How to Guard Against Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is a prevalent but preventable problem that can result in anything from money lost to litigation to the injury or death of an employee. Both of these outcomes are undesirable, so it’s essential that employers take the necessary steps to understand what workplace violence is and how to stop it from occurring.

Workplace violence is not simply physical. Verbal abuse qualifies as workplace violence and it can be just as damaging as physical violence. However, physical violence often has the severest consequences and is sadly not uncommon. Physical violence encompasses instances where weapons are used and those where there is weapon. However, the absence or presence of a weapon does not detract from the severity of workplace violence.

Preventing workplace violence is a matter of planning, not reacting. It is necessary to keep tabs on employees, making sure that any signs of future violence are addressed immediately. One of the clearest red flags is if an employee has a history of violence at work, but sometimes the warning signs are not so black-and-white. In this case, it is necessary to critically examine the actions of employees who may become violent. Such subtle indicators include poor performance, being frequently distracted, having a reliance on alcohol or drugs or mental conditions like depression. If these signs are identified, employees should not merely be cut loose. Instead, the employer should either help the employee in question seek help or, if the situation seems less severe, try to diffuse it with as much tact as possible.

In the event of workplace violence actually occurring, it is of paramount importance to contact the authorities, as an intervention in an already ongoing act of violence can result in more harm than good often—with innocent third-parties being harmed in the process.

Taking these steps to nip workplace violence in the bud or, if the situation escalates, prevent it as it occurs are greatly important. Not only will this make the workplace safer, but it is also has a number of other benefits. For example, workers in safe environments are shown to be happier, and workplace morale is almost always higher. And this is not to mention the fact that there will be a much slimmer chance of an employer being caught in a legal battle (over, for example, negligence) than there would be in a violent workplace.

Workplace violence is serious, but it is also preventable. Taking simple steps to prevent it will create a happier and more productive environment—which is both a benefit to employee and employer.