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Is Workplace Violence a Real Threat?

Felix-P-Nater.jpgBy Felix P Nater

Did you know that over the past 10 years, most significant surveys on the topic of workplace violence rated the threat of workplace violence in the top 5 security concerns? What does this say about the real impact it has on a business?

In the latest 2005 Department of Labor Special Survey it reported in 2006, nearly 5% of 348K of the establishments surveyed experienced an incident of workplace violence in the last year. While 1/3 reported a negative impact to employees, only 11% changed their policy after the incident; 9% of those had no program or policy. (Source: US Department of Labor, Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention, 2005)

Did you know that the incidents which lead to workplace violence are business security concerns because it affects people, premises, property, image, performance, production, efficiency, morale and relationships. If one were to research the topic you would discover an encyclopedia of knowledge on the topic?

The survey said that employees can be affected by workplace violence in a number of ways including increased fear, lower morale and higher absenteeism. Employees in 36% of the establishments having incidents of workplace violence in the previous 12 months were negatively affected.

If that is so, why then is it that even though the Department of Labor's 2005 Special Statistical Survey on the topic supports the discussion that workplace violence is a viable safety and security concern is the commitment perceived to be so anemic?

We suggest that the commitment requires an ongoing security awareness to protect people, premises property from internal and external predators that requires the use surveillance and monitoring technology, ongoing orientation and training seminars and unique policy and programs to address the problem.

The resultant negative image from one disgruntled employee's act of violence can have an adverse impact on public and employee perceptions. In many cases as we saw in the Anthrax scare, post offices closed because employees did not feel safe and management did not want the risk.

The business bottom line is affected as reduced employee performance, production and efficiency become the other victims of the incidents of workplace violence.

Female employees rather quit or request transfers than be exposed to threats of violence or sexual harassment.

Injury compensation claims increase as employees find ways of hiding their victimization under different covered ailments to retain their employment thus innocently protecting those culpable and responsible.

A lack of confidence in management's commitment and the possibility of increased harassment and victimization as a result of any report that are made are additional factors. Rather than feel the wrath of the perpetrator and even coworkers nothing is said.

Inordinate amounts of dedicated resources might be dedicated to investigate incidents of workplace violence in determining what protective measures to take.

And last but not least, employees and supervisors might not know that incidents of workplace violence begin with a bad word, name calling, a racial slur, a sexual innuendo, perceptions of disparate treatment, unfair selections for assignments, promotions and awards and the list goes on. These behaviors though considered inappropriate are not defined as unacceptable. Worst, the permissive environment creates acceptable behavior.

Incidents of workplace violence can lead to physical altercations, sabotage of personal and business property, theft of property, nuisance phone calls, stalking, harassment and verbal abuse & cyber security concerns.

I know of an elderly female employee who was the victim of constant harassment and verbal abuse by a younger male employee. Although resources were committed to investigate and curtail the behavior, the male employee continued harassing the elderly employee. To get even the employee intensified his attacks. One day the male employee was badly beaten. While correlation was never made between the victim's sons and the assault, one can only imagine how this behavior can affect others.

Felix P. Nater is the president and owner of Nater Associates, Ltd. a workplace violence prevention and workplace security management consultant who helps educate and inform businesses and organizations on the threat of workplace violence. You can view the services services the offer at

Workplace Violence Safety Meeting Kit

Workplace Violence Safety Meeting Kit

Workplace Violence discuss how employees can help to prevent violence in their facilities and respond safely if aggression takes place.
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