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The problem of workplace violence is huge and the circumstances surrounding it are diverse, making it difficult to fully comprehend. To make it easier, we divide the problem of workplace violence into smaller categories. Specifically, we classify it by the type of relationship between the victim and the offender.
Using this classification, there are four types of workplace violence:
Violence by strangers is the most frequent type of workplace violence. Between 1993 and 1999, in more than half of all workplace victimizations, the perpetrator was a stranger. For workplace homicide, the percentage of violence by strangers was even higher.
Violence by strangers accounted for:
56% of non-fatal workplace victimizations
84% of workplace homicides
In contrast, outside of work, people are far more likely to be victimized by people they know than by strangers. For example, in all locations (including but not limited to work) only 14% of homicides between 1976 and 1999 were committed by strangers.
Even though violence by personal relations accounts for a relatively small percentage of workplace violence, it is still devastating to the victim and disruptive to the workplace. Also, there is considerable risk that the perpetrator may assault other people attempting to protect the intended victim or who simply happen to be nearby.
Although any type of work that involves contact with people in the broad category of customers, clients, patients, etc. involves a certain degree of risk of this type of violence, higher risk is associated with contact that is:
Frequent (as opposed to rare)
Face-to-face (as opposed to telephone or mail contact)
Instead of the risk of offenders coming into the workplace, these factors revolve around the risks associated with the worker going out. Mobility increases the potential for unpredictability and isolation.
Mobility increases the risk of violence by strangers and violence by customers or clients. In these cases, the risk may be compounded because the victim may be going into an unfamiliar setting, but one that the offender knows well.
The basic principle behind these factors is simple: people are more likely to do something wrong if they are less likely to be caught. Similarly, they are more likely to pick an easy target than a difficult one.
These factors apply in cases of stranger violence such as robbery or rape, but also in customer or co-worker violence such as intimidation or attack.
Because robbery is the motive in a high percentage of workplace violence, having access to something worth stealing substantially increases the risk of workplace violence motivated by robbery.
Violence from strangers would be the most frequent concern associated with these factors, but co-workers or former co-workers, as well as customers or patients, may also be involved in robbery of money, property, or medication.
Warning signs are clues that may indicate situations in the workplace and personal factors that may precede, predict, or contribute to the cause of a violent outburst. Nevertheless, warning signs only indicate potential and not certainty. Even though someone exhibits some warning signs, they may never act out violently. In contrast, an individual may act violently without any detectable warning signs.
Although it's possible for violence to erupt without warning, a physical assault is often preceded by other aggressive behavior. This behavior can be verbal or physical behavior that does not qualify as an assault. For example;
Even with the best workplace violence prevention program, it is impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of workplace violence. Violent incidents can occur anywhere. As a result, employers need to be prepared to respond after a violent incident.
To prevent serious conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and to help the workplace return to normal, workplace violence programs should provide treatment and assistance after a violent incident.
All workplace violence programs should provide treatment for:
Employees who may be traumatized by witnessing a workplace violence incident
After a violent incident, the circumstances surrounding the incident should be studied and the workplace violence prevention plan should be evaluated. If it is determined that the incident might happen again or could have been prevented, the workplace violence prevention program should be revised.