It might shock you to learn that every year, two million people experience some form of workplace violence. The workplace should not be a setting where people are subjected to threats of or actual violence or harassment. This behavior is unacceptable but unfortunately, too many employees are exposed to these risks as part of their work. The prevention of workplace violence is something that cannot be ignored as a business leader.
Most people associate violence with physical assault. However, workplace violence and harassment are a much broader issue. Workplace violence is defined as any act in which a person is abused, intimidated, threatened, or assaulted, in their employment.
Exact definitions vary in legislation, but generally speaking workplace violence includes:
Workplace violence can also include bullying and acts such as cyberbullying, spreading rumors, pranks, and sabotage.
Predominantly, workplace violence is the product of the interaction between three factors.
Implementing a workplace violence prevention program can help mitigate all three factors. Here are seven steps to creating an effective workplace violence prevention program.
To understand where to focus your workplace violence prevention program a thorough analysis of your workplace is necessary. Consider these questions to evaluate where you are in terms of workplace violence prevention:
Analyzing your existing organizational systems can help target potential risk factors for workplace violence and define where you need to concentrate your efforts.
Every workplace violence prevention program should start with developing an open, trusting relationship with your employees.
Employees need to feel heard and supported at work. This level of trust helps those who are experiencing violence or harassment to be more open with you and you can respond accordingly.
It is important that employees feel confident to speak up. Team members reporting potential violent behavior should not be scared that they will face repercussions, regardless of whom they are reporting. Workplace violence policies apply to all employees, no matter how high up they are on the career ladder.
Workplace violence training will help your employees recognize certain behaviors and lower the risk of escalated situations. Training courses can take place in-person or online and will also help employees identify warning signs, as well as providing them with coping and response tools.
Workplace violence training often concentrates on how to handle a violent episode as it is occurring, but training in effective, empathic communication is a preventative measure that can stop the problem before it starts.
Ensure you have clear workplace violence policies and procedures which set out how you will prevent, manage, and respond to work-related violence. Having clear policies and procedures demonstrates your commitment to tackling workplace violence and ensuring the safety of your employees. Establish how you will handle violent behavior and verbal and nonverbal threats and actions.
Make sure that your entire team is aware of these policies with consistent training.
Making a strong commitment to cultivating a non-violent workplace takes time, money, and resources. But taking a firm stance helps to show your employees and your clients that your organization has pledged to prevent violence and maintain a safe, comfortable environment for everyone involved.
If your employees are familiar with the warning signs of potential workplace violence it can prevent an incident from escalating.
Warning signs of potential workplace violence can include the following:
An effective workplace violence prevention program should include training in warning signs and how to respond to and report them safely.
The most important part of any violence prevention program is commitment. Your commitment is best communicated in a written policy.
A written policy should:
Workplace violence prevention is crucial to keeping your employees safe and happy. Through open communication, consistent training, and clear-set policies you can maintain a secure, supportive workplace.
For more information on preventing violence in the workplace, read our article Conflict Resolution in The Workplace