Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Workplace Violence Hits Home: Are You Ready?

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Workplace Violence Hits Home: Are You Ready?

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerns human resource management, workplace violence, and organizational politics. The case can be used to explore the intricacies of developing a HR workplace violence policy and getting that policy adopted by upper administration. Students are asked to develop a written workplace violence prevention policy. Developing such a policy requires them to research the elements which should be included in such a policy, to develop a plan of action to implement the workplace violence policy, to identify the critical issues of risk/liability to the company's officials, management's responsibility and legal liability for maintaining a safe work environment, and how to get senior management to "buy off" on the plan. The case has a difficulty level of three. The case can be presented and discussed in two to four class periods depending on the number of issues considered. Students can be expected to spend about 10 hours of outside preparation to be fully prepared to complete the case.


Digital Logistics Systems (DLS), as is true of many companies, never considered the possibility of workplace violence. However, a near fist fight in the Advertising/ Promotions department brought the issue firmly to the attention of Tom Ross, the department manager. By chance, the incident was overheard by Sarah Davis, the HR manager. Ross and Davis meet over the issue, where it is agreed that Ross will handle the disciplinary action for the employees while Davis will develop a workplace violence prevention plan. Davis recognizes that not only will she need to develop the plan, and develop a program to implement it, perhaps her biggest task will be in convincing upper management of the necessity of adopting the plan.


This case provides an opportunity for students to write a workplace violence policy. In order to write such a policy, students will need to conduct considerable out of class research into the components of such a policy. These instructor notes include information that will be useful to the discussion leader in guiding students through the delicate political web of writing a human resource management policy and securing adoption ofthat policy.

The preferred teaching strategy for this case includes student assignments and class discussion. After assigning the case for reading ask the students to prepare written responses to the questions listed below in the "discussion questions" section. Since the case involves writing a policy, the difficulty level of the case and the amount of out of class time needed to complete it can vary by how many, if any, of the issues the policy should cover are provided by the instructor. Researching all of the potential issues that a workplace violence policy should contain and then writing a policy which incorporates all of them will obviously require more time than if those elements are provided to the students. The instructor may choose to use teams to write up the policy. Each team could present its policy in class and be critiqued by the other teams.

To provide an introduction to the complexities of workplace violence, the instructor may want to use a video to frame the issues. Three excellent videos are available. Violence on the Job discusses the effect of violence and ways to prevent and reduce violence in the workplace. This 27 minute, 2004, video is produced by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It is available as a videotape and for our of class viewing is available on line at

Workplace Violence: The Legal Role in Keeping Your Workplace Safe is a 17 minute video which illustrates the legal obligation managers face in preventing workplace violence. It identifies five common issues managers face, and offers three specific actions they can implement immediately to prevent violence and avoid liability. …

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