Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

The New War Zone: The Workplace

Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

The New War Zone: The Workplace

Article excerpt

Background

The National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health reports that in 1992, 750 employees were killed in the workplace [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. According to the Northwestern National Life Insurance Company, in the period between July 1992 and July 1993, two million people were physically attacked in the workplace, six million were threatened, and 16 million were harassed. This (Peters, 1994).

In his book, Cease Fire/Preventing Workplace Violence, Bob Smith references a 1994 Society for Human Resource Management survey of 479 human resource management professionals regarding workplace violence. It found that 75% of the altercations were fist fights, 6% sexual assaults, 8% stabbing, and an astonishing 17% involved firearm injuries (Smith, 1994).

Homicide is the third leading cause of workplace fatalities and is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace, according to the Department of Labor's 1993 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. In 1994, 1,471 homicides were reported compared with 1,063 in 1993 (Heard, 1994). "Workplace violence is the new poison of corporate America," says Dennis Johnson, a clinical psychologist and the president of Behavior Analysts Consultants. "It's not just a reflection of a violent society, but of that violent society interacting with workplace dynamics that are significantly changed from 10 to 15 years ago" (cited in Dunkel, 1994).

Workplace violence has continued to escalate in recent years, and the public recognizes it as a serious problem. According to a 1994 Time Magazine article, a Cable News Network poll reported that 37% of Americans see workplace violence as a growing problem and 32% surveyed human resource directors reported violent acts in their workplace since 1991. Because of the resultant rise in violent workplace crimes, the Justice Department has proclaimed the workplace the most dangerous place to be (Anfuso, 1994). Murder On The Job, a 1992 article in the Personnel Journal, estimates the rate of growth in the past decade as 200 to 300% (Stuart, 1992). Under the 1974 Health and Safety Act and the 1992 Health and Safety At Work Regulations, companies are legally required to assess and establish procedures for dealing with all types of risk. They are responsible for providing a safe work environment. Several states have already ruled that negligent employers are liable and must pay awards determined by court decisions (Quirk, 1993). The monetary and emotional cost of workplace violence is staggering and can sometimes ruin a small floundering company.

Cost of Workplace Violence

The National Safe Workplace Institute determined that the average cost of one violent incident averages about $250,000. The cost can be much more as in the case of four teenage deaths in a Texas yogurt shop where the parents were awarded $12 million. The estimated cost of workplace violence for lost time, medical benefits, and legal expenses is $4.2 billion annually (Anfuso, 1994). Companies that embrace workplace violence prevention can save huge amounts of money. More companies are becoming proactive in addressing workplace safety since it ultimately affects their financial condition.

The most serious workplace crime is murder. Dunkel states, "Today, more than one thousand Americans are murdered on the job every year, 32% more than the annual average in the 80s" (Dunkel, 1994). As reported in the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 1993, 15 murders occur each week in the workplace. While only one in five deaths is a female, a staggering 42% of violence involving females results in homicide (Toufexis, 1994). No wonder murder is the leading cause of workplace death for female workers.

Researchers and experts who study workplace violence agree on several key points:

* there are varying intensities of violence;

* there is a typical workplace killer profile;

* the violent employee usually gives some indication that he or she is planning something;

* better hiring and firing policies can prevent violence; and

* companies must create plans for preventing and dealing with violent people and incidents (Bensimon, 1994). …

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