What is Violence?
Most people think of violence as a physical assault or attack. However, it is a much broader problem. It is any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated, bullied or assaulted. These incidents can happen anywhere, such as in a schoolyard, on the street, at the coffee shop, or at work.
Three Broad Categories of Violence
Physical - where a person or his or her property is physically harmed.
Emotional - where a person's feelings are hurt through insults and name-calling.
Social - where a person is shunned and excluded from groups and events.
Acts of violence, both in daily lives and in workplaces or schools, can come in many forms. These include:
Threatening Behaviour - such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects.
Verbal or Written Threats - any expression of an intent to cause harm.
Harassment and Bullying - any behaviour that puts down, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms or verbally abuses a person including words, gestures, intimidation, bullying, or other inappropriate activities.
Verbal Abuse - swearing, insults or condescending language.
Physical Attacks - hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking.
Rumours, swearing, verbal abuse, pranks, arguments, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, pushing, theft, physical assaults, psychological trauma, anger-related incidents, rape, arson and murder are all examples of violence. There is a "continuum" or scale to violent acts. This scale does not mean that put downs or insults are not a form of violence, but rather that they are signs that should be noted and actions taken to stop them before the situation gets "out of control."
Certain work activities and jobs tend to place people more at risk for exposure to workplace violence. Some of these situations include:
- working with the public,
- handling money, prescriptions or valuables,
- carrying out enforcement duties,
- providing service, care, advice or education,
- working alone (in a client's home, only employee in the store, real estate agent, etc.),
- working where alcohol is served,
- working with unstable or volatile persons (health care, social services, or in the criminal justice system),
- having a mobile workplace (taxicab, salesperson), or
- working during periods of intense organizational change (strikes, downsizing, takeovers).
Prevention and Management
One of the best ways to prevent an abusive or violent situation is to recognize the warning signs. A potentially angry or violent person may exhibit any or all of the following characteristics or signs:
- Red- or white-faced
- Trembling or shaking
- Clenched jaws or fists
- Exaggerated or violent gestures
- Change in voice - loud talking or chanting
- Shallow or rapid breathing
- Scowling, sneering or use of abusive language
- Glaring or avoiding eye contact
- Standing too close
Signs can be both verbal or through the use of body language. Violence usually begins as a verbal dispute. Use caution if someone shows these signs. It is best to excuse yourself as quickly as possible and leave the situation or area.
Tips for Avoiding a Potentially Bad Situation with Clients or Patients
If a client becomes angry or violent, stop what you are doing (if possible), and ask the client what is wrong. If you can, correct the situation. Otherwise explain why not and ask for help from your supervisor.
Problem Solving Tips
Tips for "Verbal Communication" with a Stressed or Potentially Violent Person
Tips for Non-Verbal Behaviour and Communication with a Potentially Violent Person