Have you experienced violence in the workplace?

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The idea of workplace violence is frightening, but it’s one of those situations about which someone might think, “It won’t ever happen to me.” Yet a new survey reveals some startling statistics about the prevalence of violence, or intent of violence, in the workplace.

The Violence in the American Workplace survey conducted by AlliedBarton Security Services found that 52 percent of Americans employed outside their homes have witnessed, heard about or experienced a violent event or an event that could lead to violence at their workplace. What’s more, 28 percent of workers reported that a violent event or one that could lead to violence happened to them at their current place of employment, or that they have been personally affected by this type of event. The survey press release points to the increase in unemployment over the past several years as a reason why these incidents are happening at a high rate and why they may continue to increase. This comprehensive nationwide scientific phone survey of 1,030 adults working outside the home was conducted by David Michaelson and Company LLC. The results of this survey are featured in the new book, “Potential: Workplace Violence Prevention and Your Organizational Success,” by Bill Whitmore, chairman, president and CEO of AlliedBarton Security Services.

Workplace violence can manifest itself in different ways, including mental, emotional or physical abuse. According to the study, violence can include open hostility, abusive language or threats and can escalate to significant physical harm. Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness,” works with clients who have encountered workplace violence. “Many of my clients have shared with me their experiences related to workplace verbal harassment and bullying, as well as fears that physical violence will ensue,” Lombardo says.

Reporting violence
If a worker suspects or witnesses workplace violence, it’s often difficult for him to speak up, out of concern for his safety. “Many are hesitant to notify anyone of these experiences and fears out of concern that the ‘offender’ [will] find out who reported them and retaliate,” Lombardo says. According to the survey, 29 percent of workers who witnessed, heard about or experienced workplace violence did not report the incident or take other action.

Yet in order to prevent the incident from happening again or escalating into something worse, employees must report it. “Tell someone — HR, your boss, someone in a position of greater authority than you,” Lombardo says. “Given that there are about 500 workplace homicides during a year, it is vital that you be proactive.”

What employers can do
The survey found that after a violent incident occurred, 94 percent of employers took some action. The most common action taken was meeting with employees: 73 percent of workers who witnessed, heard about or experienced workplace violence said their employer held an employee meeting, and 69 percent said the employer met with the employee who experienced the violence.

Yet the best way to curb violence is prevention. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration encourages employers to put a workplace violence prevention program in place or incorporate information into an existing employee handbook, accident prevention program or standard operating procedures manual. In addition, they need to ensure that all employees know the policy and feel confident any reports submitted will be taken seriously and investigated promptly.

Lombardo also has advice on actions employers can take to stop violence before it starts. Her suggestions include:

    • Stress and anger management training.
    • Assistance for alcohol and drug abuse.
    • Increased employee control, as a perceived lack of control can increase a sense of helplessness and violence.
    • Demonstration of true caring for employees — employees are valued for who they are and what they do.

For more on preventing or reporting workplace violence, go to the workplace violence section on the OSHA website.

  1. Pingback: Have you experienced violence in the workplace? | No Workplace Violence

  2. I reported workplace violence once against me and the guy was a known drug user,But Because he had friends in Manangement thay tried to turn it around on me,and railroad me when there was even witnesses,They never followed works policy on violence in the workplace or sexual harrassment policy.And I work for a large city goverment,Thankfully the aggressor failed another drug test 9 months later,Policy’s are only as good as Manangement,godsknight1@hotmail.com

  3. I doubt I could ever recommend that violence provoking behavior should be reported. Based on experience, my new boss was allowed to reinvent my work history. Rumors continue to circulate she provoked an attack on herself by a former boss. Other bosses seem too afraid to mess with her. An employer can “teach” violence prevention, but many times it’s just a cosmetic joke.

  4. Employers or co-workers don’t have rights to do violence against others or vice versa. They said that if you experience a violence, you may have a trauma in other people. People should be treated as a human and not as an animal.

  5. I myself worked in a medical field for quite some time & I am a married man  & people would say mean things to me about being married  & I tried to report it to the Manager of my Department & she did not do  or say anything  about it,,she herself told me that I should feel sorry for myself,,I did not could not report that cause I was afraid of re per cussions.
     Another person came to me & said this to me” Who are you taking to the concert? going down Beach blvd to pick up a prostitute?”   I did not report that cause I was again afraid of the fact nothing would have happened & nobody would do anything about it,
    Another time I did go to the H.R Dept & said what was happening where I was doing my job,&
    another guy was saying mean things to me & getting in my face about my life I reported that to the HR Dept & the H R Resource senior specialist just said this   give his boss the benefit of the doubt   she did not want to hear it either that lady from H R. 

  6. I no longer work in this company any longer , the Dept manager looked at me like Drama drama
    drama…she said that to me…..& so I got let go

  7. I was recently let go after I tried to remedy the problems I was having with coworkers. I worked in a shop as one of a 2 1/2% minority against a 95% majority. The other 2 1/2% were black. My coworkers had habits such as singing out loud whenever they pleased; either in your face or to no one in particular. Groaning, whistling, banging things without reason, were some other habits. I worked almost 5 years and the same people were still singing the same ridiculous songs. It  became almost like “prayer” time. Laughing at just about anything at practically insane levels could be nerve wracking if I was having a bad day. Or how about my supervisor who had a habit of saying that ” a lot of crazy people work here” and then he would laugh. There was another guy who walked aorund shouting “Hey, Lover” to no one in particular. Or the same word every 10 minutes or so. Any one know what “GUMBA” is? After a while you feel like you should but what if you don’t feel like “it” sometimes. I can see how workplace violence erupts when you feel like telling someone to can it (shut up) but you can’t without knowing if there will be hard feelings. I told my boss (the human resources person) how if I was in a bar with a bunch of drunks like these I would leave but here I can’t just quit my job. It’s not that easy for some people. The problem was that the supervisors themselves were immature and egomaniacs and I knew better than to challenge their “chutzpah”. So about 5 months later I received my vacation pay and pink slip because they said “my relationship with the company was over”. I’m collecting UCBs. I found that the government recognizes “hostile” work environments exist but hold no jurisdiction. It’s up to the employers to establish work place rules. So much for bullying at work. My advice is to find another job as quick as possible and bite your tongue and if it bleeds tell a doctor and use him/her as a witness to your distress.

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