Factors, Elements and Social/Cultural Conditions that Contribute to Workplace Violence

There are many factors that can lead to violence.
Some of the factors include anxiety, vulnerability, and low morale. Knowing signs of these conditions can help you and your staff become more proactive in addressing workplace violence.
Failing to recognize and react to these signs may lead to workplace violence and may result in subjecting employees to injury, legal entanglements, loss of productivity, property damage, or even loss of life.

Individual factors to be on the lookout for...

History of violence: Such as an individual with a documented history of violent or aggressive behavior. For example, a new employee in the workforce who had to be moved from his/her past job because of exhibiting violent or aggressive behavior toward a former coworker.
Hate group membership: Such as an individual who expresses his or her severe prejudices by being a member of a "hate group." This person is at risk of responding to the group's actions, including perpetrating violence at
members of the target group.
Evidence of psychosis: Such as an individual who holds false beliefs about people and their motives; have conversations with him/herself; or, who's appearance becomes disheveled over a period of time.
Romantic obsession: Such as an employee who continually makes unwelcome advances towards a co-worker and will not leave the other person alone.
Depression: Such as a usually outgoing and good spirited person who becomes withdrawn, unusually quiet, and/or exhibits extreme signs of stress.
Pathological blamer: Such as a worker who continually says, "I'm not a fault" and will not accept responsibility.
Elevated frustration: Such as an individual who refuses to come to work and complains about everything. If the person is a male, he may feel frustrated with female co-workers or supervisors, or vice-versa.
Interest in weapons: Such as a person who displays obsessive interest in weapons or explosives through informal discussions and mannerisms.
Chemical dependence: Someone who displays signs such as being late for work, acting erratically and/or being unable to get along with co-workers.

The need to recognize these factors as well as profiles of a potentially violent person are extremely important in today's environment.

Environmental Factors that can contribute...

The following attributes can create a "toxic work environment" within an organization which can exacerbate ill feelings among employees and can lead to an increased potential for violence.

Highly authoritarian management style: This can cause feelings of oppression and frustration among workers.
Unpredictable or inconsistent supervision and job role ambiguity: Employees are unsure of how to perform their duties and become frustrated.
Lack of employee participation in the decision making process: Workers feel they are merely "assembly line workers" and have no contribution to the direction of the organization.
Existence of hostile or threatening work nvironment: Allowing aggressive conduct, the existence of hostile or threatening work environment to persist under your supervision, or ignoring and taking no action for thefts, fights, sexual or racial harassment, intimidation or other behaviors viewed as hostile by employees.
Acceptance of disrespectful behavior: If supervisors and employee become too informal in their relationship, this can cause misunderstandings (especially if the two individuals involved are of the opposite sex).
Frequent invasion of privacy: Consistently searching through an employee's desk, or allow others to conduct themselves in this behavior, creates ill feelings.
Lack of training in conflict resolution and communication skills:
Supervisors who lack training in these skills can exacerbate problems in the organization.

Social and cultural factors can contribute too...

Victims of society: A pervasive trend that pushes us away from individual responsibility for our actions and toward a sense of "self-as-victim," with unusual entitlement. Such an attitude legitimizes violence by
creating the perception that culture actually caused the wrong doing, leaving the perpetrator blameless.
Adverse economic conditions: Stress increases significantly during times of economic upheaval. Financial problems at any age may trigger negative survival responses from employees and result in unpredictable behavior.

Content last reviewed: 7/10/2009-RJL

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This page was last revised: 10/25/2011