Program aims to prevent violence in workplace

December 10, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Compassion, common sense and a business variation of the Golden Rule could help avoid violent actions in the workplace.

"Do unto your employees as you would have them do back to you," said Carroll EAP counselor Tim Harrison at the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon meeting. "Treat them with care, concern and consideration."

Carroll EAP, a division of the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau, is an employee assistance program for county businesses that want to provide counseling and support services for their workers.

For a fee, counselors with the year-old program also will train employees and managers about warning signs for potential violence and how to diffuse such behavior. Such programs also are effective in preventing employee violence, Mr. Harrison said.

"An EAP is not a cure-all," he said. "But having one set up and identifying the employees who are having problems and getting them involved in an employee assistance program could avert some of the more disastrous examples of violence in the workplace."

In Maryland, 180 people were murdered while working from 1980 to 1989, Mr. Harrison said. Nationwide, 62,289 people were killed at work during that period, he said. Those figures exclude military employees killed in the line of duty.

"Murder is the top cause of death in the workplace," said Mr. Harrison. "Most of us look at work as a safe place to go. Home is the safest place and work is the second safest. That's not the case anymore."

However, employee violence is not limited to someone coming to work with a gun and shooting people, Mr. Harrison said. Other violent actions include spreading vicious gossip, refusing to cooperate with supervisors, being belligerent with clients or making unwanted sexual comments and advances in the office.

"Fifteen percent of American corporations have to deal with some sort of violence in the workplace," he said. "The cost to your business can include security, . . .building repair and cleanup, a loss of productivity and work time, workmen's compensation claims and turnover of employees."

Attendance problems, decreased productivity and a fascination with weapons are among the signs that an employee has the potential to be violent, Mr. Harrison said.

Statistics show the offenders are often men between the ages of 25 and 40, and have either lost their job, some of their responsibilities or something as simple as a company parking space, he said.

Personal problems or substance abuse could also trigger violent behavior, he said.

However, employers should look beyond these signs themselves to the reasons behind the behavior as true indicators for potential violence, Mr. Harrison said.

"There are plenty of times when all of us, myself included, have had decreased productivity," he said. "It could be because of a death in the family or because of a new baby.

"An employer should call the person in, say 'I've noticed this, what's happening, how can I help' "

For more information about violence in the workplace or Carroll EAP, call the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau at 876-2500 or 848-2500.

INDICATORS

Indicators that an employee may have the potential to be violent:

* Attendance problems

* Impact on supervisor's or manager's time

* Decreased productivity

* Inconsistent work patterns

* Poor on-the-job relationships

* Concentration problems

* Safety issues

* Poor health and hygiene

* Unusual or changed behavior

* Fascination with guns or other weapons

* Evidence of possible drug or alcohol abuse

* Evidence of serious stress in the employee's personal life

* Continual excuses or blame

* Unshakable depression

Those who become violent often have exhibited more than one of these symptoms.

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