Read the case, Keeping Violence Out of the Workplace, below. Then, go to the Internet and/or print resources and research the topic, “workplace violence.” Answer the three questions below. Be specific.

Research the topic and state specific steps employers can take to reduce the potential for workplace violence. Be sure to include your source(s). If your source is the Internet, you must include the URL (web address).

You Manage It: Keeping Violence Out of The Workplace
Emerging Trends Web Case

Violence happens! Shooting sprees in the workplace are extreme but relatively rare examples of violence that can occur in a workplace. These extreme instances usually attract media attention. However, other forms of violence, such as bullying, physical intimidation, and even fights occur more frequently, but receive less media attention. Certainly, work can induce stress and fatigue and interactions with others can set the stage for conflict. Regrettably, violence, in many possible forms, can be the result. As defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, any threatening behavior, verbal abuse, or physical assault can continue workplace violence. Any form of violence in the workplace is an unfortunate occurrence, but why should it be the concern of management and can anything be done to lower the incidence of violence?

In regard to the first issue, violence in the workplace needs to be a concern of management for compelling reasons. Violence prevention is a focus of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Perhaps of even more immediate importance for the management of many organizations is the impact that violence can have on the effectiveness of an organization. Aon Corporation, a consulting firm headquartered in Chicago, has developed a program to help organizations identify costs associated with violence. Aon has found, for example, that aggressive co-workers can result in increased employee absenteeism. In addition, Aon ties increased turnover, decreased productivity, morale, and motivation, and poorer customer satisfaction to employee aggression. Obviously, workplace violence can negatively impact the effectiveness of an organization.

While the case that workplace violence should be a concern of management is straightforward, just what can be done about it? A key to the effective management of workplace violence is to recognize that violence in the workplace is seldom random or spontaneous. Violent behavior may seem to erupt unpredictably, but there are usually factors that act as triggers or predictors of the violent behavior. For example, high levels of employee stress, feelings of being treated unfairly, and personal problems, among other factors, can result in aggressive behavior. Recognizing that violence can be the result of identifiable factors, rather than a willy-nilly and unpredictable eruption, can help management to proactively address the violence issue. As an example of dealing with violence proactively, consider the following true scenario.

A worker at a warehouse told some fellow workers not to come to work the next day because he was going to be bringing in a gun. Management of the warehouse was informed and they managed to do a background check on the worker before his next shift started. They learned that the worker had several guns registered to him, his marriage had recently ended, and he had some financial problems. The police were called and they picked up the employee and he voluntarily admitted himself to a hospital. While no one can know for sure what might have happened, enough warning signs were present for management to intervene and possibly avoid another violent act in a workplace.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Identify the factors that you think might be the predictors of violence in the workplace. For example, stress and employee feelings of unfairness were mentioned as possible precursors of aggressive behavior. Are there other predictors/triggers?
  2. For each of the factors you identified in item 1, generate measures that could be used to assess the status in an organization. For example, would you use surveys, interviews, or other measures? What kind of questions, items, or other measures would you include?
  3. For each of the factors you identified in item 1, generate potential steps that managers could take to reduce or eliminate the threat.