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Survey: Workplace Violence a Far-Reaching Problem for the American Work Force

Feb. 17, 2012
According to a new survey of more than 1,000 working Americans, workplace violence is a far-reaching problem that has touched many employees' lives. In fact, more than half of workers have been either personally impacted, heard about or experienced an event that resulted in or could have led to workplace violence.

"Workplace violence often starts as verbal assaults or harassment and can escalate into threatening behavior, bullying, physical assaults and even, in some instances, deadly encounters," said Bill Whitmore, chairman, president and CEO of AlliedBarton Services.

The nationwide survey, conducted by David Michaelson and Co. LLC, polled 1,030 adults working outside the home. The results showed that 52 percent of these workers have witnessed, heard about, are aware of or have experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace. These events include open hostility, abusive language or threats and can escalate to significant physical harm to someone by another person.

Highlights from the survey findings include:

· 5 percent of respondents personally experienced or were personally affected by a violent incident at work.
· Overall, 12 percent of respondents have witnessed, heard about or are aware of an incidence of significant physical harm to another person at work.
· 28 percent of workers reported experiencing either a violent event or one that could lead to violence at their current place of employment.
· 34 percent of respondents reported feeling very or somewhat concerned with their personal safety.
· 29 percent of workers who witnessed, heard about or experienced workplace violence did not report the incident or take other action.
· Almost all (94 percent) employers take some action as a result of workplace violence; the most likely type of action taken is meeting with employees. Only 53 percent of employers took disciplinary actions.
· Following an incident, 45 percent of employers implemented training for employees and 35 percent implemented training for supervisors.
· 22 percent of employers made revisions to company policies following an incident.
· Fewer than half (44 percent) of survey respondents perceived senior managers as being concerned with workplace violence.

Workplace violence is linked to lower employee morale and less positive attitudes toward jobs. Additionally, workers who have in some way experienced workplace violence are less likely to feel valued or that they are paid fairly, the survey indicated.

Workplace violence also appears to be a significant contributor for workers in seeking a new position – 28 percent of those who experienced or are aware of workplace violence are looking for or are seriously considering looking for a new job. By contrast, only 17 percent of those who have not had this experience are considering new employment.

"With the significant increase in unemployment in the past several years and the downturn in the economy, there is every reason to believe that these incidents may increase," said Whitmore. He added that the survey results and his book are "intended to encourage more senior leaders to take a proactive stance against workplace violence and reinforce how leaders at every level can play an important role."

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