With the increase of financial stress in the economy, comes the increased possibility of violence and anger being expressed in the workplace. This certainly is a matter of serious concern to both management and employees alike. This problem can be seen in both an increase of violence from customers, and anger by employees expressed towards others in the workplace. For instance, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics the leading cause of death of women in the workplace is homicide.
In the USA, the employee has a legal right to a " threat free" workplace. Employers have legal responsibility to provide this work environment. So what can be done to keep peace in the workplace?
In the United States OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has a whole series of articles to help employers set up policies and programs to promote a happy productive work environment. They suggest that employers have a written workplace violence prevention program in place and enforced by management. This plan would need to anticipate customer anger and violence and also that that may erupt between employees.
Customers who have anger issues are a problem in every work setting and certainly is a contingency that needs to be planned for. No matter what you do, some people are going try to pick quarrels with your staff. You need a firm plan in place to deal with this inevitable problem. Brainstorm with staff to come with solutions that are workable in your particular environment. Have set procedures to refer angry customers to Management as rapidly possible to prevent escalation of conflicts caused by emotionally "needy" customers.
As for employee anger expressed towards others int he workplace OSHA suggests a zero tolerance policy. One has no control over what customer comes in off the street, but employees in the the internal environment can be informed of zero tolerance of angry outbursts in the workplace. This needs to be both modeled and enforced by management. Employees may come from backgrounds where they did not learn learn appropriate conflict resolution behaviors and need to see management demonstrate them on a consistent basis. They also need to be instructed in conflict resolution procedures considered appropriate for your work setting.
For both customer and employee anger management the employer needs to have a written plan for dealing with these issues as they inevitably arise. New employees should receive training in these policies and sign written agreements of adherence to these company procedures. Management should train employees in skills to handle angry customers and staff. The employee should feel comfortable seeking aid when an explosive out of control customer or employee is on the premises. Modes of mediating disagreements between employees at the lowest level of conflict should be in place and part of the normal day-to-day work environment. Certainly, it is best to resolve issues early before they fester until a moment of explosion.
For many more great suggestions on defusing and avoiding workplace violence and to getting help for employees, consider corporate anger management classes.
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