Workplace violence is perceived to be acts or threats of physical assault at the workplace. Instances of physical assault range from harassment, intimidations, verbal abuse, homicide anddisruptive behaviors that involve employers, employees, and clients at the work site. For instance, an employee who was recently-fired opened fire at a UPS facility in Alabama and killed two people before killing himself.The authorities reported that two peoplewho died were higher-ranked employees of an organization. Premised on the correlation between stress and workplace violence, negative stress has been cited as the plausible reason behind workplace violence. The higher the magnitudes of generating stress at workplace the greater the possibility of violence eruption. In some cases of extreme stress, incidents of burnout, suicide, and homicide have been recorded.
Further, statistics indicate that a vast majority of employees many times experience severe negative stress at workplace.Working time arrangement particularly night shifts that are poorly organized and managed have been recorded as a major source of work stress and violence. For instance, workers in the Health care sector work round-the-clock. Night shifts have been attributed to causing sleep and gastro-intestinal disorders. In addition, change in eating habits has also been attributed to night shifts (Crofford, 2011). The prolonged effect is a platform of work stress that eventually culminates to exposure to anxiety and workplace violence.
This study is ingrained workplace violence. The relationship between stress and work site violence will also be given an in-depth analysis. Further, this study will highlight the magnitude of the problem at the workplaces and the crucial factors at stake. Notably,recommending coping strategies to facilitate employee work-life merge constitutes the scope of this study.
Relationship between Stress and Work Violence
Victims of workplace violence do react as a result of accumulated workplace stress. Often conflicts and physical confrontations erupt between employers, employees, senior, and junior staff in organizations. An American study that covered a sample of 7,000 state employees concluded that the possibility of occurrence of workplace physical assaults result from work stress. The researchers further concluded that physical assaults and extreme cases of shooting are meted by junior staff to senior.
The study findings indicate that the junior staff attributes the work stress they experience to be directly caused by their supervisors and senior management staff. They accuse their supervisors of high handedness and rigidity (Heugten & Schmitz, 2015). Efforts to have their grievances addressed are disregarded. The study also found that employees suffering from this severe work stress are more likely to become violence perpetrators.
In 2013, a total of 674 supervisors were either killed or sustained seriously injured on railway industry. A similar study done Netherlands indicated that suicides on a railway track records an average of 250 cases annually. In addition, the finding of the UK-based study indicated that approximately 11,000 physical fights, stabbings,and throwing of stones involving management staff and passengers were recorded on London buses 2014 (Crofford, 2011).
Stress and workplace violence have been found to have a positive association where psychosocial risks such as monotonous duties, higher work intensity, short deadlines, work-life imbalance, violence, and public or colleagues harassment have been attributed to be greater sources of work stress. Based on the statistics of the research conducted by (Percy & Randrup, 2012), 66% of employees across the globe performing repetitive and monotonous duties are at more prevalent risk at work. These workers report that these duties have detrimental effects to their health. Minimizing psychosocial risks and the protection of workers from the risks is crucial for allowing longer workforce lives and remedy to the early exit from the labor market. Social dialogue plays a crucial role in raising awareness and implementation of interventions.
Stress and work violence are increasingly becoming a common phenomenon in all fields, for in instance, in health sector workplace, Doctors, and the social workers have been recorded to experience high-level scale stress while work violence in this sector constitutes a quarter of all recorded work violence related cases (Heugten & Schmitz, 2015). International Labor Office and the World Health Organization formed a joint program that was launched in 2014 in the bid to develop policies and practical strategies for prevention and the elimination of violence of work-related cases in the workplace. When first launched, the program was established and identification of information gaps done. In addition, it was decided that many studies be launched to seek recommendations, practical steps, and drafting of guidelines to help address workplace violence incidents in the across all sectors.
Further, it has been observed that the combination of work-related stress and a combination of additional factors, for instance, substance use triggers workplace violence. Many studies have observed that stress and work violence relationship is usually a mediated one while workplace violence and stress relationship is a direct and a straightforward association (Crofford, 2011). Violence that includes even minor acts is a source of distress among victims and has long-lasting and deleterious health effects.Privatization, decentralizing, and the rationalization that are increasing adopted by many organizations are deeply affecting work conditions among employees. These conditions have been exacerbated by regular downsizing, layoffs, and freezing or cuts in employee salaries. In addition, heavy workloads, long working hours, and ineffective shifts have been cited as the major sources of workplace stress. These factors are potential stressors that eventually lead to the creation of a climate of violence that is driven by anxiety, increasing exasperation, and vulnerability.
Ingrained in the study conducted by Heugten & Schmitz (2015)on the exposure to stress risks and violence,it was found that women record the greatest number of work-related violence across all the fields with certain types of work related violence, for instance, sexual harassment, been worst in women. The study concluded that women who are vulnerable to work violence exposure include precarious, low-paid, and the low-status jobs. European Union figures on sexual harassment among working women were found to be twice the average in addition to those working in a precarious status. Extreme cases of sexual harassment have been recorded on young women workforce.
Incidents of Workplace Violence
Workplace violence causes immediate and in many cases long-term disruptions to interpersonal relationships and the general working environment of organizations. Data from the International Labor Office (2000)shows significant incidents of workplace violence.In 2015, 14% of reported accidents in Irish workplace were violence based. Public administration recorded 58%, Health and Social Work sector 22% while transport and Communication recorded 8% (Percy & Randrup, 2012).
Other occupations, for instance, public transport have been found to be more exposed to workplace violence compared to others. The incidents of workplace violence between staff and the management recorded across different fields in 2015 in the U.S were on the rise (Heugten & Schmitz, 2015).
Source: Heugten & Schmitz (2015)
Ingrained on the findings, the health sector had 36.10% of the total violence instances recorded in the U.S in 2015. Additionally, the private organizations had 29.2% while public organizations recorded 33.5%. On the other hand, education sector recorded the least instances of 12.7%. Citing the calculated figures, loss of 0.5 to 3.5 % annual GDP results from work related violence incidents across the globe (Crofford, 2011).
In Britain, a report that published by Health and Safety Executive in 2014 revealed occupations that are most stressful have recorded the highest episodes of workplace violence. These include teaching, nursing, organizational management, road transport, and the security workers in that order. The report further indicated that in these groups at least one worker in five experienced high stress. Teaching was exceptional with where two in five teachers reported high-level stress.
Premised on a study conducted in Netherlands by Percy & Randrup (2012), the extent of workplace violence against workers in the public sector was higher than expected. Because of the nature of their roles, certain groups such as police officers are prepared to deal with violence compared to other groups such as nursing personnel or procurement officers. European Union, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment sectors have recorded the highest victims on all types of violence which ranges from physical violence, intimidation, and sexual violence.
Causes of Work Violence
This is an extent to which employees feel that the job demands and time pressures are mismatching. Perceived incidents of unrealistic deadlines and job expectations put a lot of pressure on employees to accomplish set tasks. Often, employees experience a lot of pressure that piles up over time to become severe. Eventually, these employees become vulnerable to psychological disorders, rebellious, and perpetrators of workplace violence to their supervisors whom they perceive to be the source of overloading.
Workers associate experience of pressure control perceptions. Ingrained in (Heugten & Schmitz, 2015)assertions, lack of influence and consultation from workers in the manner in which work is to be done and organized is a potential source of work stress. For instance, lack of employee control over some aspects of work, employee exclusion in decision making, suggestions, and feedback giving about the working conditions are potential employee stress-causers and subsequent perpetration on violent acts.
Many jobs require team work for optimal performance to be realized. Poor and unsupportive working relationships among employees and the management results to feelings of exclusion, aggressive style of management style, poor relations, aversive behaviors such bullying and harassment. In addition, poor working relations are platform misunderstandings between employees and the organizational leadership. Conflicts and misunderstandings breed isolation especially to junior staff that feel left out and consequently plan to hit back.
This is the degree that employees feel secured in their job. In cases where employees feel unprotected and insecure they become stressed. Further, job change has been recorded as a source of work pressure. Employees who do not have job permanence, for instance, those working under contracts terms always have fear for their future and feel provoked by any form of work pressure from supervisors.
Work and life merge involves the integration of life and job. Creating an amicable association between the two life concepts has been a long-standing debate (Crofford, 2011).Work demands potentially spill over to the social life of workers. Often, a strained a relationship exists between work and life outside work. Long hours at workplace have detrimental effects to family relationships. The challenge compartmentalizing life and work results to pressure and often makes workers develop psychological disorders and vulnerable to workplace violence.
Coping with Stress
Over the years, preventingworkplace violence has been a growing concern in many organizations across the globe. In the US, public interest and media attentions have been focused on curbing workplace violence, for instance, shootings in office buildings by disgruntled employees. Quantifying the cost aspect of workplace violence is crucial in shaping the anti-violence strategies, both in the developed and developing countries (Percy & Randrup, 2012). Adoption of cost-effective programs and initiatives by organizations will facilitate a work-life merge in the contemporary society where people are engaged in working round the clock.
Setting up stress free working environment; physical and organizational, has a significant contribution towards reducing risks of developing stress and consequent violence. Emerging strategies to cope with stress and curb violence focuses on the elimination of the stress and violence causes rather than treating consequences. Long-term appreciation approach incorporates all interventions.
Social dialogue in order to defuse incidents of work-related stress and violence in all sectors has been cited a crucial approach towards addressing workplace violence. A participatory approach that includes all concerned parties in the workplace having an active role in the design and implementation of anti-stress and the anti-violence initiatives should be adopted. Having role models of workers who managed coping with stress should be disseminated in all sectors at the workplace. Creation of networks, fostering awareness, and following of workplace guidelines have a significant impact in coping stress and violence at workplace.
Creation of a balanced schedule helps curb work-related stress. Institutions should set up guidance and counselling centres.Counselors should help workers to analyze their schedules, duties, and daily tasks. Mismanagement of time at workplace has been recorded as one of the major contributors of work stress (Heugten & Schmitz, 2015). Counselors should help workers create a balance between work and social life. In addition, employees should be guided to avoid scheduling many activities in one day as this has been attributed to cause stress when tasks are not completed as was anticipated. Activities should be scheduled depending on complexity and available time to avoid distress originating from frustration of unaccomplished tasks.
Emotional intelligence helps foster social awareness among workers. The counselors should help employees to develop their ability to reason, understand, accommodate, and react rationally to different emotional situations at the workplace. Helping employees develop skills for relationship management in the workplace will foster their ability to manage conflicts at workplace.
Examining workplace violence and the relationship between stress and violence at the workplacecovered the scope of this study. Causes of workplace stress and violence were also analyzed. Besides, the study highlighted the magnitude of the problem of the workplace violence across the globe. Creation of balanced schedule to help workers curb work-related stress is among the recommendations of coping strategies this study gave to help workers to cope with stress at their workplace.
In addition, this study found that engaging in social dialogue helps defuse incidents of work-related stress and violence. Further, engaging a participatory approach that includes all workers having an active role in the design and implementation of anti-stress and the anti-violence initiatives was found a critical and effective strategy of coping with workplace stress to avert workplace violence.
Crofford, L. J. (2011). Violence, Stress, and Somatic Syndromes. Trauma, Violence, & Amp; Abuse,8(3), 299-313.
Heugten, K. V., & Schmitz, C. L. (2013). Stress and Violence in the Workplace. Social Work for Sociologists 7(1), 95-106.
Percy, L. & Randrup, R. (2012). Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and Workplace Violence. Journal of Workplace Violence, 535-548.