This paper will discuss violence in the workplace in the context of the current climate, the reasons violence occurs in the workplace, the cost of workplace violence, and public and private sector efforts to address the problem. It will conclude with a discussion of anecdotal efforts and the lack of a systematic method for dealing with workplace violence that provide the impetus for finding new ways of dealing with the problem.
Violence in the workplace is a concern for everyone in public life. Unlike domestic violence, which occurs primarily behind closed doors, and efforts to address it are met with and complicated by privacy concerns, workplace violence is not a private issue. It is an issue that potentially affects everyone who is employed: "While there are plenty of grim jokes about disgruntled postal workers coming back to their job sites and committing acts of violence, it's more than an isolated problem. Violence in the workplace ranges from the most extreme, like multiple homicides, to threats of violence against employees" (Lavey, 1996, p. 10).
Workplace homicide perpetrated by employees, frequently against those in management positions, has dramatically increased. Criminologists suggest that workplace homicide is the fastest growing form of murder in America. Multiple murders in offices have increased 200 percent to 300 percent in the past 10 years. As many as 900-1,600 people die from workplace violence in the United States every year (Elliot, 1994, p. 287).
A study in 1991 revealed that, for the period of 1980-1988, the third leading cause of workplace deaths in the United States was murder (12 percent). Between 1980 and 1985, the leading cause of women's fatal injuries at work was murder (42 percent). It was men's third leading cause (11 percent) (Elliot, 1994, p. 287). While workplace homicides are more sensational and thus garner widespread attention, the smaller, less-publicized incidents are th...