A recent search of the term, workplace violence, using Lexis/Nexis, a legal and professional information service, indicates no significant articles were published on this topic before 1980.
Can This Be True? Is Workplace Violence Something New?
With workplace violence and, worse, workplace shootings happening just about every other day in the U.S., is this telling us that this was not an issue just 40 years ago? While we at TAL Global are sure there were incidents of workplace violence going back decades, they were either not categorized as workplace violence, were not reported for one reason or another, or if they were reported, did not get that much public attention.
Further, employers often tried to muzzle reports of workplace violence. Such incidents were referred to as “getting hurt on the job”—the seriousness of the incidents kept under lock-and-key.
Nevertheless, it appears Lexis/Nexis may be correct. It was not until the early 1980s that the FBI created and classified this crime category. The FBI began defining workplace violence as “violent acts by a disgruntled employee against coworkers or bosses.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) goes a few steps further. They define workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.”
Soon, OSHA and various state-level programs started tracking workplace violence. Up until then, there were no mechanisms in place to record these incidents. Once again, this is hard to believe when you consider how frequently they occur today.
Early Incidents of Workplace Violence That Changed Everything
However, back then, they were still rare. But then there were some incidents that changed everything. Workplace violence was literally “shot” into American culture. Here are 3 examples:
- In 1987, a man, recently fired from his job with a major airline, boarded a plane his former boss was on, shot him, and then shot the pilots once the plane had taken off. Forty-three people were killed.
- An employee walked in the side door of a major company in 1988 and shot seven people. He had planned just to shoot one coworker. The others were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- In 1990, a man killed ten people and himself in the offices of a finance company in Jacksonville, FL
These incidents were shocking three and four decades ago. Today, stories like this sound all too familiar.
As to finding ways to mitigate workplace violence, we have discussed some options in our post, How Small Businesses Can Address Workplace Violence, and in one of our #securityinsights: What To Do If a Shooting Incident is Happening Right Now.
The Cost of Workplace Violence
Before we leave this topic, there is one more thing we need to discuss, and that is the cost of workplace violence. There is the personal toll in deaths and injuries, of course. But there are enormous financial impacts as well, running as high as $170 billion annually. In 2015, there was a mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA. That one incident resulted in more than $60 million awarded in lawsuits.
Some of the other financial impacts are less tangible. These include the following:
- The U.S. Department of Labor estimates workplace violence costs companies with 500,000 employees about 1.2 million lost workdays every year.
- After an incident, motivated employees often move on to other jobs. Depending on the position, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates that it can cost as much as $4,000 to hire an employee and about 42 days to fill one position.
- Worker morale and job satisfaction are often damaged.
- Employees question how their employers could have allowed an incident to occur.
- Workers often must seek psychological counseling after an incident. Very often, employers must pay some or all these costs out of pocket.
There is a system to preventing, mitigating, and resolving most threats, including workplace threats. These include early detection, training and reporting policies, along with developing a quick and decisive response. Further, there is no end-game when it comes to workplace violence. Prevention and preparation involves continuously evaluated situations.
Chief Executive Officer