Work-related violence involves incidents in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. This definition covers a broad range of actions and behaviours that can create a risk to the health and safety of employees. It includes behaviour sometimes described as acting out, challenging behaviour and behaviours of concern.
The role of leadership and culture in controlling the risks of work-related violence
Leadership and culture play an important role in work-related physical and psychological health and safety. Those organisations that deal with the risks of occupational violence and aggression have spent time in creating a work environment that effectively manages work-related violence and where employees have been trained in how to identify, report and resolve issues relating to violence and aggression in the workplace. A culture has been created of zero-tolerance for work-related violence and people are encouraged to speak up if something does not feel right, regardless of if it is happening directly or indirectly to them. It is equally about standing up for what is right for a colleague as it is for calling out misconduct and incidents of work-related violence that are directed to the individual.
Employers have an obligation to provide a healthy and safe workplace for their employees, contractors, volunteers and other people who can reasonably be connected with the workplace. This is for the physical and psychological work environment, and occupational violence and aggression impacts both.
Creating a culture that prevents work-related violence?
Culture is often explained as the ‘unwritten rules’ that guide the behaviour of employees, contractors and volunteers, including how they interact with each other, how they interpret and respond to events and the way they go about their day to day work tasks. A good safety culture goes a long way to preventing and managing work-related illness and injury, for which incidents of work-related violence and aggression contribute. Employers can encourage a safety culture through alignment of leadership behaviours, policies and procedures and effective training. Examples include the roll-out of training such as that provided by Sentrient on occupational violence and aggression in the workplace.
What should you do to create a positive safety culture?
WorkSafe authorities in Australia, present a model for creating a positive safety culture that includes the following:
- has leaders who are vocal and proactive in promoting employee safety
- has policies and procedures in place to prevent and manage work-related violence and expects and promotes compliance with these policies and procedures
- consistently recognises and rewards employees for prioritising safety
- seeks out and implements new and improved ways of preventing work-related violence
- gives employees genuine opportunities to speak up about issues and have input into decision-making
- is clear about everyone’s roles, responsibilities and the desired outcomes they are working towards in preventing work-related violence
- has teams and groups across the organisation that can work well together to solve problems relating to work-related violence
- provides employees with the skills and knowledge necessary to do their work safely
- provides employees with the support and resources they need to do their work safely
- encourages open discussion and reporting of work-related incidents involving violence and aggression
- encourages employees to report and discuss emotional distress arising from exposure to work-related violence and provides appropriate support
- takes proactive steps to prevent and manage negative emotional responses arising from exposure to work-related violence.
Leadership to prevent work-related violence?
Leaders top down at every layer of an organisation play a fundamental role in creating a ‘safety’ culture that prioritises the prevention of work-related violence. Setting and maintaining standards regarding all types of safety and code of conduct including bullying, harassment, discrimination, inclusivity, and occupational violence and aggression all compliment a robust workplace relations and safety program. This must be visible in the thoughts and actions of everyone across a whole organisation, and a zero-tolerance for serious issues such as work-related violence.
What leadership responsibilities are important in preventing occupational violence and aggression?
WorkSafe authorities in Australia, present suggest these leadership responsibilities to help prevent occupational violence and aggression in your workplace:
- consulting with and creating opportunities for employees to speak up about risks and their ideas for managing those risks
- supporting different groups within and outside the organisation to understand their role in risk management and to work together to minimise risks
- modelling compliance with policies and other desired behaviour
- providing the support, information, feedback and resources for employees to do their job and manage work demands, including additional support during difficult events such as organisational change
- providing support and assistance for employees who are struggling to cope with the potential for or risk of work-related violence.