Violence in the workplace

Certificate IV in Occupational Health and SafetyWorkplace violence is more common than you would think. It happens every day and to be able to prevent violence in the workplace – you must first be able to identify the reasons or motivations for violence. Each incident must be looked over and analysed so that if it occurs again in the future – you and your team are prepared.

Workplaces that deal directly or indirectly with customers are more at risk of violence in the workplace. This includes: taxi drivers, pharmacies, video rental outlets, telemarketers, banks, customer service and super markets. Violence in the workplace may not only be physical but also verbal and/or emotional; this is especially applicable to employers who deal with customers over the phone.

So what are the reasons as to why customers are motivated to be violent towards employees? This is as understanding their motivations can defuse the situation or minimise the impact.

  • Violence motivated by gain: Criminals are motivated by gain of money, possessions, drugs or goods of value. For example, a bank is at risk of violence within the workplace as criminals are motivated by the desire for money.

  • Violence motivated by dissatisfaction: A common cause of violence within the workplace is when a customer is dissatisfied with the level of service that they have received. They therefore become agitated and violent, either physically or verbally, towards the staff member who is dealing with them.

  • Opportunistic violence: This is when a customer or criminal is simply motivated by opportunity. This may be in relation to intolerance or discrimination towards the person serving them. There is no reason other than opportunity to be little for someone when the opportunity arises; this is as they get a thrill out of the experience.

  • Violence by a disturbed person: A disturbed person may not have the intent to be violent; however if they are impaired by drugs or alcohol, the situation may become violent as these two are stimulants which can make a person violent.

Violence within the workplace can be common within customer-orientated jobs, and in this situation workplaces should take the appropriate steps to ensure that the risk of violence, whether it is physical, verbal and or emotional, be minimised and managed. Employees should be trained to be able to deal with violent situations and be able to defuse a customer if agitated. If the situation escalates, a manager and/or supervisor should be advised and also asked to be involved. Training employees is the key and their understanding the reasons why people are motivated to be violent is imperative to minimise violence within the workplace