Recently, violence in the workplace has received considerable attention, and with good cause. The National Crime Victimization Survey claims that approximately 1 million people are assaulted while at work each year. Additionally, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); reports that homicide has become the second leading cause of occupational injury death; exceeded only by motor-vehicle-related deaths [Jenkins 1996]. These figures indicate that approximately 20 workers are murdered and 18,000 are assaulted each week while they are at work.
It’s important for supervisors to understand and become more effective when dealing with angry employees. As a leader, it is your obligation to train employees on workplace violence and swiftly deal with inappropriate behavior. In order to do this, effective security measures need to be in place. Your organization should have the following programs in place to help prevent workplace violence:
Pre-Employment Screening – Each employee should undergo a thorough background and reference check. This might include drug testing if necessary for the position. Pre-employment screening must be consistent with Federal laws and regulations.
Safe Work Environment – There are a variety of ways to ensure employee safety. Depending on the work setting and location, security measures might include hiring security guards or using employee identification systems. Many organizations are using individual coded key cards for access to buildings and grounds.
Dispute Resolution – Some organizations have an individual or dedicated team to mediate conflict. Others engage in on-site or internet-based problem anger management programs. This type of program is most effective in resolving disputes when a conflict has been identified early.
While policies and plans can help detect and prevent incidents, there are no guarantees against workplace violence. When a violent incident does occur, it is essential the response be timely and appropriate to the situation.
To effectively defuse anger, keep in mind the needs of the angry employee:
An angry person needs to vent and let off steam. Allowing them to speak about the problem can help defuse the anger.
An angry person wants to know that you are paying attention. Acknowledge their feelings both verbally and with your body language. Show that you understand how angry they are and that you want to do something to help them resolve the problem.
An angry person wants to be understood. Try to empathize with their experience and acknowledge their right to feel the way they do.
There are appropriate and effective ways to deal with angry employees to avoid or minimize the damage they seek to cause, and we all need to educate ourselves on those methods. A sound prevention plan is the most important and, in the long run, the least costly portion of any organization’s workplace violence program.