Over two million Americans are harmed each year through workplace violence. Nearly 500 of these cases end in at least one death. As a business owner or manager, you have the legal and moral obligation to protect your staff. By understanding how to prevent violence and detect the signs of potential incidents, you can ensure the safety and security of everyone in your business family, including yourself.
Myth: Workplace violence occurs only in well-known corporations in big cities.
Reality: The Washington Post reports that small businesses take on a greater risk of violence due to their limited security officers and disaster response training. Violence occurs in many forms including assaults, stalking, threats, shootings, robberies, rapes and murders.
Myth: Only banks and convenience stores need to worry about violence.
Reality: In any business setting, violence can take place between a worker and a customer, coworker, known acquaintance or stranger. For example, a pedestrian may pull out a gun to rob a taxi driver, an administrative assistant may slap a manager who she believes has treated her unfairly, a sales representative may throw supplies at a client who cancels a contract or a jilted husband may shake his fists at a cheating spouse. Many employers focus on protecting their workforce from threats and violence, but you must also watch for employees being on the receiving end of such violent behavior.
Myth: Employers are not responsible for violence that happens due to a worker’s personal life.
Reality: Without the proper zero-tolerance policies and security protocols, owners can be held liable for negligence. Many states reduce the financial risk to an employer if the company has set clear guidelines for inappropriate conduct, disciplinary measures and grounds for termination.
Myth: Long-time staff members never get violent.
Reality: Any employee–new or tenured, front-line or management–can turn violent. Episodes may be triggered by a single, traumatic incident, such as a layoff; by a personal catastrophe, such as a divorce; or by a series of seemingly insignificant events, such as continual harassment or bullying from a co-worker.
Myth: Women are less likely to commit workplace violence.
Reality: Workplace violence can be committed by anyone.
Check out Part II tomorrow: 7 Tips for Dealing with Violence in the Workplace.
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