The WORKPLACE in a Global Picture
Away from home the workplace has traditionally been where a person finds order, respect, and civility. But that seems no longer to be the case. For instance, statistics released by the U. S. Department of Justice show that each year more than 970,000 people are victims of violent crime at the workplace. Put another way, “workers may have a one-in-four chance of being the victim of some form of violence at work,” according to a report in Professional Safety—Journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers. (2000).
What is most troubling is that workplace violence is not limited to altercations and slurs. “Violence specifically directed against employers and employees by other employees is now the fastest-growing category of homicide in the U. S. ,” (2000) says the same report. In 1992, 1 in 6 work-related fatalities was a homicide; for women, the figure was nearly 1 in 2. There is no denying that a wave of violence is sweeping through the once orderly workplace. “In the workplace . . . anxiety, burnout and depression are spiraling out of control,” reports The Guardian of London (2001).
According to the UN’s International Labor Organization, up to 3 out of every 10 employees in the
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And it warns that “by 2020, stress and mental disorders will overtake road accidents, Aids and violence as the primary cause of lost working time. ” “Nurses and other health-care workers face on-the-job violence almost as often as police officers,” reports The Vancouver Sun. Criminology professor Neil Boyd of Simon Fraser University conducted the study on workplace violence in British Columbia, Canada. He found the rate of risk for police officers and health-care workers to be “four times the rate of any other occupation” and that incidents of violence have jumped 400 percent since 1982.
Patients were “almost always the perpetrators of violence against health-care workers,” the paper said, and such acts occurred most often when workers were “waking or bathing a patient. ” The study cited “corrections workers, private security officers, taxi and bus drivers and retail clerks” as also facing high risks for workplace violence. Bullying in the workplace is one of the fastest-growing causes for complaints involving workplace violence. In fact, some countries report that it is more common than racial discrimination or sexual harassment.
Each year, about 1 person in 5 in the U. S. work force faces bullying. In Britain a report released in 2000 by the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology said that out of 5,300 employees in 70 organizations, 47 percent reported that they had witnessed incidents of bullying in the last five years. A 1996 European Union survey based on 15,800 interviews in its 15 member states showed that 8 percent—some 12 million workers—had been subjected to intimidation or bullying. Tremendous pressure is often placed on workers to be productive.
In Japan the term karoshi—“death from overwork”—was first used in the compensation claims filed by bereaved families. According to a survey there years ago, 40 percent of Japanese office workers feared possible death from overwork. A lawyer specializing in such claims estimated that there were “at least 30,000 victims of karoshi in Japan every year. ” The police in Japan have suggested that work-related problems are a key factor in the increase in suicide among 50- to 59-year-olds. According to the book The Violence-Prone Workplace, one court held an employer liable for the suicide of an employee who was beset with work-related worries.
Australia’s newspaper The Canberra Times said that ‘Americans have overtaken the Japanese in putting in the longest working hours in the world. ’ Thus, news stories with headlines such as “Long Hours Are Working People to Death” tell about fatigued workers, such as ambulance drivers, pilots, construction and transport workers, and those working night shifts, being killed on the job. As companies go through the process of restructuring and downsizing to remain financially profitable, greater pressure to produce is placed on employees.
The British Medical Journal reported that downsizing has a negative effect on the health of employees. Overworked and stressed employees are not just a risk to themselves. A British survey found that many office workers spend much of their working day in a state of irritation with colleagues and that such conflict often triggers violent reactions. “About 15 American workers are murdered on the job each week,” states Business Week magazine. Harvard Business Review comments: “Workplace violence is no manager’s favorite subject. But the fact remains that every year hundreds of employees assault or even kill their colleagues.
” What the Experts Say On the other hand, many experience workplace violence from their clients or their customers. An Australian criminology report states that some doctors are so fearful of violent assaults that they take an escort on house calls. Others who are at risk include police officers and schoolteachers. Another form of workplace violence is emotional abuse, which is recognized by the International Labor Organization as psychological violence. A major form of this abuse is bullying. Professor Robert L. Veninga of the University of Minnesota, U. S. A.
, reports that “stress and its resulting illnesses impact workers in almost every corner of the world” (Cloke, 32). He noted, “The central problem according to the 1993 World Labor Report by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, is that stress stems from impersonal, ever-changing, and often hostile workplaces. ” (Cloke, 78) A Statistical Presentation The following presentation of statistical data intends to support the existing reports that have been presented earlier in terms of numerical representations of the actual situation at the work areas from the years 1993 towards 1999.
From the presentation above, it could be noted that the major violence made upon workers during the past years identify the fact that the situation is indeed uncontrollable at some point, perhaps because of the primary reason that employees have major differences from each other. What Could Be Done Even minor incidents of aggressive behavior at places of work have been found to develop into serious cases of harassment. Harvard Business Review gives this sobering advice: “To address workplace violence, be aware that people who commit small acts of aggression often go on to commit larger ones.
” The Monthly Labor Review identified another potentially hazardous situation, noting: “Concerns arise regarding employees who are working alone at night in desolate areas. ” So consider: Is it wise to accept the potential dangers that often come with working alone, especially late at night? Are monetary rewards really worth such a risk? (Awake! 1990, 23) In today’s pressure-cooker work environment, irritating and hostile behavior is commonplace. While it may appear to be directed against us, the person may simply be venting his own pent-up stress and frustration.
We may simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time. So how we respond is important. It can either defuse or aggravate the situation. Perhaps, though, there are genuine differences of viewpoint. The book Resolving Conflicts at Work makes the helpful observation: “When we are in conflict, . . . rarely do we communicate at a deep level what we really, honestly feel. ” What may be the reason? The book went on to note: “Our conflicts have the capacity to confuse and hypnotize us, and we come to believe there is no way out other than battle.
”(Cloke, 43) What is the answer? LISTEN! The book quoted above observes: “By genuinely listening to people with whom we disagree . . . we can let go of our emotional investment in the continuation of the fighting and discover solutions. ” This is good advice for preventing disagreements or misunderstandings from developing into major conflicts. (Cloke, 23) Wisely, therefore, use a common-sense approach to safety. This would include being diligent in following local safety regulations. Doing this can go a long way toward making the workplace safer.
It can also be said that the attitude we have toward life, work, and leisure time can have an effect on what sort of work we choose and our attitude toward safety. The following article can help us make good choices in this regard. SECTION #: Conclusions Most of the situational analysis cited herein pertains to the responsibility of the employees themselves in meeting the challenges of dealing with workplace violence. However, at some point, it could be observed that the CEO also has to create the possibilities in meeting the problem as there is a strong need for regulating the situation on the perception of the organizational leader.
(Porter, 3) With regards this particular procedure, it should be noted that the use of different business theories in dealing with equalizing the differences of the human individuals based on their human behaviors (Cohen, 4). Knowing what the employees want and knowing how they are able to meet the challenges of the situation must be clearly addressed by the CEO or other personnel administrators when creating the employee policies for the whole organization.
Detis Duhart. (1999). National Crime Victimization Survey: Violence in the Workplace,1993-99. http://www. ojp. usdoj. gov/bjs/pub/pdf/vw99. pdf. (May 14, 2007). The American Society of Safety Engineers. OSHA Alliance Program Construction Roundtable’s Design for Safety Workgroup. http://www. asse. org/. (May 14, 2007). What the Workplaces Say. Awake! 1990. Brooklyn New York Publishing. Brooklyn New York.
Kenneth Cloke. (2005). Resolving Conflicts at Work: Eight Strategies for Everyone on the Job. Jossey-Bass; Revised edition. Cohen, Michael. (1972). A Garbage Can model of an organization. Porter, Michael. (1996). What is Strategy? Harvard Business Review. What The Charts Say. (1990). Business Week. New York. Porter Michael. (1989). A Count of Violence in the Professional World. Harvard Business Review.