Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Feb. 9, 1996

Workplace violence

Awareness = preparedness

As stories in the media so graphically illustrate, none of us is immune to workplace violence. We can help protect ourselves and our colleagues by learning to recognize warning signs of violence and taking steps to prevent potentially dangerous situations from escalating into violence.

This article, the first of a three-part Employee Assistance Program series, will look at factors that influence workplace violence. Violent situations do not spring up overnight or in an emotional vacuum. Something in the situation is toxic and develops over time. Even environmental factors in the workplace can contribute to stress and eventually lead to workplace violence.

Some of these factors may include excessive heat or noise, poor ventilation, exposure to noxious fumes, continuous time pressures, tedious tasks, frequent overtime and shift work (particularly rotating shifts).

In addition, a work environment in which there is a tolerance for horseplay or aggressive interaction (such as shoving others, tripping people as they walk by, yelling or name calling) has the potential to provide a setting for violence.

Certain behaviors by workers may be indicators of impending violence. Generally, behaviors occur in clusters over time and show a pattern of escalating intensity and frequency. These behaviors may include:

--Any act in which a worker is physically assaulted.

--Actions or behavior that would be interpreted by a reasonable person as carrying the potential for violence (throwing objects, waving fists, destroying property, etc.).

--Any substantial threat to harm another individual or in any way endanger the safety of employees.

--Any substantial threat to destroy property.

--Unusual behavior that might signal emotional distress.

Our society is overburdened and overstressed. If any of the behaviors listed above are occurring in your office, please call one of these numbers for help: EAP, 4-5069; Environmental Health and Safety, 4-5359; or Public Safety, 4- 4428.

Next: The characteristics of a potentially violent person.

Source: Charlene Gooch

Inside Iowa State
University Relations

Copyright © 1995
Iowa State University
All rights reserved

Revised 2/9/96