Societal Issues in the Workplace

Violence in the workplace has gained an increasing interest among international organizations especially the U. S. Since most people spend long hours at work, it has been considered as “an occupational health problem of significant proportion” (Dietz & Baker, 1987).

Violence in the workplace has becoming a growing concern not only in the U. S but in other countries as well. The British Medical Association admitted that healthcare professionals including doctors have been subjects to this dillema. In a study conducted in the UK, Almost a third of doctors who reported experience of workplace violence, experienced physical violence or abuse.These incidents ranged from being kicked, bitten, punched, knifed, hit, stabbed and spat at. A third of the doctors, who reported experience of physical violence or abuse, received minor injuries as a result of the incident and 5 per cent reported serious injuries (Violence in the workplace, www.

bma. org. uk). One of every four employees was harassed, threatened, or attacked in their workplaces. The issue is even serious if we consider financial costs associated with the loss of life, the increase of medical cost, and the decline of productivity.Workplace violence is a complex issue. It involves studies like the changing of social structures and attitudes like family, mass media influence, employee job-related attitude, effects of management policies, and strategies (e.

g. , retrenchment), and implications of legal challenges (e. g bullying). There is no clear-cut definition of workplace violence, one common description used though is “any work or work-environment problem that negatively affects employee production and safety”.

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These ranges from on-site problems, off-site conditions and occurrences like stalking, telephone harassment and other verbal confrontations). The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines occupational injury as “an injury which results in death, significant medical treatment, or loss of consciousness which results in loss of work, restriction in ability to work, termination, or transfer”. Although classical cases have been focused on physical assault, workplace violence also went as far as verbal threats, bullying and even sexual harassment.There are various reasons why violence in the workplaces has become an ongoing concern. Homicide has become a second leading cause of occupational injury death, exceeded only by motor-vehicle-related deaths. It is estimated that 1 million people are assaulted while at work. This represents almost 15% of the all acts of violence experienced by residents beyond age 12 in the U.

S. Almost 75 percent of all workplace homicides were robbery-related while in the general population, only 9 percent of homicides were robbery-related, and only 19 percent were committed in relation to felony. 7 percent of all murder victims in 1993 were related to or acquainted with their assailants, whereas the majority of workplace homicides are believed to occur between strangers .

Only 17 percent of female victims of workplace homicides were killed by a spouse or former spouse, whereas 29 percent of the female homicide victims in the general population were killed by,a husband, ex-husband, boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. Each week, an average of 20 workers are murdered and 18,000 are assaulted while at work or on duty.Nonfatal assaults result in millions of lost workdays and cost workers millions of dollars in lost wages (Anand, 2003). Reports also indicates that homicide is the leading cause of occupational fatality for women, consisting of 40 % of all female deaths in the workplace. In 1994, approximately1,071 workplace homicides occurred. Most of the victims are supervisors in retail sales, cashiers, taxicab drivers, and police officers.

Workplace violence is not distributed randomly across all workplaces but is clustered in particular occupational settings.More than half of workplace homicides occurred in retail trade and service industries. Homicide is the leading cause of death in these industries as well as in finance, insurance, and real estate. Eighty-five percent of nonfatal assaults in the workplace occur in service and retail trade industries. As the U. S. economy continues to shift toward the service sectors, fatal and nonfatal workplace violence will be an increasingly important occupational safety and health (Anand 2003) To better comprehend workplace violence, it is important to addresses two issues: (1) the nature of violence and (2) the causes of violence.While the first covers introductions of categories and types of workplace violence, the second investigates workplace violence from individual, organizational, and social perspectives.

Violence in the workplace is classified as internal and external. Internal violence in the workplace is violence between employees and employees, supervisors and employees, or those who are affiliated with the organization. External violence in the workplace, on the other hand, consists of crimes committed by persons who are not affiliated with the organization.There are many cases of external violence in the workplace, especially in the cases against public agencies and employees. The widely reported violence in the workplace is internal. There are three types of violence commonly classified as: attacks, threats, and harassment (Mantell and Albrecht, 1994). Attack refers to the use of physical force against another in order to inflict harm.

Threat is defined as an expression of one’s intention to inflict injury. Harassment has to do with any behavior designed to trouble or worry the victim.Among the three types, it is the type of attack, especially associated with deaths of the victim, which attract media and public attention. With regards to causes of workplace violence, we can identify three interrelated sources of causes: personal, organizational, and societal perspectives. Personal source of violence covers an individual employee’s personal values, job attitudes and behavior, socialization in the organization, and interaction in the society.The issues addressed in this aspect consist of, for example, employee’s attitude and working habits,perceptions, and experiences.

Liou, 1999) Studies of the personal source of workplace violence focus on psychological aspects of understanding individual personality, traits, attitudes, and behavior. Organizational source of violence refers to factors such as organizational design and structures, work processes, managerial styles, job descriptions, and company policies. It focuses on the employee’s perception (e. g. , fairness) of various organizational issues (leadership, organizational environment, company policies, structures, and culture) and attitudes toward changes of these issues.

For example, one of the major organizational sources of workplace violence is employees’ resistance to a new company policy on tardiness. Societal source of violence refers to issues in the society, culture, public attitudes, family composition, social values, economic conditions, political philosophy, public policies, technology development, and mass media (Liou, 1999). Closely related to the other two sources, the social sources of workplace violence deal with not only the influence of society on employees (especially the employee’s perceived social injustice) but also the interaction between social issues and organizations.The social aspect of workplace violence especially addresses the impact of changing social issues on employees and organizations. An example of social sources is the economic conditions like inflation or poverty and its effect on employee’s performance at work.

Again, violence is a complex issue and there are lots of studies on it from different levels and perspective. What make it interesting from the organizational aspect of workplace violence is the cost of violence to organizations and the contribution of managing violence to both employees and organizations.Workplace implications: The issue of workplace violence is relevant for managers and administrators, in the case of public organizations, simply because it has a direct impact on the organization. It is estimated by the U. S. Department of Justice (1994) that employees represent almost 30 percent of victims of violence, accounting to approximately 16 percent of the workforce. The impact of violence in the workplace can be harmful beyond injuries. Aggressive acts may result to damage of company property even to loss of business.

The exposure of employees to workplace violence may decrease employee productivity and as a result increased employee turnover. This will mean a cost to management resources. Workplace violence is estimated to costs 55 million dollars in lost wages alone, a significant amount from the organization’s pockets. According to the National Safe Workplace Institute the cost of workplace violence reached $4. 2 billion in1994. It increased by 850 % after 2 years (1996). It decreased about 2.

3 percent to $35. 4 billion after a year. The decrease is attributed mainly due to the increased awareness and employee training.Lost productivity following an incident is frequently underestimated. Losses in productivity occur throughout the enterprise with decreases of up to 80 percent for up to two weeks immediately after the incident. Losses are caused by the unavailability of the killed or injured worker, work interruptions caused by police and internal security investigations and damage to the facility, time lost by surviving employees talking about the incident and the details leading up to it, decreased efficiency and productivity due to post-traumatic stress syndrome, and time spent by employees in counseling sessions.

Workplace violence is related with certain workplace factors like handling of cash in case of the cashier or dealing with riots in case of the policemen, unstable patients in case of health care workers. Working alone or in small groups, time of work, environment of the workplace are also other factors increasing the risk of workplace violence. A workplace-specific prevention efforts though exists for most organizations. This prevention tools could vary depending upon the nature of the job.

Threat prevention policies also exist.An average of 80 workers are murdered and 72,000 are assaulted while at work or on duty per month. Nonfatal assaults cost millions of lost workdays and cost workers millions of dollars in lost wages (Liou, 1999).

Workplace violence is grouped according to occupational settings. Retail trade and service industries represent for half of workplace homicides and 85 percent of nonfatal workplace assaults. Taxi drivers have the highest risk of workplace homicides. Health care, community services, and retail are the highest for nonfatal assaults.Nonfatal assaults could be robbery associated violence, violence by disgruntled clients, customers, patients, inmates, violence committed by coworkers, employees or employers. Domestic violence is also another type of violence finding its way fast to the workplace.

There are also several misconceptions about workplace violence. Sensational acts of coworker violence form only a small part of the problem, but are often emphasized by the media to the exclusion of the almost daily killings of taxicab drivers, convenience store clerks and other retail workers, security guards, and police officers.Circumstances of workplace homicides differ substantially from those portrayed by the media and from homicides in the general population Most workplace homicides are not the result of disgruntled workers who take out their frustrations on coworkers or supervisors, or of intimate partners and other relatives who kill loved ones in the course of a dispute; rather, they are robbery-related crimes. Workplace violence concerns everybody.

It affects the way we think, feel and behave. It affects the emotional stability and productivity of employees, and profitability in almost all organizations.Although the incidence of actual physical violence at work is relatively low, workplace violence has an impact on the lives of thousands of employees each year. These un crimes can destroy people, families and even businesses. Role as a future manager The high incidence of workplace violence calls for a more vigilant role as managers in the workplace. More locks and guards may not be enough to combat the occurrence of such violence.

Company policies and security protocols needs to be strengthened towards employee safety and protection.Administrators, employers, and managers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees. They also have statutory obligations to provide and promote a safe and violence-free work environment. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and state workers’ compensation laws provided for some of these policies.

Employers also have responsibilities to the public and for the harm brought to others by workplace violence. Moreover, employers have additional legal obligations to job applicants.Facing all the responsibilities, employers and managers must protect those employees and other parties without curtailing anyone’s rights. The challenge for employers is far greater. As said earlier, managers have to be more vigilant on their employees.

Sometimes, Supervisors, managers, and even companies often engage in denial, denying that an employee may have a problem. Tendency for some managers, they tend to not look that someone in their workplace could be responsible could be violent or dangerous to others. Most often than not, the ignorance of a problem may also mean, denying an employee help.Some companies also fail to create and enforce sound policies. Some also fail to respond to incidents where violence may occur. Out of fear and unwillingness to face the truth, employers not only participate in the increase occurrence of violence but also incur liability. Managers and supervisors must act appropriately and quickly in a given situation. This process is called intervention.

Boundaries have to be defined and policies have to be set in order for the intervention process to be implemented. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior, must be acted upon immediately and put the employee on notice.If a progression is identified for the first time, verbal warnings may suffice to change behavior and stop aggression. Should verbal warning be not enough, written warning should follow? If the act continues after written warnings are issued, the aggressor may be referred to the company’s employee assistance program or an outside resource for counseling. Monitoring performance and addressing behaviors, is called performance based management.

It provides structure to the work environment while at the same time, offers the employee choices.In some cases, disciplinary actions based on the company policies and professional counseling may not be enough. Under these circumstances, termination, temporary restraining orders, hospitalization or prosecution may be the only solutions available. As future manager, interventions should be planned. Formation of management teams are also considered helpful to implement prevention programs against workplace violence. Team members should be carefully selected and necessary skills for intervention should be present among team members.Coordination with health care professionals like psychiatrists and doctors would also be good. Safety goals should also be defined and protection of property should also be included Background investigation also plays a role in preventing aggressors in the workplace.

The typical background investigation includes the detailed examination of the employment, criminal, and family check on the employees before employment. It is to my suggestion that employee records should be updated and reviewed from time to time. However, the privacy of all parties should be respected.The manager should ensure that there will be balance between need and privacy.

Diligence in recruitment, selection, and placement is critical to promote vigilance among employers. Background investigation is important to check the criminal background of applicants should there be any. However, it is also necessary to know the limitations of the background check to prevent vioation of the employee does employees’ privacy. Interviews should be done in such a way that questions are well tailored.

Avoid asking about psychiatric conditions or substance abuse issues.The human resources department will play an impotantl role in the enforcement of disciplinary actions. Therefore as managers, it is always important to be aware of the company policies and employment programs.

It is also important to hire a human resources professional that has the experience and leadership skills necessary to be a part of the management intervention team and somebody mature enough to facilitate the decision making process. If termination is necessary, it should be done in such a manner that it wouldn’t cause provoking a violent response from the aggressors.Conducting terminations with respect and dignity can decrease possibilities of violeance and will decrease the tensions at a very emotional point in the employee’s life. Should an employee already has exhibited violent tendencies, it is unwise to invite the employee in for an exit interview and he may need to be accompanied by security if returning to the building to gather personal belongings. Managers also have to provide safety for its employees.

Managers are expected to do as much as possible to promote safety and prevent workplace violence. Enforcement of company policies should also be fair and consistent.Employees should be allowed to air their complaints and grievances. They should also be given opportunity to resolve problems without leading to violence. Policies like the banning weapons, zone restrictions in the sites, etc. are important. A May 2005 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that workplaces where guns were permitted were five to seven times more likely to be the site of a workplace homicide (Wozniak, 2008). Adoption of violence prevention policies is reuired at all times.

The policy should also be geared towards senstivity and protection of the confidentiality of victims.Policy should include referrals to local resources for victims of violence Training and education are also important in creating a safe and violence-free workplace. Managers should be able to understand employees what is necessary and their roles in creating a violence-free work environment. The manager must be able to solicit the participation of every employee so they themselves could understand that violence or the threat of violence will not be tolerated and that policy violations may result in immediate termination and/or prosecution.All employees should understand workplace violence principles, organizational policies, warning signs of violence, and proper response and neutralizing techniques. Upper management should receive additional training on threat management and security implementation. Since internal workplace violence is more likely to happen, future managers should also be able to promote smooth interpersonal relationships among his o r her employees.

Good relationships build friendship and create a fun atmosphere at work.The role of future managers in preventing and minimizing the incidence of workplace violence will be challenging. Managers should be well equipped with the right tool for it. Knowing how to reduce the chance of potential violence will help future managers to reduce liability. As a future manager, should issues of violence in the workplace be raised to me, the basic thing is to know more about the issues.

I would invite the victim to my office and probe on the issues deeper. Should it be valid, incident reports have to be documented by the victim or any person who has seen the actual incident.On the other hand, the perpetrator will also be investigated and issues will be probed deeper. Once all parties involved in the incidents have been investigated, the documentation will be submitted to the HROD department for corresponding disciplinary actions for the perpetrator. Relative to the issues raised, the vicitm will undergo some intervention program from the experts. For example, if the attack has caused trauma in the victim, interventions from a psychiatrist would be appropriate. Counselling programs should also is an ideal solution to implement.Meanwhile, the perpetrators will undergo a series of investigation and appropriate punishment will be carried through based on the company’s policies.

Issues should be resolved in a timely manner to avoid further complications in the issue. Base from all the issues that have been raised, I would certainly know the nature of violence that happends in the environment. From there preventive measures and training programs will be established depending upon the causes of violence. For example, verbal attacks made by an alcoholic employee.

The acoholic perpetrator may be included in the Alcoholic Anonymous program for several sessions before he can resume his/her service at work. Another example would be verbal attacks between female employees as a result of rumors. This will give me a hint to formulate policies against rumo-mongering in the workplace as to prevent the same thing to happen next. I would also formulate programs as to promote smooth interelationship among my employees. This way, my people will be able to understand each other and avoid fighting.There is, of course, no one solution for all acts of work related violence. In some cases, such as hold-ups of jewelry, liquor, and fast-food stores, traditional security measures must be implemented like calling the police first. There is no indication that the social and other issues that are believed to be the underlying causes for the dramatic increase in occupational violence will change in the near future.

On the contrary, experts believe that violence as a form of communication and conflict resolution will continue to increase.Fortunately, answers and methods for addressing the problem are now available. (Mattman, 2001) There simply is no good reason for a business, large or small,to come up with programs preventiong violence in the workplace.

It protects the employees, avoids costly litigations, preserves the company’s reputation, improves the bottom line, but most of all is morally and ethically the right thing to do. After all, everybody who earns a living has a right to a safe and secure work environment. (Mattman, 2001)


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