Do you feel safe at work?

Have you noticed increasing violence in your workplace?

A man reaching over a fast food counter to assault the employees. Workplace Violence Prevention

Today, a growing number of service workers have become accustomed to getting yelled at or threatened by customers, and often forced to de-escalate conflicts between customers or between customers and staff. It seems that at any inconvenience, no matter how small, the new response is to act with anger. While unpleasant to deal with, these behaviors aren’t dangerous, right?

Wrong. The rudeness service workers are facing can escalate into violence, and this isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. According to an article from TIME, “Americans appear to have forgotten their manners, especially with those whose job it is to assist them.” People are experiencing unprecedented escalations, such as one fast food customer pulling out a gun after being asked to order their food online and a California woman attacking a flight attendant, knocking out her teeth.

How can rude behavior lead to violence?

People usually don’t just snap, they often exhibit concerning behaviors over time before becoming violent. This is called “the pathway to violence.” Some early behaviors you might see in the service industries are paranoia, belief in conspiracies (can include COVID and mask wearing conspiracies), blaming others -such as employees- when they aren’t at fault, intense anger and hostility, threatening employees or customers, harassment, and creating unnecessary confrontations. These are all signs of potential imminent violent behavior.

What causes this behavior?

Stress and unmanaged emotions have always had the potential to lead to violence, but the behaviors we’re seeing now are influenced by COVID stress, rising perceptions of inequality, and political and cultural divisions.
According to TIME, “It’s not a coincidence… that much of the incivility occurs towards people who are in customer service industries. ‘People feel almost entitled to be rude to people who are not in a position of power,’” says a psychologist. During COVID, this power dynamic shifted. Employees enforced mask regulations and could tell customers to leave. To work within the pandemic, many businesses had to adjust their operations and still aren’t operating “normally.” Employees must enforce these new operations too, sometimes angering their customers. The anger shown in these encounters is “displaced anger. They’re angry about other things but they take it out in those encounters.”

It also doesn’t help that people aren’t getting what they need. Supply chains are bottlenecked, wages are low, the housing market is unattainable, and mental health care has few openings. This can increase stress and negative emotions in Americans. Political and cultural divisions have contributed, too.

Decorum and professional behavior in politics has decreased on both sides of the spectrum and members of the public are no longer filtering themselves. “Some researchers point to the increase in crude public discourse, both from political leaders and in online discussion—which encourages outsized emotions—as the gateway rudeness that has led to the current wave.” Their rude actions are “meant to call attention to what they see as this kind of unjust policy, some discrimination, or some infringement on some other right.”

How do workers feel?

According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), nearly 1 in 7 workers feel unsafe at work, and rightfully so. In 2017, 1,800 people suffered non-fatal workplace violence injuries and 800 died. Many workers will experience workplace violence, considering that one-fourth of American workers said their current workplace had been the scene of at least one incident.

What Can You Do? Provide Workplace Violence Prevention Training

Now, more than ever, workplace violence prevention training is a must. It can protect your staff, prepare them for potentially violent situations, and mitigate risks. Not to mention, you have a duty to protect your staff as set forth in the OSHA General Duty Clause.

With TPOP’s workplace prevention training, your staff will learn to de-escalate situations, recognize workplace violence, be aware of their surroundings and much more. If there’s anything TIME made clear, it’s that these behaviors aren’t going away anytime soon.

Prepare your workplace for violence. Contact TPOP today.