When it comes to workplace violence, statistics can be confusing. Here’s an example:
About 43% of surveyed corporate executives believe that workplace violence is not an issue that needs to be addressed. Even more so, about 67% of the surveyed executives do not believe that workplace violence will create a negative impact on their budget.
Yet, we know that workplace violence accounts for 17.8% of all simple assaults, and 12.9% of all aggravated assaults. We also know that the cost of workplace violence to American businesses ranges from $6 billion to $36 billion each year (FBI, 2011), and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15,980 workers in the private industry experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence in 2014. These incidents represent a significant number of lost workdays.
So, what does the future hold for those impacted by workplace violence and those dedicated to find ways to mitigate its destructive impact on people and organizations?
Here are a few developments and trends in workplace violence:
- Active Shooter Incidents: Almost half of the active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013 took place in businesses, either open or closed to pedestrian traffic. Active shooter and other targeted workplace violence acts are likely to increase over the coming year as they have in the past decade. There is an urgent need to develop tools to supplement the “run, hide, fight” model. One direction should be away from “primal”, amygdala-controlled behavior towards more critically generated steps designed to outsmart, destabilize, and eventually neutralize the shooter.
- Workplace Violence Requires Multi-Tier Defenses: It is clear to all that dealing with a workplace violence situation only after it occurs is not a complete or even desired solution. Both employers and employees should participate in developing, deploying and maintaining a workplace violence prevention plan. Such a plan should include multi-tier defensive lines that create opportunities for detection and defense against workplace violence incidents- before they escalate and hopefully far away from the workplace and from danger to employees. Multi-tier defensive lines ideally are comprised of multi-source intelligence, a variety of technologies (both passive and active), and additional response modalities designed to help isolate and neutralize attackers on business premises until the proper law enforcement agency arrives on the scene. Workplace human intelligence (HUMINT) must be a part of this effort also.
- Radicalization in the workplace: With the obvious advantages of diversification in workplaces comes a concern for the possibility that workers may undergo radicalization and choose to turn their ire on their workplace. While not a common concern with most employers, there is an increasing possibility of encountering radicalized employees. To that end, and as part of a multi-tier defense structure, workers and supervisors should be alert to signs of radicalization and have the knowledge and training to respond to such situations before they erupt in violence. Some of the signs of radicalization include clear indications of crisis: difficulty concentrating; frequent absenteeism; signs of heavy focus on religious ideological issues; increasing self-isolation, and exclusion by outside parties; increased use of radical narratives, including those singling out specific groups, minorities, and religions; increased viewing of radical websites on and off the job; and inciting and justifying acts of violence against specific groups. An adjacent but not identical concern is that of handling evolving mental health issues at the workplace. Similar to the need for fostering a robust “See Something, Say Something” culture to learn more about radicalization threats, the same tool can serve in early detection of workers’ mental health issues. In both cases, expert guidance is highly recommended for operational and legal reasons.
- Cyber Bullying: Considering the combination of steadily increasing use of social media platforms and growing polarization in society in general, it is reasonable to assume that incidents of cyber bullying will increase as well in the coming future. Management and employees should be made aware of the organization’s policy with respect to cyber bullying. Mechanisms for detecting, reporting and handling such situations should be established and made available to employees, and their utility and need refreshed periodically to prevent “numbness”. Professional and technological resources should be made available to management and employees to help monitor, detect and deal with evolving cyber bullying events – before they erupt or cause damage. It is important to note that in many cases, cyber bullying accompanies “regular” (physical and psychological) bullying, and that both phenomena should be dealt with as one.
The key strategies for dealing with workplace violence should be prevention and preemption – as early as possible, and as far away from the workplace as possible. New tools and technologies are becoming available to enable successful deployment of robust workplace violence mitigation plans. Organizations should be made aware of both the challenges and the solutions, before something bad happens.