Many employees are unaware of the frequency of workplace violence and how to respond.
Workplace violence is more common than we think—and certainly more common than it should be. The Society for Human Resource Management's Workplace Violence: A Growing Threat, or Growing in Awareness? relies on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's definition, which ranges from threats and verbal abuse to more extreme examples such as physical assaults and even homicide.
Within those parameters, nearly half (48 percent) of HR professionals said their organizations had at some point experienced a workplace violence incident—up from 36 percent in 2012. And of those who reported having ever experienced workplace violence, more than half (57 percent) said their organizations had experienced an incident in the past year.
HR is generally on the forefront of these issues, and understandably so. However, some may find it a bit startling that they responded to having known of an incident at twice as high a rate as other employees. In other words, unless these incidents disproportionately occur in smaller companies, half of employees are unaware of workplace violence that has occurred in their organizations. Equally concerning, only 65 percent of responding individual contributors stated that they know what to do when they witness or are involved in a workplace violence incident, with 14 percent responding that they do not know.
Employees are 34 percent more likely to know what to do if their organizations have a workplace violence prevention program and 33 percent more likely if they have an employee response training program. However, only 45 percent of employees reported that they have such resources in their organizations.
In response, companies should ensure that they have workplace safety programs and training programs, establish an emergency response plan, and communicate with workers about what resources are available to them.