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Not So Merry: Workplace Violence and the Holidays

The holidays are upon us and with the joys of the season also comes added stress for many. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently stated on their blog [here] that, “crowds of customers anxiously waiting to be helped add yet another layer of stress. Such workplace job demands, along with a lack of control workers may have over their work environment, can increase the risk of frustration and can lead to angry verbal exchanges and even violence in the extreme.” The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety also points out that some groups are more at risk from workplace violence including health care employees, teachers, and retail employees. With this in mind, there are some fairly simple steps a business can take to help reduce the risk or workplace violence over the stressful holiday season.

First and foremost, employers need to have a workplace violence program, awareness training, and emergency procedures. But just having a plan is not enough. Train your employees on your plan. Maybe you haven’t had a training session with your employees in a while; now would be a good time to do so.

Pay attention to those you work with. Be on the lookout for warning signs and changes in behavior such as outbursts of anger, mood swings, increased agitation over seemingly minor things, and threats of violence. There are almost always warning signs that precede workplace violence incidents. Do you have an Employee Assistance Program? Remind everyone of this important benefit. Be creative and find ways to help employees manage the increased stress during the holiday season. And above all make employees feel comfortable about reporting their concerns.

The potential of violence coming from outside your organization is heightened during the season. Encourage your employees to be extra vigilant and report suspicious people and/or behavior. Is someone you work with having problems at home? Domestic violence also increases over the holiday season and violence at home can follow at work. A little extra awareness, attention, and empathy can go a long way to preventing violence in the workplace.

Many businesses and organizations experience a sharp increase in crowds this time of year. Are you expecting crowds at work? Take some time to check out a handy fact sheet developed by Occupational Safety and Health Administration available [here]. Although developed specifically for retailers, it is easily transferrable to any business or other organization expecting large crowds.

With a little situational awareness, a good workplace violence program, well written and rehearsed emergency procedures, and some old-fashioned caring for others, the holiday season can be a happy time—even at work.


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Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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