Allison Young, BLine

Our country has seen an increase in violence, across the gamut, from schools to restaurants to, yes, even the workplace. It is a topic companies and employees don’t want to talk about. However, to prevent workplace violence it is absolutely necessary to open up the conversation. Rather than ignore certain behaviors and/or pretending inappropriate/violent comments haven’t been made, companies need to train their employees to pay attention and report them.

Myth: Violence in the workplace is rare.

Reality: Workplace violence accounts for approximately 1,000 homicides annually. However, assault is often more likely to take place than homicide. This includes sexual assault, rape, assault and robbery. Perpetrators are not armed in four out of five violent confrontations in the workplace. In the case of sexual assault, for instance, an employee may be victimized more than once, especially if the offender is a superior. Fear of losing the job or being ridiculed often compels an employee to keep silent.

Myth: Metal detectors and a security guard ensure the prevention of violence in the workplace.

Reality: None of these security measures help to prevent violent acts from internal sources, such as those who have access to a company or organization. This would include those who are known to a company as a former or current employee, acquaintances, friends and family members of former or current employees. Case histories have shown it is easy for these people to gain access to the workplace even with metal detectors and/or a security guard.

Myth: Workplace violence is completely unpredictable.

Reality: Employees at high risk of turning violent can be identified if coworkers and managers take note of observable behavior and assess typical actions and statements of their fellow workers. Just by paying attention to someone making veiled or outright threats, the possibility of impending violence can be determined. This behavior can then be addressed before it escalates into violent actions.

All employees should receive training to identify behavior that has shown to be a forerunner of violence. When an employee has been assessed as a high-risk individual, an intervention plan should be in place and enacted quickly to prevent a disaster. This system should be in place as a policy throughout the entire company. Adopting a new way of thinking takes time and repeated training. Along with continuing to train current employees, new employees will need to be trained as well.

Continued training could also avert possible lawsuits down the road. By continuing to train employees, companies will save money in the long run. And most importantly companies making this topic a priority can help reduce the likelihood of workplace violence.