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Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

What You Need to Know about the Cost of Workplace Violence

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Nov 21, 2017 11:16 PM

Business owners will have to answer for every single act of workplace violence in their organizations. Also, for every individual out of the 2 million American employees who are violated yearly, the top echelon of management will have to grapple with several losses. With the rising spate of homicide ─ the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States ─ the challenge with violence at work is that it does not only traumatise the victim, the economic strength of the firm is endangered. Workplace violence is a growing danger that demands a holistic approach for a comprehensive solution.

Workplace violence is a threat or act of intimidation, harassment and physical violence and/or all forms of dangerous disruptive behavior in varying degrees that hamper the smooth and efficient running of organisations and harmonious coexistence of both staff and all stakeholders. It ranges from homicide, physical assault to verbal abuses. It respects no one as its victims cut across all works of life affecting the management, clients, visitors and customers.    

No matter the nature and form the violence assumes, owners of the business are answerable to the security situation existing in the establishment. And no doubt the workplace violence litigation will ensue. This might range from claims for damages, invasion of privacy actions, violation of occupational safety and health, administration charges, compensation charges, etc.

Cost of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence comes at a huge cost to anyone associated directly or indirectly with the scene of violence. The degree of damage to the victim is most times unquantifiable. The immediate and obvious effect will be the economic loss manifesting in the loss of productivity. Other costs of violence in the workplace revolve around losses due to public relations, worker's compensation, business interruption and litigation.  

Violence endangers the health of the workforce. It immediately leads to staff shortage, hampered efficiency, increased turnover and retention costs, reduced employee morale and subsequent high risk of violence with associated loss of reputation by the firm especially if organizational reputation is not properly managed.

The Research Institute for Workplace Violence approximated the yearly cost of violence at to business in the United States to a tune of $36 billion. This cost included the loss of productivity and businesses, cleanup and repairs, increased insurance rates, loss of employees, security cost, medical and psychiatric care; and in some instances, loss of lives. The Bureau of Labour Statistics, National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries estimated in 2015 that workplace violence accounted for 15% of all work-related fatal occupational injuries. This is alarming and must be given its rightful place in organizational security matters.

Negative Signs of Potential Violators  

While it might be impossible to spot a violent person during recruitment, it is essential that management of firms start profiling the psychological features of potential violent employees. The Americanexpress.com shared the view of the Criminal Defense Attorney, Gus Kostopoulos, that firms should start profiling the features and behaviours of its employees to nip in the bud potential dangers that may arise due to behaviors and psychological challenges of staff. Below are some of the psychological traits of employees every effective management should look out for.

  • Alpha personality - those in this category believe that they are superior to others and see every reason to treat others as such. They have superiority mindset, controlling behaviours and force others to do their bidding.

  • Hard-to-Associate-with Personality - this group find it difficult to get along with other employees. They are most times unreasonable and could be rude.

  • Power Obsessive personality - They subscribe to firearms and are often affiliated with the paramilitary groups, law enforcement, military groups, etc. They could use violence where possible.  

  • Victim Personality - this group exhibit the victim tendencies. They find it difficult taking responsibilities for their mistakes and actions. They often point at others as being responsible for their woes. They have trouble keeping laws.

  • Clinical paranoia Personality - this group is the perfect theorist of conspiracy. They often feel that others are out to fight them, especially clandestinely. They could be defensive.  

  • Litigious Personality - They enjoy taking legal actions against employees and neighbours over minor grievances as a means of controlling them

  • Incessant Anger Personality - They are often filled with bitterness against friends, families, the government and co-workers. They are always mad at everything around them.

  • Violent Personality - this is the macho personality group. They love and watch domestic violence and celebrate racial incidence, shooting, executions, etc. They believe victims deserve what they get.

  • Vindictive Personality - they believe that everyone will be paid duly when the right time comes.

  • Odd Attitude Personality - they lack social skills even though they might be excellent highflier at work.

  • Unhealthy habits - they are always weak, could easily record quick weight gain or loss, sleep disorders and often have addition problem.

Recent layoff bitterness - If for any reason, one or all the aforementioned personality types became the reason for a layoff, there could be emotional despair which might lead to a security threat; hence making violence against anyone imminent.  

Understanding and profiling the above signs will go a long way in preventing the occurrence of workplace violence. It will also help to keep everyone on alert and create several layers of security.

Gus Kostopoulos believed that in proffering solution to the staggering rise in workplace violence, the first thing is to understand the nature and risk factors surrounding the type of violence. In line with the findings of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, he identified four major categories, saying that better understanding of the risk factors could contribute to effective planning and prevent measures.

The best and first approach to this security challenge is to establish a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence. This policy should have no exception but cover contractors, visitors, patients, clients, workers, and any other stakeholder in the business. Another good consideration is a preventive programme for workplace violence. This will revolve around administrative and engineering controls coupled with staff training.

The design, availability and emphasis on health and safety program, standard procedures manual as well as employee handbook stipulating and re-emphasising the core values and security models of the organisation is essential. Every employee and stakeholder should be aware of the policy and if there is a breach, such should promptly be investigated and tackled. Essentially, employees in high-risk industries should have an extra program to check their health and safety.

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