6 Tips on Workplace Violence Prevention in India

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Workplace Violence
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Sadly, workplace violence, despite being a serious offense, is a reality in many workplaces in India even today. While people generally think of female employees when referring to workplace violence, men are also being bullied by their bosses, co-workers, or even clients or customers.


Such employees often face multiple mental issues such as depression, reduced alertness, insomnia, etc. In worse cases, it may even lead to suicidal tendencies, and hence, workplace violence should be avoided at all costs.


Along with harming the relationship with the victim, workplace violence also harms the reputation of an organization. Hence, employers should provide adequate safeguards in place to prevent and tackle such cases. In this article, we will be understanding the various types of workplace violence, and the risk factors involved, as well as provide you with six tips on preventing it.


What is ‘Workplace Violence’?

The term ‘workplace violence’ refers to any aggressive and violent act done against any working individual, who is undertaking their official duties while the act was performed. The violent act can range from minor offenses such as stalking, verbal assault, threats, etc. to major ones such as rape, physical assault, harassment, attempt to murder, etc.


While there is no category of violence defined as workplace violence, any violent act undertaken against the health and well-being of an employee while they are working is usually classified as workplace violence.


The Vishakha judgment, which was passed on 13th August 1997, is significant for the Indian working class as it established the ‘Vishakha Guidelines’, which are a set of rules to be followed by every employer to ensure the security of female employees and provide adequate occupational safety against all types of workplace violence by defining the term, ‘sexual harassment at workplace’. The Supreme Court of India also included any act of sexual nature that creates a hostile work environment for the worker to be considered harassment of sexual nature.


The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act in 2013, (also referred to as the PoSH Act) succeeded the Vishakha Guidelines. It provides three crucial elements for advancing female security in the personal relationship and the workplace:


➔ Prevention

The PoSH Act requires companies to draft in-depth anti-sexual harassment policies, which include the repercussions of the act as well as training for its awareness.


➔ Prohibition

The PoSH Act also has provisions prohibiting any kind of sexual misconduct in the workplace.


➔ Redressal

Additionally, the PoSH Act also provides provisions for addressing any sexual harassment cases.


Types of Workplace Violence Based on Risk Factors

The term workplace violence can be divided into four distinct types based on the nature of the committed act, as well as the individual doing the act:


➔ Criminal Intent

Criminal intent occurs if the violent act is done by someone who is not working in the company. For example, if there are any robberies, it can be classified as ‘criminal intent’, since it is done by neither the company nor the employees.


In this scenario, while both employer and employee are unaware of the issue, the act of robbery still undertook on the company premises by someone having no legitimate relationship with the company. Being an illegal act with the use of force, it constitutes criminal intent and a violent act in the workplace.


➔ Client or Customer

If there is an issue between the client or customer with any employee and the issue escalates to physical violence, it is categorized under ‘client or customer violence’.


For example, there have been cases in healthcare settings where family members of patients who died at the hands of their doctor have been in violent incidents seeking revenge against the doctor, the security guards, and the hospital where their relatives were being treated.


➔ Worker on Worker

‘Worker on worker’ workplace violence occurs when an employee attacks another staff member. It can happen between multiple employees, between peers, as well as between superiors and peers.


While the other types of violent incidents of workplace violence can be handled smoothly due to their isolated nature, worker-on-worker issues have the potential to destroy the organization.


➔ Personal Relationship

When a family member of the employee commits a violent act, it is categorized under ‘personal relationships’. The violent act can range from verbal or emotional abuse to serious physical or domestic violence.


However, it should occur within the company premises or when the employee is undertaking their daily duties and conduct for it to be a ‘workplace violence’ issue. Otherwise, it will be categorized under other disruptive behavior.


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Employees at Risk

While employees working all over the world are prone to workplace risks, some of them are more vulnerable than others. For example, female staff are more likely to be discriminated against than their male counterparts, while also at higher risk of being victims of sexual misconduct in organizations.


Similarly, employees working in business verticals that deal with the necessities of human beings, such as the public sector, healthcare workers, social workers, etc. are more likely to face client or customer violence than a private sector employee. On the other hand, the private sector worker may be subjected to worker-on-worker violence due to the cutthroat competition and conduct in their workplaces.


Additionally, the probability of a worker being physically abused by the client or customer increases in cases where they have such authority. An example of such domestic violence would be hospitality workers and customer service agents, where their guests may misbehave with them, while their managers may ask them to keep their mouths shut to please their clients. While such disruptive behavior of the customer should be punished by law, these workers often refrain from complaining due to the fear of losing their jobs.


Some Alarming Statistics

  1. The UN International Labour Organization report of 2021 surveyed around 75000 employees from 121 countries and found that more than 22% of them have experienced at least one form of violence.
  2. The website CareerBuilder surveyed in 2020 to find that around 55% of the survey participants are bullied at their workplace.
  3. According to the Stanford University, Workplace employee productivity can drop up to 40% due to bullying.
  4. The website Legal Service India states that the number of registered cases of workplace violence increased by 54% between 2014 to 2017.
  5. The same website also informs that by July 2018, 27533 sexual harassment report incidents happened in India.


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How to Prevent Workplace Violence?

As we can observe from these statistics, there has been a steady increase in the number of workplace violence cases. A lot of these cases could have been prevented if the company had taken the necessary preventive measures, to prevent workplace violence and ensure the health and safety of its staff.


In fact, there are various steps that an organization can take for workplace violence prevention and ensure the well-being of its employees. Here are six of the most significant workplace violence prevention tactics:


1. Review your Workspace

The first step in ensuring a violence-free workplace is to analyze your workspace thoroughly keeping in mind the various risk factors, that affect the mental well-being of your staff. You can begin by asking yourself the question, whether there has been a violent incident in the workplace and what are the factors that contributed to its escalation?


You can also review how you tackled such a situation. Additionally, physical barriers, electronic payment systems, locked drop safes, panic buttons, high-security cash registers, etc. can also be deployed if your office is in high-risk isolated areas.


On the other hand, if there has not been any incident of violence in the workplace at your company, you should also try to understand what you are doing well. Such analysis will help to prevent workplace violence and make it even more conducive to employees’ physical well-being.


2. Develop Nurturing Environment

Another major factor that contributes to the prevention of workplace violence is a supportive and nurturing environment, where the employees would not be agitated even if there is an issue. If your employees realize that their opinions are valued and their feedback is heeded, they would be more likely to keep their cool even if a customer is trying to provoke them.


Additionally, you should also let them understand that any violent behavior would be dealt with swiftly and that the company does not tolerate any misbehavior under any circumstances.


3. Provide Communication Options

You should also provide your staff with adequate grievance redressal avenues to ensure that they can speak their mind freely without the fear of losing their jobs.


Hence, it is extremely essential to provide our staff with multiple options to communicate freely. You should make open communication a part of your work site and office culture to let them have the courage to speak freely and have a natural flow of ideas.


4. Train Employees

Another avenue for preventing workplace violence is to raise awareness of workplace violence prevention by providing adequate training. You should let your employees understand the multiple steps you take to ensure there is no violence in the workplace.


Additionally, you should also let them train on how to prevent workplace violence as well as increase awareness on how to de-escalate a situation. Providing empathetic communication is also a key factor that will reduce instances of workplace violence.


5. Define Workplace Violence Policies

By clearly defining your workplace violence prevention policies, you can ensure your employees that the company is quite serious about maintaining workplace harmony. You should also define the disciplinary actions and the zero-tolerance policy actions that would be taken against an employee if they are found indulging in violent behavior.


Such preventive measures ensure that the employees would be fearful of the consequences of their actions and would be less prone to indulge in such behavior.


6. Implement Workplace Violence Action Plans

It is equally important to ensure that the anti-violence policies are being followed as it is to define the policies. You should commit to a violence-free workplace by allocating time, money, and other resources to provide your staff with a worry-free and safe environment. It discourages the ones prone to violent behavior while ensuring others that the company prioritizes their occupational safety.


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In the modern digital world, workplace violence should have been an issue of the past. However, humans being humans, will continue to remain violent in behavior.


However, it does not mean that the workplace should also be violent. Since prevention is better than cure, you should ensure the occupational safety, health, care, and security of your staff with adequate policies, training and crisis-handling, and preventive measures in place.


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