Violence in the Workplace

People are always looking for ways to decrease violence in the workplace.  Another way to think about that is how can we make our workplaces safer?  Rather than providing a ‘magical’ list of secrets that usually requires rubbing a magic lantern, in this blog let’s look at a basic, common sense way to decrease violence and increase safety.  

Why do people get violent at work?  There can be any number of reasons, possible causes, external factors that may set a person off.  It is possible that for some people some outside event, what we refer to as a setting event, occurs.  For others, there may be some sort of triggering event.  This could be a smell, word, or action, for example, that triggers an underlying fear response and they escalate.  We could list any number of possible triggers for people.  The thing to think about, however, is no matter what may be happening to a person, if a person is in a situation or around people where they do not feel safe, they will escalate and potentially become violent.  

In The Mandt System we have a saying “In this place and with these people, I feel safe.”  If a person feels safe either because of the people around them or the setting they find themself in, they are much less likely to escalate and potentially become violent.  So, to put two and two together, if we create workplaces where people feel safe, workplace violence should naturally decrease.  Think about all of the people your organization works with.  What can be done to help them feel safe?  Also think about all of the staff with whom you work, what can be done to help them feel safe?  

When it comes to feeling safe, here are a few things to consider.  People feel safer and in some control when they know what to expect.  Do both staff and the people with whom they work know what is happening?  What can we do to help both groups have an understanding of our routines and policies, for example, to help them feel safe?  People feel safer when they have a positive, healthy relationship with the people around them.  What are we doing to nurture these relationships?  If a staff member does not like their supervisor, what will happen to their behavior and work ethic?  Then, what ripple effect will that have on other staff and the people with whom they work?  If management or administration does not treat staff with dignity and respect, those staff will not feel safe.    

So, when people feel safe, physically, psychologically, and emotionally with both where they are and who is around them, they are less likely to escalate and become violent.  So, as feelings of safety go up chances of violence go down.  When people do not feel safe, chances of violence go up.  While it is not a simple, linear relationship, we all need to work to help those around us feel safe.  Everyone can take steps to help increase their safety and decrease their chances of experiencing violence in the workplace.  

Dr Dale Shannon – Director of Instructional Design

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