Although we have addressed this subject in an earlier article, Violence in the Workplace, it is such an important issue, that we want to talk about it at a different angle. Both articles contain information that may be helpful, should you find yourself in such a situation. According to OSHA, violence in the workplace is the fourth leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States, posing a very serious safety and health issue.
It is critical that employers have a comprehensive workplace violence policy in place. Hazard assessments must be done, as well as identifying risk factors. The training program should include every employee, being sure they understand how important it is to report any incidents that could possibly cause a reaction resulting in harm to other employees. Disruptive behavior should not be tolerated. Yelling, profanity, waving arms and fists, verbally abusing and refusing reasonable requests from the supervisor to cease such acts are signs of being disruptive. Threatening physical actions, short of actual contact, such as moving closer to the person, oral or written threats or comments like “you’ll be sorry”, should not be tolerated. Violent behavior is when a person physically assaults another person, with or without weapons. People prone to violence throw things, pound on desks, doors, destroy property, and may threaten to shoot or harm others. (Sure hope you don’t know anyone who acts this way!)
Managers and staff must set and enforce standards of conduct and be there to help with calming situations down if at all possible. Suggestions are to talk to the person, but not isolate oneself. Using a calm approach may be helpful. Never touch the person, as that could trigger a violent reaction. Have a signal set up to let other coworkers to know that you need help (so they can call 9-1-1.) Waving or getting the offenders’ attention may set him off. If you feel that your intervention is not helping, leave the room, and call the police, if it hasn’t already been done. Get yourself and others to safety. Leave an open line for the police if possible, so they are better informed of the confrontation.
Once a situation is defused, hopefully without violence, those who served as witnesses, potential victims, and the families and friends of all involved will have a certain amount of trauma to deal with. The company should have counseling and interventions for all to be able to participate.
Hopefully, you will never have to deal with anything like this where you work. If you witness anything that you suspect could escalate to any type of disruptive behavior, tell your supervisor. Many times there are warning signs that we see as not serious; however, the well-being of all your coworkers may be at risk. A better way of resolving conflict among workers could be served by managers and staff who are willing to have open communication with all employees at all times.