Workplace violence is a major threat to American companies, and costs billions of dollars each year is lost wages, health care, and legal fees. In light of current trends towards company downsizing and higher levels of job stress, these acts of violence are on the rise, and affect every employee and the entire community, as well. Since violence can come from any number of sources, including threats, actual physical violence, some sexual harassment, and even intimidation, it can be difficult to discern actual violence from harmless venting (Ginn, et al., 2002). Further, these traumas can strike without warning, which overwhelms the workers, families, and communities that are involved (Miller, 2002). This project was designed to discover reasons for workplace violence, and to discover reasons to employee anxiety about this violence, by utilizing survey data. This, in turn, will provide information about the types of education needed to combat workplace violence by management, as well as by employees.
I. DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEM
Have you ever heard someone use the term "going postal? While used loosely in today's society, this concept describes an event no one wants to experience in the workplace. Unfortunately, however, the threat of workplace violence is something that haunts nearly every company, as well as its employees (Antai-Otong, 2001). Since violence can come from any number of sources, including threats, actual physical violence, some sexual harassment, and even intimidation, it can be difficult to discern actual violence from harmless venting (Ginn, et al., 2002). Further, these traumas can strike without warning, which overwhelms the workers, families, and communities that are involved (Miller, 2002). Employers can be even be sued by the families of victims (Perry, 2000), and unless management can train employees on the risks and consequences of workplace violence, the overall impact can be devastating.
Purpose of the Study
The primary purpose of this project was to accentuate the problems with disgruntled employees, and to create awareness about workplace anger. Additionally, the project sought to answer key questions concerning the causes of anxiety towards the threat of violence in the workplace. Further, the project reviewed ways that management and companies can train employees to be aware of possible dangers of fellow workers, and to discover ways to educate problem employees of the consequences and possible punishments involved in acts of violence or threatening behavior towards fellow employees.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), homicide is the second leading cause of death in the workplace. For women, murder is the number one reason for death in the workplace, while for men it is third only to motor vehicle accidents and machine related deaths (Miller, 2002). The NIOSH statistics also show that, on average, 20 workers a week are murdered (Ginn, et al., 2002). Further statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that, in 1995, 1,071 workers were murdered (Antai-Otong, 2001). Most of these murders are committed by firearm (Miller, 2002).
While murder in the workplace is an obvious problem, there are far more violence related workplace issues stemming from sub-lethal attacks, or those attacks that do not result in death. The BLS statistics show that over 18,000 workers are assaulted in some way each week in the United States (Ginn, et al., 2002). These statistics imply that 10 to 100 sub-lethal attacks are committed for every murder occurring at work (Miller, 2000). Overall, an estimated 2 million people are assaulted each year, and 6.3 million are threatened, many of which occur in hospital and health care settings (Antai-Otong, 2001).
In addition to the loss of life and health caused by workplace violence, there are added costs that are less visible. For example, lost work time and medical benefits can cost the American business community in excess of $1,000,000,000 annually. Further loss can be seen in employee retention issues, retraining, decreased productivity, lost business, and higher costs of security (Miller, 2000).
The largest monetary cost of workplace violence, however, is in the costs of legal expenses. Over $3,000,000,000 annually is spent on legal defense in cases against employers for failure to protect against violence in the workplace, according to some estimates (Miller, 2000). Lawsuits can be filed in these cases on a number of charges, including negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent employee retention programs (Perry, 2000). In many of these cases, the court system is beginning to create precedence that the employer is at fault for any event in which one employee harms another while within the work setting (Perry, 2000).
As early as 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recognized this responsibility of the employer. The OSHA Act of 1970 clearly stated that the employers were responsible for providing a safe and healthy working environment for its employees (Ginn, et al., 2002). By 1989, OSHA regulations included a number of methods to counter workplace violence. In 1998, these OSHA regulations were expanded to create guidelines for training and educating staff concerning the hazards of workplace violence. Further, these guidelines included recommendations for recordkeeping and evaluation of these violence protection-training programs (Ginn, et al., 2002).
Within these guidelines set forth by OSHA were a number of ways to identify stress in the workplace, since stress is one of the primary causes of workplace violence. Signs of stress can include elevated absenteeism, increased time off for vacation, irritability, negativity, confusion, and mistakes from employees who usually do their tasks well (Perry, 1999).
Both OSHA and the NIOSH promote a "public health" approach to workplace violence. The idea behind this approach is that the prevention and cure of violence in the workplace should be treated, as would be any other disease or health and safety concern (Ginn, et al., 2002). This approach lends to the concept that management techniques to educate themselves and employees on workplace violence is a vital part of preventing the issue. In addition, the approach suggests that by incurring the added costs of education on violence, security in hiring procedures, the implementation of new policies, and other techniques, management can effectively reduce the overall costs of workplace violence, both in terms of the monetary expenditure, as well as the stress and lost lives that can occur in events of workplace violence.
Statement of the Problem
As workplace violence continues to grow in today's society, it is becoming more important both to educate employees about the threat of the problem, and to educate managers on ways to combat the problem, when it appears, and to avoid the problem through implemented protection procedures. Emphasis must be placed on techniques to ensure employee safety, and compliance with employer policies, as well as on employee discipline and consequences of violence against others. Additionally, emphasis must be placed on examining what causes employee anxiety about workplace violence.
The research problems in this project are: (1) What are the causes of anxiety about workplace violence among employees? And (2) What ways exist to educate employees on workplace violence issues?
The investigator had formulated the following questions as guides for research:
Question 1: What causes workplace violence?
Question 2: What are signals of workplace stress?
Question 3: What guidelines are in place for education on workplace violence?
Question 4: What are the available options for education on workplace violence?
Scope of the Problem
Workplace violence is a major threat to American companies. In light of current trends towards company downsizing and higher levels of job stress, these acts of violence affect every employee and the entire community, as well. The scope of this project is to educate management in the recognition of warning signs that are often over looked when an employee shows indication that he or she is under stress.
Importance of the Project
The project has great importance, in that the information gathered can be used to save the lives of human beings by minimizing the threat of violence in the workplace. Additionally, the project has the potential to educate employers on issues regarding workplace violence, and ways to prevent and cure the issue. Furthermore, the information gathered can educate co-workers about what actions constitute violence in the workplace, and can educate those who are already victims. This awareness would give employers the ability to offer help to the individual when they request it, and allow the employee to gather information needed to show they are victims. Employee assistance programs can be put into place with the support of company backing to alleviate issues causing workplace violence, as well.
II. METHODS OF RESEARCH
Workplace violence is an issue in nearly every workplace, and education about workplace violence needs to be distributed. In order to distribute the proper materials, we need to first establish what causes the highest levels of anxiety about workplace violence. The purpose of this project is to determine these causes, and evaluate possible educational methods that would address these concerns.
To determine the cause of anxiety and perceptions over workplace violence, it was determined that a survey design method would be…