How to Prevent Workplace Violence

How to Prevent Workplace Violence

A video of a man physically abusing his subordinate has recently gone viral in Singapore, sparking outrage from the public and calls for the authorities to step in.

The incident also reveals that workplace violence can indeed occur in Singapore, which is why effective policies and measures are needed to prevent it.

What is workplace violence?

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment or intimidation that occurs at the work site. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and vendors, and can be portrayed through the following gestures:

• Yelling

• Using profanity

• Waving arms or fists in a threatening manner

• Physical actions short of actual contact or injury, an intimidating presence (E.g. moving closer towards a co-worker aggressively)

• Verbal abuse

• Implicit threats to people or company property, be it through verbal or written means (E.g. statements such as "You better watch your back or "You'll be sorry")

• Throwing things

• Pounding on desk or door

• Destroying and vandalising company property

• Pushing, shoving, punching, hitting or kicking others

Such threatening, disruptive behaviour interferes with and prevents normal work functions or activities, and can cause psychological trauma in victims as well as fellow employees.

How to encourage a safe work environment

As preventing violence in the workplace requires teamwork, it is important for every employee to recognise the potential warning signals and know the organisation's policies and procedures for addressing workplace violence.

• Set a zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence and educate employees on the consequences one will face if caught displaying violent behaviour. At the same time, set a workplace emergency action plan that helps employees respond to incidents of violent behaviour.

• Both supervisors and subordinates can undergo training programmes that focus on teaching employees methods for dealing with aggression. Besides informing employees that threats will be taken seriously, the management can encourage employees to report incidents, and should exhibit their commitment in dealing with reported incidents.

• Keep an open line of communication in the workplace by providing employees with an avenue to share their thoughts. This also encourages them to discuss any safety or security concerns that they might have in the workplace.

• Install closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) at each corner of the workplace. Ensure that the workplace is brightly-lit to minimise the risk of workplace violence. Employees should also look out for one another. If you suspect that a co-worker is being abused, do not leave him or her alone with the confronter.

• Provide mediation and counselling for employees, specifically for those who've gotten into arguments with their co-workers, or are displaying signs of aggressive or suspicious behaviour.

What can you do when you witness a case of workplace abuse?

• Report the violent event immediately to the victim's supervisor or Human Resources (HR) representative. Remember to document any factual details, including the inappropriate behaviors you have observed (E.g. actions or words used to inflict harm on the victim)

• Speak to the confronter in a calm manner. If the situation escalates, call the office building's security guard.

• If safety is a concern or problem where you work, talk to your supervisor about organisational policies and workplace violence.

What if you're the victim?

In the event that you are being confronted, remember to stay calm and avoid being defensive in your speech. Listen attentively to what your confronter is saying and ask questions relevant to his or her complaint, such as " What can I do to help you?"

To maintain control over the situation, maintain eye contact and avoid raising your voice. You can also set ground rules, such as "When you shout at me, I can't understand what you're trying to convey."

You should also signal a co-worker to be present, and if you feel that police intervention is necessary, do not do not make the call yourself in the presence of an angry or violent person. Instead, have a co-worker summon help from the relevant authorities.

Some victims of workplace violence might feel responsible for the abuse inflicted upon them. However, workplace violence is a serious offense and should not be tolerated. Report immediately to your supervisor or HR personnel, and be sure to present your case with factual details or evidence (e.g. get support from witnesses).

How else can you minimise the risk of workplace violence? Share with us in the comment box below!

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