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Workplace Violence Essay Examples

Workplace Violence

A summary paper for the partial fulfillment of the requirements for completion of the Pacific Union College Degree Completion Program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration. Napa Valley College November, 1999 INTRODUCTION Preface This paper is intended to explore the issues of violence in the workplace. It does not recommend a specific course of action or purport to address all of the issues associated with the problem. It is my desire to examine particular elements of workplace violence with the idea that I may author a policy for my employer. Background Crime continues to be a controversial topic in American society. Debate regarding the cause of crime may be found in the media on any given day. What to do about crime is also the topic of much discussion. 5.5 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at years end 1996. (U. S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.)

Many changes have taken place within the Department of Corrections in California during the 1990s. Most significantly, dwindling financial recourses have reshaped the priorities of the department. It cost $21,470 a year to house an inmate in a California state prison. (Inmate Costs, 1997-1998 p.1 Corrections: Public Safety, Public Service). There are currently about 161,033 inmates in California Prisons. Since staffing levels must remain more or less constant, it is inmate programs that suffer from lack of funding. Criminals sentenced to prison are under the custody of the Department of Corrections. In addition to fiscal pressure, the department is subject to political pressure at all levels. Public reaction to crime is responsible for the denial of weight yard and other recreational activities; Three Strikes, and the loss of conjugal visits.

All place varying levels of stress upon inmates and staff. Nature of the Problem Violence is universally recognized as a pervasive part of contemporary American society and of our Nations past as well. Many of the attempts to understand the phenomenon have been made in response to specific situations, such as the lawlessness of the prohibition era, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the urban riots of the mid 1960s. (Roth) I work for the California Department of Corrections. I am on a two-year assignment as the Employee Relations Officer. Many people understand the title to mean that I am to be an employee advocate. I am, but not for that reason. I work directly for the Warden. When I hear of the Wardens open door policy I sometimes wince: Occasionally, I am the open door. I am often the employees first line of opportunity to vent frustrations.

As the Employee Relations Officer, I supervise and coordinate the grievance procedure; participate in local employee negotiations, and oversee employee discipline. I experience first-hand the employees emotional aftermath of notification of discipline, failed negotiations, and disappointing grievance responses. During my 18 years of employment at San Quentin State Prison, there have been several instances of workplace violence committed by employees. This summary paper is intended to explore the ramifications of workplace violence. Many of the topics discussed in Human Resource Management are applicable to this exploration of workplace violence both in terms of explanation of the behavior and the effect upon employees.

The California Department of Corrections currently does not have a statewide workplace violence policy, per se. Aspects of workplace violence are addressed in other forums. I received information the Department is currently formulating a policy, but the publishing date is not known. Without a statewide, or departmental, policy, it becomes incumbent upon each institution or facility within the department to address workplace violence individually. It is almost shocking to discover the departments lack of a policy. I am also concerned individual policys may send varying messages and practices to employees. My initial thoughts and research regarding workplace violence centered around the idea of employees committing violence upon other employees while at work. While this aspect of workplace violence remains central to my analysis, most of the workplace violence in my employment stems from inmates committing violence upon employees.

Since I work in a prison, I find it reasonable to expect a degree of violence committed by inmates upon staff and other inmates. Most of that type of behavior is adequately dealt with. Inmates are subject to a stringent disciplinary process including documentation, a hearing, and forfeiture of good-time credits or transfer to a more secure living unit if found guilty. The due process afforded inmates is well documented and enforced in our culture. One of the topics discussed in Human Resource Management was that of the culture of the organization. Many people expect a high level of violence in our prisons, and often make condescending remarks when an employee speaks out about inmate violence to staff. We are expected to take it, to a certain degree. Unfortunately, the California prison system has recently experienced a different kind of workplace violence circumstance.

The media has done a good job exposing work practices by a minority of staff at several prisons using unacceptable levels of force upon inmates. At Pelican Bay State Prison, two Medical Technical Assistants were found guilty of abusing their inmate patient to the extent the inmate received third degree burns from scalding bath water. In Corcoran State Prison, several staff members were fired after controversial practices were found. Several incidents of staged fights between adversary gang members were well documented. Recently, 48 correctional officers were suspended from work pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations they had sex with female inmates.

While it is too early to draw a conclusion, it is suspected some of the sex was forced upon the inmates. So what is workplace violence? I have provided examples of who may be involved in workplace violence in my workplace. Inmates against inmate; Inmates against staff; staff against inmates, and staff against staff. Workplace violence of staff against staff may occur for several reasons. We explored some of the reasons, perhaps indirectly, in class. Dissatisfaction with the employment, the supervisor, a recent performance evaluation or a job change may all contribute to an employees inability to cope at work. Most often at San Quentin are employee pay problems affecting staff. It is a constant struggle for accounting to get the officers overtime pay out on time. It becomes very important this time of year. Stress is a big factor in workplace violence. A variety or issues, some of which have mutually detrimental effect, stress employees and inmates.

The loss of weight yards, conjugal visits, and the effect of Three Strike laws all contributes to the perceived overall oppression by inmates. It is often the over-reaction to these stressors which lead to adverse inmate-staff relations. In addition to the employee issues raised above, many employees are faced with problems at home. Law Enforcement and Corrections employees are one group of people who seem to suffer more than their fair share of family and marriage problems. It appears many employees are able to tolerate problems at work, or problems at home, but when faced with both problems, an inability to effectively cope with the stress is demonstrated. Of concern is how that manifestation is revealed. More pointedly, how that manifestation occurs with a highly trained, armed, frustrated, perhaps despondent employee while at work, is relevant to the study of my work environment, and policies of the department.

When I first think of workplace violence, I think of abortion clinic bombings, a crazed gunman shooting into a office, or perhaps a murder-suicide involving a former lover at work. The estimated annual victimizations for the years 1992 through 1996 for workplace crimes counted in the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey and by the Bureau of Labor Statistics were as follows: Simple assaults 1.5 million Aggravated assaults 396,000 Robberies 84,000 Rapes and sexual assaults 51,000 Homicides 1,0000 There were about 218 acts of violence per 1,000 correctional workers during this period, second only to Law Enforcement Officers generally, with about 306 acts of violence per 1,000 officers. (Smith) The survey found that less than one half of all nonfatal workplace crimes are reported to the police. (Warchol) The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate homicide was the second leading cause of death in the workplace, following highway fatalities, during a five-year study period. The workplace murders accounted for one of every six fatal occupational injuries. Firearms were used to commit more that 80 percent of the workplace homicides. About 20 percent were the result of bombings, stabbings, or beatings.

(Warchol) About 37 percent of the victims of workplace violence said they knew their offenders, but very fewonly about one percentwere victimized by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend in contrast to other violent incidents. Nationwide, about 21 per cent of all violence against women and 2 per cent of violence against men is committed by intimates. (Warchol) In the last five years, violent crimes involving stalking, workplace violence, and attacks or threatened attacks on public figures and officials have been prominent in the news. Law enforcement and security professional are turning to prevention as an important component of control strategy. It is apparent threats of violence arise from feelings or ideas that range from the mean-spirited to the messianic.

Sometimes a threat is backed by a will and capacity to do harm; at other times, a voiced threat may amount to nothing but emotional venting. Violent acts can be committed when no prior threat has been uttered. (Fein) For all of us, the ability to recognize the difference in making a threat and posing a threat is crucially important. As an initial step to developing a workplace violence policy or training guideline then may be to teach employees how to assess a perceived threat. Is an employee just letting off some steam when they say, I ought to blow up payroll. They never get my pay right. Or is this the first utterance of a employee posing a real threat to the workplace? Violent people often have a traceable history of problems, conflicts, disputes, and failures. Violent behavior may be triggered by these individuals perception that it provides a means to rectify or avenge an injustice or wrongdoing. Targeted violence can be premeditated or opportunistic when a situation arises that facilitates or permits the violence or does not prevent it from occurring.

(Fein) Several years ago, a correctional officer at work was accused of the sexual harassment of a cadet while he was acting as a guest company commander at the academy. It is just about the worst kind of sexual misconduct allegation that can be levied against a supervisor employee. Staff could see the accused employee going downhill. Eventually, he was hospitalized for his own safety. Prior to that, he made a comment about being able to shoot people from atop the hill at work. The utterance was taken seriously. Employees trained in special tactics were put on duty on the hill for several days while the employee was off work and out of contact. The employee was dismissed from state service, but we were all watchful in fear he may try to harm other employees. The employee had a history of violence towards women. He was immature, egocentric, and had a fascination with guns. He was white, about 35 at the time of the incident, and generally fits the profile of an individual likely to engage in self-destructive behavior. The process of quantifying a threat is referred to as threat assessment. Had my employer been better able to recognize the signs and symptoms of our troubled employee, things may have turned out better for him. It was not until several years later that it was learned the complainant lied about many aspects of the case.

Threat assessment involves determining the individuals coping skills, ability to carry out a threat, knowledge of the intended victim, and other variables. An additional consideration for law enforcement employers is the ready access to guns by their employees. Law enforcement officers are trained in the use of guns to the extent that there is not much left to chance if the employee intends to use a gun in their commission of workplace violence. The ability to actually carry out the threat is a large component of threat assessment. The scrawney 98-pound weakling of an employee threatening to beat up their 250 supervisor in the parking lot may indicate the employee may attempt to harm the supervisor, but the chances are the employee is not going to do it by fighting. A critical element of trying to determine if someone is actually able to carry out a threat is the problem of the unknown. What if that same 98-pound weakling is a gun enthusiast?

The picture is focused on a different issue. The intended target of the threat needs evaluation as well. A procedure to inform the intended target of the threat must be included in any workplace violence policy or procedure. Safeguards to protect the intended victim while at work must be addressed. A victim must not only be encouraged to speak up to their employer about a threat, they must receive the full support of their employer. Their local law enforcement department must also be notified and provided with as much information about the person making the threat. Many states now have anti-stalking laws. They are all relatively new. Intended victims must be shown support by their employers in the form of Employee Assistance Programs, or early intervention programs or similar programs.

At San Quentin, employees have ready access to employees trained in hostage negotiations, debriefing, and other specialties that may guide the individual through the reporting process. For immediate intervention, a large body of health care professionals is available during regular business hours. Some procedures are already in place. We have a procedure to stop employees from entering the grounds. A picture and brief notation by the Warden is posted at each of the entrance gates to the prison. Each oncoming gate officer is responsible for reviewing the list each day. The gate officer is armed. While we do not have the expectation of the gate officer shooting an employee just for entering the property, it does call for drastic action. Several legal sanctions may need to be imposed.

A restraining order barring the employee from the work premises, or from specific employees on or off the job may need to be obtained. While an employee bent on carrying out a threat may not be deterred by a restraining order, the action may be sufficient to make some individuals aware of the serious nature of their behavior. Punishment is a logical conclusion to workplace violence. In its extreme, workplace violence may cause death. It may be the person which acts to carry out a threat that dies. More often, something less than death happens. Employees may be suspended or terminated for cause from the jobs because of threats or harassment. They may receive other forms of employee discipline, or they may receive incarceration for their actions. Workplace violence in any form is a crime.

I opened this paper with a background about crime and its effects on inmates and employees, and this paper concludes with the notion of crime. It concerns me that otherwise outstanding employees can be so troubled as to commit some form of workplace violence knowing fully they are committing a crime. All employees should be treated with dignity and respect. All employers must develop the need for workplace violence awareness and take proactive steps to recognize the behavior, assess the threat, treat the employees, and impose legal sanctions when needed. Resources Bachman, Ronet. Violence and Theft in the Workplace. (1992)

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/ascii/theftwork.txt Fein, Robert A., Threat Assessment: An Approach To Prevent Targeted Violence, September 1995, National Institute for Justice http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles/threat.txt Mondy, R. Wayne, Human Resource Management (1999) Prentice Hall, New Jersey. Robinson, Janet L., 10 Facts Every Employer and Employee Should Know About Workplace ViolenceIt May Save Your Life! (1999) http://www.smartbiz.com/sbs/columns/robin1.htm Roth, Jeffery A.; Understanding and Preventing Violence, (1998). http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles/unprv.txt Sherman, Lawrence W. Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesnt, Whats Promising. NIJ Research In Brief (July, 1998) http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles/171676.txt Smith, Stu.,U. S. Department of Justice press release, July 26, 1998. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/wv96.pr Warchol, Greg, Workplace Violence, 1992-1996 (1996) http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov.bjs Word Count = 2758

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