Possible Solutions to the Impact of Violence/Abuse in a Group home Setting (Workplace)
Violence is a major workplace hazard. It could lead to physical and psychological harm
even permanent disability and death. Violence occur due to forces operating outside or inside the workplace such as from the public, customers, clients, patients or students, or from supervisors, managers or other workers.
Employers need to take steps to protect workers and other people in workplaces from violent incidents that may erupt. This document describes the steps that could be taken to develop a system that includes:
1) First Phase : Preventive Measures (Before)
2) Second Phase : Immediate Response (During)
3) Third Phase : Recovery and Review (After)
Possible Solutions to the Impact Of Violence/Abuse in a Group home Setting (Workplace)
Introduction and Definition of workplace violence
It has been alleged that work place violence is a serious problem across the Nation. I personally have researched workplace violence and how it can be handled at my job. I decided to gather necessary information of how this workplace violence is managed at my job side and to propose some solutions that might help solve the problem within the demand of the state and Federal Laws governing this act.
Violence according to Threat Assessment and Management Association INC (TAMA inc) means the attempted, threatened, or actual conduct of a person that cause or is likely to cause physical injury. Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide. “Workplace violence” maybe defined narrowly or broadly. A narrow definition includes any bodily injury inflicted by one person on another, and broad definition includes threats and harassment. Some would include in the definition any language or actions that make an employee uncomfortable. Thus, the spectrum of workplace violence ranges from offensive language to homicide. NIOSH defines workplace violence as “violent acts,” including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward persons at work or on duty” (NIOSH, 1996). Group homes (which are where I work) are under health management and the same OSHA regulations’ apply to them. “Health management is concerned with both the employee’s health and its effect on productivity management. Worker productivity can be used as a measure of the success of health promotion, thus transforming wellness from a health issue to a business issue” (Prince, 1999). The NIOSH and OSHA approach to workplace violence illustrates a public health approach to a workplace health issue. The OSHA approach is typical in that it emphasizes keeping records of workplace violence incidents, the causes, and any corrective actions. Unfortunately, many organizations may not take the need for programs to prevent workplace violence seriously. Meyer and Rowan (1977) describe the “institutionalization perspective,” in which organizations adopt practices that are institutionalized by society, regardless of their immediate efficacy. In short, they adopt programs as a form of lip service to social values. (Ginns, 2002)
A. Laws that Governs Workplace violence
Workplace violence should not be taken lightly because these violent acts or threats which occur in or are related to the workplace entail a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm to individuals, or damage to government resources or capabilities. The government regards workplace violence as a serious offence and has laws that govern this act. According to the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) section 5(a) (1) act; the Employer is responsible to provide a safety environment of work for his employees. The act states; “each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” In a workplace where the risk of violence and serious personal injury are significant enough to be “recognized hazards,” the general duty clause would require the employer to take feasible steps to minimize those risks. Failure of an employer to implement feasible means of abatement of these hazards could result in the finding of an OSH Act violation. Based on this act published by OSHA to protect employees from workplace violence, I think with the alarming workplace violence issues, the employers should develop new strategies and enforce stronger rules to reduce this brutal act. “Workplace violence has received increasing attention over the last three decades. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, 1998), the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 declared that employers had a general duty to provide safe and healthy working conditions, and OSHA was charged with drafting and recommending occupational safety and health standards (NIOSH, 1996).
In 1989, OSHA (1998) published voluntary, generic safety and health program management guidelines for all employers to use as a foundation for their safety and health programs, which can include those for workplace violence prevention. In 1998, OSHA built on these guidelines by identifying common risk factors for workplace violence and describing some feasible solutions for preventing it.
The new OSHA (1998) guidelines include policy recommendations and practical corrective methods to help prevent and mitigate the effects of workplace violence. The guidelines call for training and educating all staff concerning potential security hazards and protection from those hazards by establishing policies and procedures. The guidelines also call for recordkeeping and evaluation of the violence prevention program to determine overall effectiveness and identify any deficiencies or needed changes.”(Ginn, 2002).
“Workplace violence poses several kinds of legal problems for employers, because OSHA guidelines charge on employers with providing a safe workplace. Incidents of workplace violence expose the employer to claims of negligence. If the perpetrator of the violence is an employee, the employer may be subject to claims of negligence in hiring and retention” (Fenton, Kelley, Ruud, ; Bulloch, 1997). On the other hand, “suspension or dismissal of employees who are merely thought to be potentially violent can expose the employer to claims of discrimination” (Dolan, 2000). In short, costs that may arise from legal liability may add to the overall cost of workplace violence. (Ginns, 2002)
According to Errol Chenier in his article; the workplace: a battleground for violence, he proposed some ideals on how Employees could improve upon the devastating situation of workplace violence. His article reads; “The workplace has become a battleground for violence in society. With so much violence in newspapers, on television, and in homes, the workplace is not immune to this crisis. Employers will have to plan strategies and implement programs that will protect employees from rising violence on the job. Policies and procedures, crisis management teams, security, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) will have to be in place if incidents should occur Employers will have to modify their hiring practices and transform the workplace into a virtual fortress to protect employees. Security will now play a greater role in crisis management than ever before. Zero-tolerance must be the attitude of employers. Downsizing, firings, drug abuse, stress, reduction in pay while working longer hours and domestic violence are known to attribute to the problem of workplace violence. Murder and physical assaults to workers occur more frequently in the areas of health care and social services than in any other occupation”
“OSHA provides what could be termed a public health approach to workplace violence. An effective workplace violence prevention program should have six key elements: 1) management commitment and employee involvement; 2) hazard assessment; 3) hazard prevention and control; 4) safety and health training; 5) post-incident response; and 6) program evaluation” (Awadalla ; Roughton, 1998).
B. The Causes of Workplace Violence
There are many causes of Workplace violence including economic, societal, psychological, and organizations issues. “Workplace violence can be classified in three categories. The first is committed by strangers; the second is committed by a customer, client, or consumer of the employer’s products or services; and the third is violence by a current or former employee or their acquaintance. In the U.S., the overwhelming majority of workplace homicides fall into the first category. Typically, the perpetrator is a stranger, usually an armed robber, who kills a convenience store cashier. Personal acquaintances–husbands, former husbands, boyfriends, former boyfriends, and other relatives–account for only 4% of workplace homicides. Co-workers and former co-workers accounted for only 5% of workplace homicides, but media coverage of employees who have gone berserk gives the public a distorted impression.” (Dolan, 2000).
1. Psychological and Physiological causes of Workplace Violence
According to Michael D. Kelleher, in his book New Arenas for Violence: Homicide in the American Workplace explains that, To work at a meaningful occupation is crucial to the well-being of the individual and, consequently, society. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, identified two primary human needs: the need for love and the need for work. Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, ranked self-esteem through work as high in the hierarchy of human needs. Alfred Adler, founder of the school of individual psychology, defined work as one of the three crucial components of a successful life, the other two being love and friends. Work is an activity that defines an individual’s role in society. It is the vehicle by which societal contributions are typically judged. Work is the foundation of self-esteem for many American citizens. It also represents reward, both monetary and non-monetary, as well as an opportunity to learn and grow. He went further exposing that, In the same way that work is crucial to the sense of happiness and wellbeing for an individual, it is vital to society as a whole. Employment provides for a united and economically healthy nation that is able to progress and improve living conditions for all citizens. In the same way that an individual gauges his or her well-being by a sense of success in the workplace, so also is there a national wellness that arises, in good measure, from the quality of work. (Michael, 1996).
When an individual’s ability to work is disrupted or denied, there may be dire and violent consequences. The purposeful activity of work is so fundamental to personal health that many individuals are not able to cope with its absence for any significant period of time. In this same sense, a nation cannot survive without a strong, productive, and healthy workforce. When situations arise that threaten the ability to work, on either an individual or societal basis, a danger to the nation’s well-being ensues. Such situations set the stage for violence and upheaval. (Michael, 1996) The National Safe Workplace Institute’s analysis also blame the pervasive glamorization of violence by mass media; the universal availability of relatively inexpensive weapons; and the impact on the average worker of sweeping economic changes over the past decade. Nearly 10 million American workers have been laid off in the period from 1987-1992 (Johnson,1994)
Bullying is another serious cause of work place violence. This issue of workplace violence is revealed by Cary L. Cooper in his book Bullying and Emotional Abuse in the Workplace. He lamented that The causes of bullying at work have been a ‘hot issue’ of debate in both the popular press and in the scientific community. While some argue that individual antecedents such as the personality of bullies and victims, indeed may be involved as causes of bullying (e.g. Coyne et al., 2000), others have disregarded totally the role of individual characteristics. Heinz Leymann (1993, 1996), one of the founders of bullying research, categorically claimed that organizational factors relating to the organization of work and the quality of leadership behavior were the main causes of bullying. He rejected the idea that the personal characteristics of the victim are capable of playing any part in the development of bullying at work. This standpoint is also strongly advocated by some victims of bullying and their organizational networks. Other victims and their spokespersons have claimed that bullying is mainly caused by the psychopathic personality of the bully (e.g. Field, 1996).
On no account do we deny that organizational issues have to be considered in the discussion of bullying causes. However, our own standpoint is that no comprehensive model of workplace bullying would be satisfactory without also including personality and individual factors of both perpetrators and victims, and their contributing effects to the onset, escalation and consequences of the bullying process (Einarsen 2000; Hoel et al., 1999; Zapf, 1999b). Research on bullying among children (e.g. Olweus, 1993) has shown that both victims and bullies portray personality characteristics that may contribute to their involvement in such situations. While in this line of research victims have been described as being cautious, sensitive, quiet, anxious and insecure, bullies have been described as self-confident, impulsive and generally aggressive. Similarly, studies of bullying at work indicate that personality characteristics of victims, such as neuroticism, do seem to be related to exposure to bullying (Mikkelsen and Einarsen, 2002; Zapf, 1999a). In addition, psychological literature presents a wide range of concepts relating to the personality of bullies, such as ‘the abrasive personality’, ‘the authoritarian personality’ and ‘the petty tyrant’ (see also Ashforth, 1994).
However, one has to tread carefully with respect to these issues, as one might easily be accused of ‘blaming the victim’ on the one hand, and ‘witch-hunting’ on the other. Yet, against the background of communication theory (Watzlawik et al., 1969) and the psychology of interpersonal conflict (Thomas, 1992; van de Vliert, 1998), any one-sided and monocausal explanations are highly unlikely. Rather, one may have to take a broad range of potential causes of bullying into account, which may lie within the organization, the perpetrator (the bully), the social psychology of the work group, and also the victim (Einarsen, 1999; Zapf, 1999b).
Furthermore, the personality of the victim may be highly relevant in explaining perceptions of and reactions to workplace bullying, but not necessarily as relevant in explaining the behavior of the bully (Einarsen, 2000). It is also likely that the personalities of perpetrator and victim may be of more relevance in some cases than in others. Empirical evidence (Matthiesen and Einarsen, 2001; Zapf, 1999a, 1999b) indicates that bullying cases differ in the degree to which personality is involved as a potential cause. There is certainly nothing such as a victim personality (e.g. the ‘notorious complainer’) which can explain bullying in general. Rather, specific explanations may be valid for specific subgroups but not for every case of bullying. Moreover, it is likely that several antecedents together contribute to the development of bullying, although one antecedent may sometimes play a dominating role (see also Hoel and Cooper, 2001).
Bearing these precautions in mind, the aim of this Paper is to discuss individual antecedents of workplace violence, bullying being one, and to review the empirical evidence. We will focus on individual antecedents of bullying which can either be related to the perpetrator or to the victim, or both. Causes of bullying lying within perpetrators may, of course, overlap with factors relevant to both the social group and the organization, for example in the case of a supervisor being the bully. Supervisors and managers are often made responsible for organizational circumstances that may contribute to the development of bullying, such as organizational culture and the organization of work.
Cary L. Cooper invaded what Bullying really means. He explains that Bullying at work means harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s work tasks. In order for the label bullying (or mobbing) to be applied to a particular activity, interaction or process it has to occur repeatedly and regularly (e.g. weekly) and over a period of time (e.g. about six months). Bullying is an escalating process in the course of which the person confronted ends up in an inferior position and becomes the target of systematic negative social acts. A conflict cannot be called bullying if the incident is an isolated event or if two parties of approximately equal ‘strength’ are in conflict’. Bullying research still suffers from a lack of studies which allow clear cause-effect analyses (Einarsen, 2000; Zapf, 1999b; Zapf et al., 1996). Bullying is supposed to lead to health complaints on the part of the victim. Leymann (1996; Leymann and Gustafsson, 1996) even assumed that bullying can change the personality of the victim. However, one can equally assume that, for example, anxious, depressive or obsessive behaviour produces a negative reaction in a group, which leads to bullying after some time.
2. Economic and social causes of Workplace violence
Management’s contribution to workplace violence;
What I noticed in my Group home setting that contributes at a higher degree to workplace violence, is the nature in which Managers and the immediate supervisor interact with their employees. Their leadership styles and organizational dynamics serve to demoralize and dehumanize employees which may offend employees and eventually invite workplace violence. “Clearly, public personnel managers must recognize that a critical relationship exists between the employee and employer which, in essence, constitute a “psychological contract.” When there is a violation of this psychological contract by the employing firm or its representatives, cumulative psychological impairment can occur for which the employer may be held liable.
From the employee’s perspective, the terms of this contract generally include some assumptions that the employer would behave in a just manner with respect to both outcomes and the procedures used to arrive at those outcomes. There are implications for both the employee and the employer when the relationship contracts are not clear.(4) A severance of the psychological contract between the employer and employee gives rise to tremendous morale problems and power issues. Companies that ignore human feelings and provide no mechanisms of support for their employees may pay for years to come. Clearly, eighty percent of mergers eventually fail because companies do not handle the emotional needs of employees well.
There is a well known American aversion to talking about feelings. Despite the avoidance, feelings are at the secret heart of many U. S. institutions. When feelings are not discussed, violence occurs. Violent employee behavior is not confined to urban or rural companies, blue or white-collar employees, and union-nonunion shops. It affects companies of every size and description, in every region of the country.” (Johnson, 1994) “Managers and organizations are often ineffective in avoiding the development of anger and managing it once it develops. There are many possible aspects of leadership style and organizational dynamics that can serve to demoralize and dehumanize employees. Employees who are forced into roles of dependency, carefully monitored, and ordered about without explanation or respect will experience their supervisor as unfairly infantilizing. Their desire for self-esteem, autonomy, and respect is frustrated.” (Allcorn, 1994). “The impersonal aspects of organizational structure not only facilitate supervisors who strive for dominance and superiority over employees but also prevent employees from expressing their feelings of injustice, frustration, and anger. A rigid, hierarchical organization structure blocks the easy flow of thoughts and feelings up and down the organization as well as horizontally” ( Baum, 1987; Diamond, 1985). Employees may be obliged to communicate up the hierarchy or across it through their supervisor, who may in their minds be part of the problem. This frustration leads to workplace violence either directly to the supervisor or the anger is transferred to the clients they serve.
Employees on the other hand, also play a great part in workplace violence. According to Allcorn in his book titled Anger in the Workplace: Understanding the Causes of Aggression and Violence, lamented that; Employees also make their contribution to anger in the workplace in the form of low self-esteem and ineffective coping strategies. The workplace is an extraordinarily complex interpersonal environment in which virtually anything can and often does happen. People who feel insecure and unprepared to cope with organizational life will very likely find some behavior offensive, frustrating, and even threatening and become anxious and angry as a result.
Interpersonal and intergroup animosities arise, build up, flare, and then dissipate all in the course of a day or week. Some individuals are more vulnerable to feeling distressed by these types of workplace events because of chronic feelings of low self-esteem, worthlessness, and helplessness. When stress arises they may become dysfunctional, which encourages others to become anxious. They may respond by trying to seduce those around them into taking care of them. Conversely, the response to anxiety may include overly energized responses or complete withdrawal, both of which are equally dysfunctional though in different ways.
During my research, I also noticed that workplace violence may arise from Anger brought from home or outside of the work place setting. Allcorn elaborated on this issue in his book saying; The workplace milieu is also affected by anger brought into it from home. The workplace is directly affected by employees coming to work feeling angry, acting it out, and displacing it onto fellow employees and their work. Employees may become unaccountably angry, irritable, and resistant for no apparent reason if only the workplace is considered.
The workplace may be for some individuals the only stable aspect of their life. Therefore, they value it more highly than others may value it. It may also be the only source of their sense of pride and accomplishment. An employee who returns home to an abusive and unpredictable relationship or family or to the absence of a relationship or family may well find that those in the workplace become his or her family. This dynamic puts a great deal of pressure on the workplace to provide the individual with what he or she would normally receive at home. It also increases the likelihood that lapses will be greeted with frustration, anxiety, and anger. The opposite may also be true. The workplace may be experienced as hostile and unsupportive. Needs to feel secure and accepted may be constantly frustrated. Denigrating and even dehumanizing treatment gradually strips individuals of self-esteem if they persist in the setting. Feeling dominated and abused by a powerful and threatening boss places excessive pressure on interpersonal relationships outside of work. Help is sought from others to aid in individual coping, and loved ones may be drawn into a process of trying to heal narcissistic injuries created by work life.
Considering all what we have looked at concerning anger and aggression as major issues of a work place violence and the issues I notice during my research at my job, I was wondering what really the cause of these anger and aggression is. I research and after investigating at my place of work and thorough reading of different articles and books, I realized certain issues. Seth Allcorn clearly explains these issues in his latter book that; the workplace is both like a family (both include hierarchies of power and authority) and unlike it (the workplace relies on impersonal job descriptions and the expectation of role-to-role performance to create voluntary coordination of action and work). Employees may enter the workplace feeling that superiors should act like loving parents who are seldom if ever judgmental, directive, or punitive. They may also feel that all those in positions of power and authority are bad and likely to be insensitive, remote, and, at times, unpredictably abusive. These expectations are brought into the workplace from the family. They serve to warp superior subordinate relationships as well as encourage employees to unilaterally modify job descriptions and act out of role. They also lay the foundation for disillusionment, frustration, insecurity, injustice, and ultimately anger.
Employees may enter the workplace without compelling interpersonal agendas to change it into one big, happy family. However, they may still become angry as a result of the often extraordinarily impersonal and occasionally openly abusive behavior of fellow employees and superiors. The old notion that power corrupts is often manifested at work, where those who possess power and authority seem to act with impunity. They act out their negative self-feelings relative to employees which, for a fleeting moment, permit them to feel better about themselves.
Both of these dynamics implicitly include issues related to power and authority embedded in organizational hierarchy. It is, therefore, important to understand how hierarchy, power, and authority contribute to feelings of anger in the workplace.
He furthermore explains that Rigidity and Depersonalization is another major issue. Hierarchy is often synonymous with bureaucracy and bureaucracy is synonymous with an organization that is impersonal, uncaring, and unable to respond to change in a timely and responsive manner because of paperwork, red tape, and the need to obtain many levels of approval for even the most simple changes. There is perhaps nothing more frustrating and at times unfair than having to deal with a bureaucracy. Who among us is eager to visit a state automobile license bureau to conduct business? Who is eager to pursue redress of a problem through the many layers of local, state, and national government or any of their agencies? Who is eager to try to deal with a problem with an insurance company, a utility company, or even a large local department store? What manager is eager to take on his or her company’s personnel department, which fails to produce adequate interviewing pools? What employee is willing to take on the same department, which seems to have mysterious ways of making important personnel decisions? Most of us want to avoid these eventualities and often put up with problems rather than taking the system on because it is so frustrating and difficult. In the end, we get angry even thinking about the possibility of trying to do it. Who wants to put up with it? Who wants to feel like they are being treated like a number, a case, or a problem? Rigid, impersonal, bureaucratic hierarchical structures can easily make us feel frustrated and insecure. We feel that we are being dealt with unfairly and are frustrated, which are primary emotions associated with feeling angry. In sum, impersonal and rigid bureaucratic hierarchies are a ready source of anger in our lives. To the extent the workplace contains them; they are a source of anger in the workplace.
Furthermore, employees react to corporate downsizing. Shock and demoralization overwhelm employees following job terminations that arise from budget constraints and organizational restructuring. Employee reactions vary, depending greatly on their own personal financial predicaments and how the downsizing process has been facilitated. When the process is handled mechanically, impersonally, or abruptly, employees may voice feelings of betrayal, anger, confusion, and panic. When only a small segment of the work population is laid off, those employees often experience feelings of inadequacy, being singled out, humiliated, and isolated (Noer, 1997). This may be particularly true when the employee is terminated not as a result of poor performance but due to position elimination.
In addition, the Use and Abuse of Power is another issue. Power is an organizational potential that can be put to good or bad use by those who possess it. When put to good use it gives direction, resolves conflicts, and provides expertise and resources without dehumanizing other members of the organization in the process. We are all inspired by stories of effective, admired, even much loved leaders who have wielded their power in ways to make an organization more successful by empowering those within the organization to work effectively and develop and maintain self-esteem. We have also often experienced and, at the minimum, heard about horrific abuses of power. Power can be used in many ways to subtly or directly attack the self-esteem of others by making them feel insecure, frustrated, unfairly set upon, and ultimately angry. The power to unilaterally order people around is a horrific responsibility which, if abused, can create misery, suffering, and anger. Little more needs to be said. These are common anger-provoking experiences that we have all had the misfortune to experience both in our private lives and at work.
Moreover, The Resigned Leadership Style: The Appeal to Freedom is also an issue liable to cause workplace violence as Allcorn describes in his book. The appeal to freedom is a tendency to avoid dealing with performance problems and conflict at work. When the going gets tough this leader withdraws from active participation. It may be hard to find or schedule a meeting with this leader when his or her leadership is most needed. He or she makes it clear that the preferred life is one without pain, problems, and frictions.
This appeal is identified by the lack of personal drive to achieve or lead. The leader prefers to be left alone and maintain detachment from others and events. Even if he or she generates good ideas, there is a lack of initiative to follow through. As a result the person appears to hold few self-expectations and does not wish for or aspire to anything of much difficulty. Committing to nothing translates into losing nothing. The goal is to avoid stress and suffering.
This leader is frustrating to deal with and also unpredictable in that he or she may resent the leadership others volunteer because that implies that something more may have to be done. This leader actively discourages others from volunteering leadership to avoid the development of any additional coercive pressures on him or her. Employees feel abandoned and fear that their department or organization may fail, resulting in the loss of employment. The situation seems unfair and threatening, and everyone comes to feel frustrated as to how to proceed. These kinds of conditions can readily lead to feelings of anger. Anger is omnipresent in the workplace. The average office or work environment generates great amounts of frustration, conflict, anxiety, and anger and accompanying direct and indirect aggression ( Bach and Goldberg , 1974, 351). Twenty percent of the workforce admits feeling unhappy, cornered, trapped, lonely, pushed around, and meaningless ( Bach and Goldberg, 1974, 353). These feelings of alienation and anger are destructively expressed in many ways ( Bach and Goldberg, 1974, 354-70).
Another striking economic cause of workplace violence is Negligent Hiring by employers and organization. Negligent hiring is based on the principle that an employer has a duty to protect its employees and customers from injuries caused by employees whom the employer knows, or should know, pose a risk of harm to others. If the employer fails to do this, an employer may be found to have been negligent in selecting the applicant for employment. Thus, the employer must contact the applicant’s former employers and check references.(16) Such an investigation would demonstrate that the employer has taken care in screening potential employees. ( Johnson, 1994) “Many public employers are now realizing that their hiring practices may be implicated when work-related violent incidents happen in “their own backyards. “For example, consider a case at the U. S. Postal Service (USPS) — the largest U.S. public employer with more than 800,000 civilian employees.
The following case illustrates how violence at work can lead to negligent hiring lawsuits. “One postal employee became enraged when he learned that USPS officials had requested Speed’s Towing to remove his car from the parking lot at the main post office in Portland, Oregon. Employee Ervin Lee Brown ran to where the driver was about to haul away his illegally parked vehicle. He grabbed tow truck driver Kerry Senger by the throat, threatening to kill him if he didn’t leave the car alone. Fortunately, USPS security guards and local police intervened and stopped further violence in this incident.”(L. Moore, 2001). Moreover, “When, during the course of employment, the employer becomes aware or should have become aware that an employee is unfit, and the employer fails to take further action such as investigating, discharging, or reassigning the employee, the employer may be liable for negligent retention. Courts may also recognize the theory of negligent supervision when one employee alleges that the employer should have taken reasonable care in supervising a second employee who is threatening the first employee with violent conduct.” (Johnson, 1994)
“Evidence later showed that Brown had a history of violent non-employment behavior, even though his record had been clean for some six or more years before being hired by the USPS. Unfortunately for the USPS, Senger uncovered an earlier USPS inspection report proposing that Brown be discharged for “prior police contact resulting in a number of arrests and two misdemeanor convictions.” Claiming government negligence in hiring Brown, Senger sued for $508,100 in lost wages, medical expenses, and non-economic damages related to the towing incident. After the case and appeal, the court found the government guilty of the three negligence allegations: (1) the USPS negligently hired and kept Brown on, even though it knew, or should have known, of his risks to the public; (2) the USPS negligently supervised Brown by failing to use extra caution to protect the public; and (3) the USPS negligently failed to warn the plaintiff that the car owner was potentially dangerous. This article by Moore, addresses these concerns, shared by many public executives, about possible negative effects of employment decisions and resultant work-related violence. The article reviews the extent of workplace violence and shows the linkages to negligent hiring doctrine. U. S. court cases are analyzed regarding employer responsibility for negligent hiring and how liability is assessed. The focus then shifts to employers’ roles in developing sound background-checking practices to insure a safe workplace for customers, suppliers, and other guests. The authors conclude with some recommended preventive steps public employment executives should consider to avoid workplace violence and related negligent hiring lawsuits. Sampson defines workplace violence as threatened or completed acts of violence by employees against other employees or non-employees. USPS employee Ervin Lee Brown’s behavior would fit this definition. This article focuses on potential violent acts committed by government employees toward non-employees, the area that fits into negligent hiring. In the court cases we studied for this article, hiring persons with a history of violence tended to be a key cause for employers facing negligent hiring possibilities.” (L. Moore, 2001)
“Since some jobs providing frequent interactions with people could act as a stimulus to violence for people with such histories, negligent hiring is more frequently being viewed as one source that generatesworkplace violence. In most negligent hiring court cases considered for this article, direct access to customers, clients, or the general public was provided through the employment. For example, jobs held by police officers, nursing home caregivers, day care attendants, or housing inspectors offer greater opportunities for violence by those who previously committed such acts. There is a presumption in negligent hiring lawsuits that people with violent histories are more likely to commit violent acts again.” (L. Moore, 2001)
“Negligent retention actions argue employer negligence after employing the person. In these cases, the employer arguably did not know before hiring the employee that the person represented a harmful risk to the public. However, the employer is responsible for taking action, taking the innocent out of harms way, when becoming aware of the employee’s unfitness. Examples of expected employer actions to remedy such situations include reassignment, training, and termination. One court case that applies negligent hiring criteria in a situation involving workplace violence is Deerings West Center v. Scott, 787 S.W. 2d 494 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1990). In this case, a nursing home hired a 6’4″ male for an open LVN position. The applicant indicated that he had a nursing license and a clean record with the law. The employer did not require the applicant to produce his nursing license nor did it check for criminal convictions. In reality, he had no license and had been convicted of theft — not once, but more than 56 times!
This “nurse” initiated an assault upon an elderly visitor to the nursing home. Following the violent encounter, the firm was sued for negligent hiring of an unlicensed employee who was prone to violence. The matter was heard before a jury who found for the victim. The jury concluded that the nursing home had a duty of ordinary care in the selection of employees and that by not doing a complete pre-employment investigation of job applicants, including requiring nursing applicants to present their licenses, the employer jeopardized the health and safety of patients and visitors. As such, the defendant was found to be grossly negligent.” (Fenton Jr, 1997).
“A case exemplifying negligent retention where workplace violence occurred is Yunker v. Honeywell, Inc. 496 N.W. 2d 419 (Minn, App. 1993). The employer hired a male employee in 1977, and the employee continued such employment until 1979, when he was imprisoned for violent acts committed upon a female coworker. The violent employee was released from prison in 1984 and was rehired by the firm in the job of custodian. Within three years the employee was involved in a number of confrontations in the workplace resulting in two transfers. In 1988, the employee was attracted to a fellow female employee who politely rejected his initiatives. His reaction was to threaten and harass her. On July 1, the female found a death threat scratched on her locker at work. Immediately following this incident, the convicted violent employee resigned from the firm. Approximately one week later, he killed the female employee who had rejected his amorous pursuits.
The victim’s family initiated a negligent hiring and retention claims against the firm. The facts of the case were more accommodating to the negligent retention claim. The court noted that the violent employee was known for his past violence including incidents at work after he was rehired following his prison incarceration. As such, the court concluded that the firm knew of the potential risk to other employees and the public and should have acted to take them out of harms way. The court found in favor of the plaintiff.
As stated, the basic issue in a case of employment negligence is the failure of the employer to meet his duty of care to the injured party. It should be noted that the nature of certain businesses and industries heightens this duty of care.” (Fenton Jr, 1997)
Pamela R. Johnson in her article “Workplace Violence: an issue of the nineties” revealed emotional abuse as one of the major issues of work place violence. “Within the family, a pattern of emotional abuse is usually passed down from one generation to the next. Emotional abuse is not always rooted in the soil of poverty. In fact, abuse of this nature crosses all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines. Many parents are simply unfamiliar with any other method of discipline, often believing they are OK as long as they don’t hit their children. Experts say that belittlement, denigration, and other forms of verbal assault on children are not only cruel but also ineffective ways to teach good behavior. About 250,000 cases of emotional abuse of children are reported annually, but the real incidence is probably much higher.(1) Abuse includes a range of behavior from neglect and rejection to deliberate cruelty and humiliation.
“When people have been emotionally abused in their childhoods, they bring this trauma into the workplace. Adults often report similarities in the dynamics and feelings produced by their work relationships compared with the dynamics they experienced as children growing up in an alcoholic or abusive family system, taking on the old roles they played in their family of origin. It is as if the boss really IS the parent. On-the-job relationships may echo elements of old family relationships for many employees; as a result, historic issues get played out in the workplace just as they do elsewhere.(2) In times of crisis, such as organizational mergers, domestic violence, or job loss, people are “triggered” into acts of violence. Where violent employees, as children, could not act out against their parents or siblings, they do act out against a boss, co-worker, or spouse in a time of stress.” (Johnson, 1994)
Experts agree that a pervasive hopelessness about macroeconomic conditions; the speed at which work is expected to be accomplished; and downsizings, mergers, and acquisitions all contribute to the potential for explosive behavior. Furthermore, autocratic working environments are another major reason for work place violence. These kinds of environments can be a problem. When an employee feels powerless, s/he may be more likely to strike out. Since 1986, 38 people have been killed and 20 wounded in 12 Post Office related shootings around the nation. The Postal Service now holds focus groups for employee input and is hiring managers who have better interpersonal skills. (Johnson, 1994).
During my research I found out that most workplace violence that occurred between managers and employees happened when an employee is fired. A typical example happened at my Job between an employee who got caught having sex with one of our clients. This employee was fired and prosecuted. The supervisor who found him was shot and killed. Pamela Johnson also reveal this in her article that; “most employees who kill managers or colleagues have been fired or feel mistreated. When employees are treated as disposable commodities, the company loses moral authority.(11) In addition, many are people whose unanswered resumes and unpaid medical bills mount until they become so overwhelmed with feelings of futility that they just explode.” Moreover, Johnson in her article finally, a workplace violent felon does not fit into the typical criminal profile. Experts agree that the person is likely to be a loner, often angry, paranoid, and depressed with a fascination for weaponry. An individual may be undergoing a private stressful situation, like a death or divorce in the family, which is compounded by workplace difficulties. For many of them, the workplace may be the source of their identity and sense of well-being. When their job is jeopardized, they strike back. The killer needn’t commit his crime on the job site itself. Last April in Roseville, California, a young man was fired from his job on the assembly line at the Hewlett-Packard electronics plant. Instead of blaming Hewlett-Packard, he settled on a high-school history teacher who had flunked him a couple of years earlier. In May, the twenty year old high school drop-out returned to Lindhurst High School and fired blasts from a shotgun and a .22 caliber rifle into randomly selected classrooms, killing four people, (Johnson,1994)
C. The Costs of Workplace Violence to parties involved.
Lets look at the cost of workplace violence to organizations. Based on my research, after holding a 1 hour interview with one of the company’s directors, I came to realize that the company suffers a great deal financially when workplace violence occur. “Troubled employees cost organizations in North America billions of dollars each year in worker’s compensation. But managers do not recognize that poor decision making, safety violations, and reduced morale are also caused by unchecked employee problems.(19) Five to six billion dollars are lost in decreased productivity, caused by real or perceived abuse of employees. Billions more dollars are lost in wrongful termination, sexual harassment, defamation suits, and workplace violence. The cost of violence in the workplace is high not only in legal fees and possible punitive damages but also in the loss of employee confidence, morale, and productivity (Johnson,1994)
One study in the United Kingdom reported that bullying has a direct effect on productivity and profits because it creates absenteeism, low morale, and may increase turnover. The study concluded that the eradication of workplace bullying might increase profits by as much as 10% (Violence Threatens the Workplace, 1998).
Pamela Johnson in her article “Workplace violence: An Issue of the Nineties” explains that The economy has been blamed for the dramatic increase in workplace murder in recent months. Various estimates place the increase in mass murders in the office in the last decade as high as 200% to 300%.(21) Workplace homicide is the third leading cause of death on the job according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. An estimated 1,400 people are murdered at work in the United States annually and as many as 7,000 work-related injuries occur each year as well. She concluded that the cost of violence in the workplace is high not only in legal fees and possible punitive damages but also in the loss of employee confidence, morale, and productivity.
Based on witnessed incidence at my work place, I realized that workplace violence could cause a great deal of psychological and physiological effects which could have a major financial effect on our organizations and businesses. I researched more into the different ways workplace violence can affect employees, employers or our jobs, so we can get a better understanding and be prepared to prevent it. After an intensive workplace violence employees may return with serious psychological distress and disbelief relative to the cause of the incident.
According to Paul Clement and his counterparts on their article “Care after chaos”; Workplace violence which occurred as a result of robbery, Murder, bomb threats, vandalism, and suicide, Employees may return to work dazed, shaken, and incensed. Hyper vigilance and fear of copy-cat attacks are common. Anger often is directed at colleagues and supervisors, with demands for immediate remedies for potentially hazardous work conditions and improvement on existing policies. Painful feelings of ambivalence often are experienced when the assailant and victim were both well liked. Trauma responses may be heightened when employees witness the event or aftermath (e.g., a dead body, blood, racial epithets or graffiti, property damage) firsthand.
Furthermore, Clement reveals that, in a situation where Employee death results from illness. Disbelief and shock tend to overwhelm employees even when the condition of the deceased employee was known. Feelings of regret surface from the sense of not having done enough, and this often, results in fervent offers to plan memorials. Anxiety surrounds the personal invasion of the deceased employee’s office and premature replacement of his position. Employees assess and discuss the overall response from management and interpret the perceived level of empathy, extrapolating for themselves an indication of how their own death might be handled in the future. Moreover, in a case where workplace violence occurred as a result of corporate downsizing, Shock and demoralization overwhelm employees following job terminations that arise from budget constraints and organizational restructuring. Employee reactions vary, depending greatly on their own personal financial predicaments and how the downsizing process has been facilitated. When the process is handled mechanically, impersonally, or abruptly, employees may voice feelings of betrayal, anger, confusion, and panic. When only a small segment of the work population is laid off, those employees often experience feelings of inadequacy, being singled out, humiliated, and isolated (Noer, 1997). This may be particularly true when the employee is terminated not as a result of poor performance but due to position elimination. ( Clement, 2002)
Clement and his counterparts in their Article, “Care after Chaos” also talks about how this psychological distress could be handle through CISD ( Critical Incident Stress Debriefing). “Critical incident stress debriefing is a specific model of psychological group debriefing developed by Dr. Jeffrey T. Mitchell in the late 1970s. It is a standardized, seven stage crisis-intervention process that contains both psychological and educational elements, and is based on crisis-intervention theory and educational-intervention theory (Mitchell & Everly, 1998). CISD is one formal intervention within the broader category of (CISM), which is a collection of comprehensive, multi-component crisis-response technologies. The objectives of CISD are to prevent or reduce the intensity and chronicity of trauma-related symptoms, facilitate psychological closure, and quickly restore groups of individuals to normalcy (Caplan, 1964; Everly & Mitchell, 1999). Although CISD has therapeutic qualities, it is neither psychotherapy nor intended to replace psychotherapy.
CISD was created for high-risk occupational groups such as emergency, rescue, and disaster teams. As eruptions of violence have been spreading throughout the country, however, CISD is being offered to the general population. CISD has been used successfully in schools, hospitals, courtrooms, airports, banks, and other business and industrial settings, providing benefits for the individual employee as well as the overall organization (Mitchell & Everly, 1997). Precipitating incidents have included threats of violence, sudden death, occupational accidents, and organizational downsizing.”
After taking a wide consideration and a broad research on the instigators, causes and effects of workplace violence at my job side, I decided to focus on how we can prevent workplace violence from occurring and avoid all these death and costs it brings to our businesses and organizations.
John Schuller. OSHA publication. “OSHA policy regarding violent employee behavior”
Errol Chenier. Public Personnel Management, 1998.
Michael Kelleher. New Arenas for Violence. “Homicide in the American Workplace”
Cary Cooper. International Perspectives in Research and Practice. “Bullying and Emotional
Abuse in the Workplace” 2002. pg. 165.
Seth Allcorn. “Anger in the Workplace: Understanding the Causes of Aggression and Violence”
1994. P 94.