Workplace Violence

By Diana Sorrentino, PhD, Director—Security Operations, Lehigh Valley Paladin LLC

The last issue of Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Matters illustrated the prevalence of workplace safety and security issues, both physical threats and cyber risks, in today’s society. No area is immune to this epidemic. Our industry must be especially vigilant as it is the third-leading sector for fatal workplace shootings. You are responsible for the safety of your employees and customers. As such, we’ve decided to include a new column in the magazine dedicated to discussing these issues. This material will provide you with a basic resource for current as well as future preventive actions. Your best plan is to be prepared.

The column kicks off with a two-part series on workplace violence. In part 1, we’ll review the definition of workplace violence. Part 2 will discuss warning signs and triggers.

Four Categories of Workplace Violence

  1. Criminal Intent
    Violent acts by people who enter the workplace to commit a robbery or other crime.
  2. Customer, Client, Patient, or Vendor
    Violence directed toward employees by any individual to whom the employer provides or receives a service.
  3. Co-worker
    Violence against co-workers by current or former employees.
  4. Personal
    Violence in the workplace by someone who does not work there but who is known to, has, or had a personal relationship with an employee.

Workplace Violence Defined

Workplace violence is defined as any overt, covert, implied, conditional, instrumental or veiled act or threat of physical aggression, violence, harassment, intimidation, bullying or any other type of threatening or disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.

What Constitutes Workplace Violence?

It’s when a person uses humiliation, sarcasm and the taking of pot shots to bully, intimidate, degrade or embarrass another. It includes behavior which expresses distrust and disdain for the concerns or opinions of others, as well as an individual who aggressively monitors the behavior of direct reports and team members (either openly or secretly). These individuals also may use implied or actual authority to degrade, intimidate, or punish others, as well as passive-aggressive behaviors for personal gain or morbid satisfaction.

The National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health employer surveys have found that 74 percent of workplace violence assaults are perpetrated by an individual known to the person providing the service. And, 40 percent of that 74 percent are directly related to domestic and intimate violence entering the workplace.

In the next issue we’ll cover a basic check list of behavioral or performance issues which may indicate your employee needs assistance or on a path to intended violence, as well as inhibitors to action, and developing a behavior baseline.