Workplace violence affects society as a whole. Hence, economic costs are substantial. Also, there are intangible costs. Specifically, workplace violence damages trust, community, and the sense of security that every worker deserves. Therefore, it is important to recognize workplace violence warning signs.
Employers have a legal and ethical obligation to promote a work environment free from threats and violence. Further, employers can face economic loss as the result of violence. Examples include:
- lost work time
- damaged employee morale
- lost productivity
- increased workers’ compensation payments
- medical expenses
- lawsuits and liability costs
Employers can recognize workplace violence warning signs when screening new hires, observing behaviors, and during specific situations.
Managers need be thorough when screening new candidates for employment. So, be alert for workplace violence warning signs that show up during the screening process.
- A history of drug or alcohol abuse
- Past conflicts (especially if violent) with coworkers
- Past convictions for violent crimes.
Notice problematic behavior that could be workplace violence warning signs:
- Increasing belligerence
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
- Recent acquisition or interest in weapons
- Obsession with a manager or coworker over a grievance
- Preoccupation with violent themes
- Interest in recently publicized violent events
- Outbursts of anger
- Extreme disorganization
- Noticeable changes in behavior
- Homicidal/suicidal comments.
Workplace violence warning signs could be situational. Specifically, events that heighten stress levels can bring a festering problem to a head. Some examples include:
- Understaffing that leads to job overload or mandatory overtime
- Frustrations from poorly defined goals, tasks, or responsibilities
- Downsizing and reorganizing
- Labor disputes and poor labor-management relations
- Poor management style (arbitrary, mercurial, dictatorial, ambiguous, reprimands in front of other employees)
- Inadequate or poorly trained / motivated security
- Employee counselling unavailable
- High injury rates
- Frequent grievances.
Being aware of the factors that can be workplace violence warning signs can help you to get ahead of a problem before someone is hurt.