptly investigate these cases and take disciplinary actions against people who pose a threat to the health of other employees. Furthermore, large companies can rely on the services of a counselor who can help workers overcome stress.

Finally, the management should rely on technologies that can enable them to detect the instance of violence as soon as possible. In many cases, it is necessary to use video cameras or metal detectors. These policies can make an organization less susceptible to workplace violence.

Reference List

Chew N., & Bin Ali, A. (2013). Factors contributing to workplace violence: a study in the fleet supply depots in Malaysia. Journal Of Global Management, 6(1), 62-76.

Choudhary, S. (2013). Workplace Violence: Awareness, Prevention, and Strategic Issues. International Journal Of Research In Commerce, Economics And Management, 3(6), 72-78.

Dillon, B. (2012). Workplace violence: impact, causes, and prevention. Work, 42(1), 15-20.

Emmerik, H., Euwema, M., & Bakker, A. Threats of Workplace Violence and the Buffering Effect of Social Support. Group & Organization Management, 32(2), 152-175.

Fleming, P., & Harvey, H. (2002). Strategy development in dealing with violence against employees in the workplace. Perspectives in Public Health, 122 (4), 226-232.

Greenberg, L., & Barling, J. (1999). Predicting Employee Aggression against Coworkers, Subordinates, and Supervisors: The Roles of Person Behaviors and Perceived Workplace Factors. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(6), 897-913.

Heuman, J., & Baron, R. (1998). Workplace Violence and Workplace Aggression: Evidence Concerning Specific Forms, Potential Causes, and Preferred Targets. Journal of Management, 24(3), 391-419.

Howard, J., & Wech, B. (2012). A Model of Organizational and Job Environment Influences on Workplace Violence. Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 24(2), 111-127.

Menendez, C., & Dillon, B. L. (2012). Workplace violence: Impact, causes, and prevention. Work, 42(1), 15-20.

Mullgn, E. (1997). Workplace Violence: Cause for Concern or the Construction of a New Category of Fear? Journal of Industrial Relations, 39(1), 21-32.

Van Fleet, D., & Van Fleet, E. (2012). Towards a Behavioral Description of Managerial Bullying. Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 24(3), 197-215.

Footnotes

  1. From “Workplace Violence: Awareness, Prevention, and Strategic Issues,” by S. Choudhary, 2013, International Journal Of Research In Commerce, Economics And Management, 3, p. 73.
  2. From “Workplace violence: Impact, causes, and prevention,” by C. Menendez and B.L. Dillon, 2012, Work, 42, p. 16.
  3. From “Factors contributing to workplace violence: a study in the fleet supply depots in Malaysia.” by N. Chew and A. Bin Ali, 2013. Journal Of Global Management, 6, p. 65.
  4. From “A Model of Organizational and Job Environment Influences on Workplace Violence,” J. Howard and B. Wech, 2012, Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 24, p. 116.
  5. From “Predicting Employee Aggression against Coworkers, Subordinates, and Supervisors: The Roles of Person Behaviors and Perceived Workplace Factors”, by L. Greenberg and J. Barling, 1999, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20, p. 897.
  6. From “Towards a Behavioral Description of Managerial Bullying,” by D. Van Fleet and E. Van Fleet, 2012, Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 24, p. 197.
  7. From “A Model of Organizational and Job Environment Influences on Workplace Violence” by J. Howard and B. Wech 2012, Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 24, p. 114.
  8. From “Workplace Violence and Workplace Aggression: Evidence Concerning Specific Forms, Potential Causes, and Preferred Targets,”, by J. Heuman and R. Baron, Journal of Management, 24, p. 403.
  9. From “Workplace violence: impact, causes, and prevention,” by B. Dillon, 2012, Work, 42, p. 16.
  10. From “Strategy development in dealing with violence against employees in the workplace,” by P. Fleming & H. Harvey, 2002, Perspectives in Public Health, 122, p. 227.
  11. From A Model of Organizational and Job Environment Influences on Workplace Violence.By H. Emmerik, M. Euwema and A. Bakker, 2007, Group & Organization Management, 32, p. 155.
  12. From “Workplace Violence: Cause for Concern or the Construction of a New Category of Fear?” by E Mullen, 1997, Journal of Industrial Relations, 39, p. 22.