Workplace Violence During the Holiday Season
The holidays can be a time of increased stress, anxiety, and depression. People worry about their families, how they can afford extra holiday expenses, how they can fit extra holiday events into their schedule; they stress about travel, the loss of loved ones, making it through their first holiday as a divorcee.
Unfortunately, many people do not leave personal matters behind when they enter the workplace each day, thus bringing their stress, anxiety, and depression into the workplace with them.
While the potential for workplace violence may be higher during stressful times like the holidays, the preparation for and policies against it are no different than at other times of the year. The same principles apply, you may just need to apply them more diligently and be more vigilant about workplace violence during the holiday season.
While it may be easier to get your managers and employees to think about workplace violence after an incident has occurred, it is more logical and time/cost effective to plan ahead, assess your risks, and put a risk management plan in to place. Something that you can do today to get started on addressing the issue of workplace violence is to understand some of the problem situations and risk factors that lead to workplace violence.
While fatal violence is the most tragic type of workplace violence, there are many other forms of violence, and most instances of workplace violence begin with erratic behavior by the perpetrator. Although there is no profile or litmus test that exists to demonstrate whether an employee might become violent, there are some problem situations that may give rise to violence – personality conflicts between coworkers; mishandled termination or disciplinary action; weapons at the worksite; or drug or alcohol abuse at the worksite. Other risk factors are personal but spill over into the workplace – the breakup of a marriage or romantic relationship; family conflict; financial or legal problems; or emotional problems.
It is well documented that individuals rarely snap and engage in workplace violence without first exhibiting behaviors of concern. Knowing and reporting these behaviors of concern is just as important as understanding the problem situations and risk factors that often precede behaviors of concern. Such behaviors of concern could include depression, threats, menacing behavior, erratic behavior, aggressive outburst, offensive conversation, jokes referring to violence, increasing tardiness, increasing absenteeism, worsening relationships with coworkers, decreased productivity, homicidal comments, increasing belligerence, hypersensitivity to criticism, and verbal abuse. Of course any of these behaviors alone is not necessarily more suggestive of potential workplace violence, but many of these behaviors taken together should raise warning flags.
Best practices for preventing workplace violence include:
- Watch for changes of behavior such as those described above
- Watch for strangers (non-employees) in and around company facilities, as it may indicate a desire to confront an employee
- Watch for rapid mood swings in employees
- Have counseling and stress reduction programs available to employees if possible
- Review your emergency plan
- Review your workplace violence policy with employees
- Have a way for employees to voice concerns (anonymous or not)
- Do not forget about your clients and customers – they may bring their own set of stress and anxiety into your workplace
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