A single workplace violence incident can have a devastating impact on the victim(s) as well as his or her employer. The side effects can linger long after the incident, and can have a wide-ranging impact on the employer and its bottom line.
Therefore, it is critical that employers take steps to help prevent the occurrence of workplace violence, and to be prepared should an incident occur.
The Costs of Workplace Violence
According to the findings from the recently released SHRM Survey Findings: Workplace Violence, the primary direct costs to organizations associated with an incident of workplace violence include:
- Management opportunity costs (55%)
- General productivity loss (37%)
- Replacement costs from worker turnover (34%).
In addition, the negative effects and indirect costs of workplace violence on employees in an organization include:
- Decreased morale (29%)
- Perceived decrease in safety (28%)
- Less trust in coworkers (28%)
- Increased levels of stress and depression among workers (24%)
Given the broad impact a single workplace violence incident can have, employers should consider these three best practices when reviewing or developing a workplace violence prevention program.
1. Conduct Thorough Background Checks
An employer’s first line of defense against hiring individuals who may present a risk of engaging in workplace violence is to conduct background screening.
If an individual has a history of violence or abuse, they may go to great lengths to hide that history from a future employer. Ex-offenders may not disclose it during the interview process, or may use false identifying information such as an incorrect social security number, name or home address to escape detection.
In order to reduce the risk of workplace violence, employers should consider partnering with a background screening provider to help develop and implement a thorough background screening program that can help identify employees that best fit your hiring requirements.
Recommended background checks include criminal record, sex offender registry, employment eligibility verification, professional reference checks and Social Security checks. Such searches can help reveal any false identifying information or negative past behaviors that would increase an individual’s risk of committing violent acts.
2. Establish Reporting Protocol
To ensure that any threats or violent acts are dealt with in a timely and effective manner, employers should consider identifying multiple channels through which concerns can be reported, including a hotline and dedicated HR appointee. The SHRM Workplace Violence Study found that 78 percent of organizations with more than 2,500 workers leverage a dedicated hotline.
Regardless of the reporting methods chosen, if employees are aware of reporting channels or protocols, they are more likely to report potential concerns. This reduces the risk of a violent offender remaining at large to commit further abuses. Having a reporting protocol in place, also provides a source of empowerment and guidance to victims, who might otherwise be hesitant to take action due to stress and intimidation.
3. Implement A Violence Response Policy
One of the leading costs of workplace violence is the time spent by management in responding to the incident. To reduce this and other costs and negative effects, employers should consider crafting a workplace violence response policy.
The policy should outline which parties are to be included in evaluating and responding to incidents. If, like nearly half of the respondents polled by SHRM, your organization chooses to implement a zero tolerance rule, this can be outlined in the policy. Other possible disciplinary measures such as a formal warning, demotion, or suspension could also be included in the policy which should be visible or distributed to employees.
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