December 7, 2015
Violence has become an unfortunate reality in current society, and the workplace is not immune. With more people spending more time at work, more technology providing more access to those employees, and more employees under more pressure to balance increasing demands of work and home, the risk of violence incidents at work loom larger. But what ends in a “violent” incident often began with what seems to be an innocuous workplace conflict or intolerance that – unaddressed, perhaps – escalated until its violent explosion. And while the employer might respond well, even admirably, to that violent explosion, an ounce of prevention is worth even the best pound of response. Here’s the why, what, who and where of managing workplace conflict and how employers can prevent it from escalating into bullying, harassment or violence.
Why should employers deal with workplace conflict? Because there is risk to the employer of not doing so. Unresolved workplace conflict can escalate, sometimes quickly, into harassment and/or bullying, and ultimately to violence – and even injury or loss of life: “Violence in the workplace begins long before fists fly or lethal weapons extinguish lives. Where resentment and aggression routinely displace cooperation and communication, violence has occurred.” US Arbitrator Fields in USPS and NALC, NALC GTS 2348. The key risks to the employer of not addressing workplace conflict at all, or doing so inadequately are:
What is workplace violence? Workplace violence can take many forms; it’s not limited to physical attacks or assaults, but also includes:
Who is the typical workplace bully – and the typical target? Anyone – including employees, supervisors, managers, visitors, clients, family members, spouses, and friends – can be the workplace bully or her target. But they often have some key characteristics:
Where is the “workplace” for the purposes of “workplace” harassment, bullying and violence? For these purposes, the “workplace” goes beyond both the four walls of the employer’s premises and “working hours”, to any context with a connection to work. And for the purposes of technology and social media, when other employees are included in such electronic communications, the comments are considered to be made in the “workplace”.
How do employers prevent and manage workplace conflict so it doesn’t happen at all, and doesn’t escalate into bullying, harassment – or violence. An understanding of the underlying causes of workplace conflict, harassment, bullying and violence is an essential starting point. Once you’ve done that, here are six key steps to prevent and manage workplace conflict:
Please contact your McInnes Cooper lawyer or any member of our McInnes Cooper Labour & Employment Team to discuss this topic or any other legal issue.
McInnes Cooper has prepared this document for information only; it is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult McInnes Cooper about your unique circumstances before acting on this information. McInnes Cooper excludes all liability for anything contained in this document and any use you make of it. © McInnes Cooper, 2015. All rights reserved. McInnes Cooper owns the copyright in this document. You may reproduce and distribute this document in its entirety as long as you do not alter the form or the content and you give McInnes Cooper credit for it. You must obtain McInnes Cooper’s consent for any other form of reproduction or distribution. Email us at [email protected] to request our consent.
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