Workplace Violence Prevention and Preparedness Strategies for Nonprofits

By Rachel Sams

This article contains information about prevention and preparedness strategies for workplace violence, including physical assaults and mass shootings.

When was the last time tempers got heated at your nonprofit?

Did two or more employees clash? Did people receiving services argue with each other? Maybe someone receiving services disagreed with a team member. Or maybe the conflict arose between an employee and a third party, like an angry family member or spouse.

Hopefully, the people in conflict resolved the incident peacefully, and learned some strategies for how to handle future conflicts at work.

But as nonprofit leaders, we can’t just hope to avoid workplace violence at our nonprofit. In a world full of conflict and trauma, every nonprofit faces the specter of workplace violence, but many organizations are unprepared. A 2019 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that more than 50 percent of HR professionals didn’t know if their organization had a workplace violence program.

As nonprofit leaders, we must understand the risks, work to prevent violence if possible, and have a plan to respond if prevention efforts fail. In this article, we’ll share information about common types of incidents; workplace violence risk factors; prevention strategies for nonprofits; how to create an incident plan; and additional resources for help.

Understanding Workplace Violence

In 2020, there were 392 workplace homicides, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A joint study on workplace violence found that workplace homicides declined by a total of 58% between 1992 and 2019.

However, the study by the BLS, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health noted that workplace homicides rose 11% in the final six years of the study period. Homicide comprised about 20 percent of all workplace fatalities for women in 2019, compared to 7.5 percent of workplace fatalities for men.

On average, workplaces experienced more than 1 million nonfatal violent victimizations annually between 2015 and 2019, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. That includes rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. The number equates to eight nonfatal violent crimes for every 1,000 workers age 16 and older.

Workplaces are the most common site of mass shootings, according to The Violence Prevention Project Research Center, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce violence through research.

Workplace violence can have lasting consequences for both individual survivors and the organization.

Individual survivors face physical issues that can range from injury, temporary or permanent disability, and increased risk of health issues like hypertension, all the way to death, the National Safety Council reports. Survivors may experience psychological consequences like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), sleep disturbances, sadness, fear, and anxiety. They may face financial consequences such as medical costs, lost wages, and running out of sick leave or PTO benefits. And they may experience social consequences, like troubled relationships with friends and loved ones, withdrawal, and an increase in interpersonal conflict.

For a nonprofit, workplace violence can result in employees leaving the organization; absenteeism, tardiness, and sick leave; and reduced ability to provide services. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates the annual economic cost of workplace violence at $121 billion.

Recognize Potential Warning Signs

Sometimes a person with a direct relationship to the workplace, like a current or former employee, commits an act of violence. In other cases, the perpetrator has a relationship with the victim that spills over into the workplace, like an act of domestic violence against an employee. And in some cases, the perpetrator has a secondary relationship to the workplace, like a customer or client. Another possibility is an act of violence that is truly random, but happens in a workplace.

Visit the Non Profit Risk Management Center website to continue reading.

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