Workplace environments that may trigger violence (3/28/13)

As I prepare for a continuing legal education (CLE) seminar about workplace violence for the upcoming Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute (May 20-21, 2013), I’ve created a list of characteristics that contribute to workplace stress levels and negativity, which may in turn serve as a trigger for violent behavior.  Devoting time, energy and resources to strengthening employee relations through clear, transparent, and effective leadership and communications are critical to ensuring a strong workplace environment and culture.

  • Under staffing, increased workloads leading to increase in working hours and compulsory overtime;
  • Confusion and frustration about poorly defined job tasks and responsibilities;
  • Promoting, rewarding or ignoring employees who are unaccountable, are under or poorly performing, particularly in upper management;
  • ŸProvides little or no opportunity for employee feedback; dismissive of employee concerns and complaints; no follow through or follow up on employee concerns;
  • ŸDownsizing or reorganization affecting certain employees directly; the prospect or fear of future downsizing or reorganization creating feelings of uncertainty;
  • ŸLabor disputes, negative contract negotiations and poor labor-management relations;
  • ŸIneffective and poor management styles, such as arbitrary or unexplained decisions; over-monitoring of employee activity; corrections or reprimands in front of other employees, inconsistent discipline;
  • Ÿ“Do as I say, not as I do” management attitude;
  • Inadequate security or an under-trained, poorly motivated security force;
  • Employee counseling that is insufficient, or lacking altogether;
  • A high injury rate or frequent grievances may be clues to problem situations in a workplace.[i]
Our CLE is entitled “Every Employer is Vulnerable — A Guide to Preventing Workplace Violence.” I am presenting along with Laura A. Pfeiffer of Winthrop & Weinstine and Dr. Kristine Kienlen of Minnesota Threat Assessment and Forensic Professionals.

[i] A portion of this content was adapted from USDOJ, FBI, Workplace Violence, Issues in Response.