Violence in the workplace has long been an issue for managers to deal with. Unlike other workplace safety issues, the dramatic nature of the events makes them difficult to prepare for.
The causes of workplace violence are many and varied. However, the chances of having a workplace violence incident in your facility will be greater when there is a hostile atmosphere. High stress workplace environments also lead to work place violence issues.
Often domestic disputes and other outside influences such as drug deals and other outside interests play out in the workplace. While these outside factors may be out of our direct control, there are ways of reducing their impact on the operation.
One precursor of workplace violence that needs to be carefully controlled is horseplay. While workers need to have freedom to express themselves, horseplay can quickly get out of hand and have dangerous if not fatal consequences. I suspect injuries due to horseplay are severely under-reported due to the nature of the interpersonal relationships.
In order to reduce the chances of a workplace violence incident, you need to create a safe and empowering work environment. Employees who feel good about themselves will not feel the need to increase their self worth by bringing down others. Workplace bullying and workplace violence go hand in hand.
Promoting good team work where each person's value in inherent in the system will help everyone feel better about themselves. A quality employee performance system will also help aid employees self esteem. The better and more valuable employees feel about hem selves the less likely they will be to attack others in a effort to improve their status. Also, people who feel good about them selves will not attract violence into their lives.
A belief in some form of lack is usually the basis for workplace violence. When people feel that there is not enough money or not enough time or more often not enough recognition to go around, they begin to attract violence to themselves so that they can become a victim. Or they may lash out at others in defense of some supposed injustice.
Many workers feel that intimidation is the only way they can feel good about themselves. They like to harass other workers, especially new hires. If these people are rewarded for teaching and training new or slower workers, they will get the self esteem boost they need with out resorting to the hazing that leads to violence.
As managers, we can find ways to boost the self esteem of our workers. I once had an electrician who, while very intelligent, had difficulty getting along with his fellow workers. He would get belligerent when people questioned his intelligence and the other workers become fond of finding ways to make him look bad. I put him in charge of developing our lock out tag out plan.
He felt self worth because he had been asked to perform sun an important task. Other people were forced to work with him because the procedures he developed they would have to follow for posterity. They also began to respect him because they saw the amount of time and research he had to put into each procedure. After only a few days into the project the hazing and arguing peacefully disappeared.
Another worker I had liked to harass new workers. He had been with the plant from the day it opened and loved to show off his expertise. He refused to follow new safety rules and generally made life miserable for a lot of people. My boss wanted to find a way to early retire him and the union even tried to get him fired.
I put him in charge of training new workers. He got the recognition he deserved. He began to feel good about himself and his contribution become valued to both the company and his fellow workers. He could be the hero trouble shooter without having to cause problems in the first place. Through this simple job restructuring, both the company and the employee benefited. So did all his co workers.
When dealing with specific problem employees, you need to get to know them and make an effort to understand their values. The need to feel valuable and important is universal. Finding ways to help people feel good about themselves will not only help reduce violence in the workplace, but will benefit productivity as well.
By creating a safe and validating work environment, employees will feel good about themselves. Make sure they know what is expected of them and be consistent in the response when employees fail to meet expectations. Expect only the best from your employees and do what you can to remove the blocks to their best performance.
Good, solid policies and procedures are critical to maintaining a safe work environment. When everyone knows what is expected of them and knows how to do their jobs, every one will feel better about themselves. They will inherently know when they are doing a good job without the need for constant supervision. People who feel good about themselves will not act violently toward others nor will they attract violence onto themselves.
While the causes of workplace violence are varied and complex; preventing workplace violence is as simple as addressing these key areas. Make sure employees are rewarded for working well together. Make sure employees feel they are making a valuable contribution and make that value known to others. Make sure people know what is expected from them in the workplace and be consistent in the implementation of the policies and procedures.