Can managers prevent workplace violence?

In India, the concept of collective bargaining became popular after the Second World War. Initially conducted at the plant level in manufacturing industries like TISCO, Bata Shoe co., etc., its scope was expanded in the 1970s through the settings up of a negotiating body, the National Industries Committee in key sectors like coal mining, textiles, sugar, electrical machinery, steel and cement. From the 1980s, management began to serve counter proposals before or after they received the charter of demands from their trade unions, as per the laws of productivity bargaining. Trade unions had to agree to a abandon wasteful and restrictive practices in return for higher wages and benefits. However, in many cases, promises made by the management were either without meaning or not actionable. Despite some element of standardization in collective bargaining in the public sector, in the private sector, collective bargaining has proved to be of little help to workmen.

In India at present, trade unions lack vitality due to small size, lack of funds, politicization by outside parties, multiplicity of unions and lack of an enlightened labor force. However, there is an increasing awareness and acceptance among management and workmen alike. They offered cooperation and participation rather than adversarial approaches, for successful running of the enterprises.

In as much concern for the job safety for our workers continues to grow, today a much greater emphasis is placed on the increasing violence that has erupted on the job. No organization is immune from potential violence, and the problem appears to be getting worse. Shootings at a local post office by a recently disciplined employees has upset purchasing managers stabbing his boss because they disagreed over how some paperwork was to be completed; a disgruntled significant employee enters the workplace and shoots his mate; an employee upset over having his wages garnished – these types of incidents have become prevalent. Consider the following statistics. More than 1,000 employees are murdered and more than 300,000 employees are assaulted on the job each year. Homicide is the number three cause of work related death in the United States.

Two factors have contributed greatly to this trend – domestic violence and disgruntled employees. The issue for companies, then, is to find a way to prevent the violence from occurring on the job and to reduce their liability should an unfortunate event occur. Because the circumstances of each incident are different, a specific plan of action for companies to follow is difficult to detail. However, several suggestions can be made. First, the organization must develop a plan to deal with the issue, beginning with a review of all corporate policies to ensure that they are not adversely affecting employees. In act, in many cases in which the violent individuals caused mayhem in an office setting and didn’t commit suicide on common factor arose. That is, these employees were not treated with respect or dignity. They were laid without any warning or they perceived themselves as being treated to harshly in the disciplines process. Sound HRM practices can help to ensure that respect and dignity exist for employees, even in the most difficult issues such as terminations.

Organizations must also train supervisory personnel to identify troubled employees before the problem results in violence. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be designed specifically to help these individuals. Rarely does an individual go from being happy to committing some act of violence overnight! Furthermore if supervisors are better able to spot the types of demonstrated behaviors that may lead to violence, then those who cannot be helped through the EAP can be removed from the organization before others are harmed. Organizations should also implement stronger security mechanism.

For example, many women who are killed at work, following a domestic dispute, die at the hands of someone who didn’t belong on company premises. These individuals as well as violence paraphernalia – guns, knives, and so on must be prevented from entering the facilities altogether.

Sadly no matter how careful the organization is, and no matter how much it attempts to prevent workplace violence some incidents will occur. In those cases, the organization must be prepared to deal with the situation and to offer whatever assistance it can to deal with the aftermath.