Workplace violence is a complex issue, and multiple factors can interact to contribute to its occurrence. Societal issues and Work Environment Adjustments, as well as increasing mental health issues since the pandemic are all drivers for an increase in violence and aggression at work.
Underlying causes that may contribute to workplace violence and aggression:
- Stress and job insecurity: High levels of stress and uncertainty about job security can lead to frustration and anger, increasing the likelihood of aggressive behaviour.
- Workplace culture: An unhealthy work environment, where bullying or harassment is tolerated, can foster a culture of aggression.
- Poor communication: Ineffective communication between employees and management can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and aggressive responses. Communication can be a bigger challenge now that remote and hybrid working is commonplace.
- Lack of conflict resolution mechanisms: When conflicts arise, a lack of proper mechanisms to address and resolve them can escalate tensions and lead to violence.
- Mental health issues: Untreated mental health conditions can contribute to aggressive behaviour in the workplace.
- Workload and pressure: Modern workplaces often demand long hours and can blur the boundaries between work and personal life. This lack of balance can lead to increased frustration and emotional instability, contributing to aggressive behaviour. The “Lockdown Burnout” suffered by many during the pandemic could contribute to aggressive behaviour.
Managing the risks associated with violence and aggression in the workplace
Managing the risks associated with violence and aggression in the workplace is crucial to creating a safe and productive work environment for employees.
Practical guidance to help mitigate these risks:
- Implement a Comprehensive Policy: Develop a clear and well-communicated policy that explicitly states the company’s zero-tolerance stance towards violence and aggression in the workplace. The policy should outline the consequences of such behaviour, as well as the support available for those who report incidents.
- Risk Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify potential sources of violence and aggression in the workplace. This may include assessing the nature of the work, customer interactions, the physical layout of the workplace, and any previous incidents. Risk Assessments should be regularly reviewed to respond to changing risks.
- Training and Awareness: Conduct regular training sessions for all employees, including managers and supervisors, to raise awareness about workplace violence and aggression. Employees should be trained on how to recognise warning signs, how to respond to incidents, and how to de-escalate potential confrontations.
- Encourage Open Communication: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting any concerns related to workplace violence or aggression. Establish multiple reporting channels, including anonymous reporting options, to encourage openness without fear of retaliation.
- Thorough Background Checks: Conduct thorough background checks and reference checks for potential new hires, especially for roles that may involve heightened emotions or stress.
- Physical Security Measures: Implement security measures, such as access control systems and CCTV to help deter potential incidents
- Workplace Design and Layout: Consider the layout and design of the workplace to reduce potential areas of conflict or confrontation. Ensure that there are clear paths for movement and that areas with high customer or public interaction are appropriately managed.
- Provide Support for Employees: Offer support services, such as counselling or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), to help employees cope with stress, anger, or other emotions that may contribute to aggressive behaviour.
- Encourage Healthy Work-Life Balance: Support work-life balance initiatives to help reduce stress levels among employees, which can contribute to a calmer and more harmonious work environment.
- Conflict Resolution and Mediation: Train managers and supervisors in conflict resolution and mediation techniques to address and resolve disputes before they escalate into violence.
Managing the risks associated with violence and aggression requires a proactive and ongoing effort. By fostering a culture of respect, communication, and support, employers can significantly reduce the likelihood of violent incidents in the workplace and promote a safe and healthy environment for everyone.
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