U.S. Department of Justice

The issue of workplace violence has become a major concern not only as a human resource concern but also in terms of its social and criminal justice significance. According to a joint study by the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2004, “Workplace violence is now recognized as a specific category of violent crime that calls for distinct responses from employers, law enforcement, and the community” (p.12). Considering this, this paper seeks to understand current perceptions with regards to the significance of workplace violence as a social problem.

For the purpose of this paper an interview with a retired human resource manager was conducted to determine the significance and current response socially and industrially. The respondent, hereto referred to as Ms. Charles as per her request has sixteen years experience as a human resource officer for an agricultural company, the last five years serving as the company’s HRM Manager. The interview was guided by the following questions:

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1.      How has the apparent increase in workplace violence affected companies, communities and individuals?

2.      What has been the response to the issue?

3.      Is there an understanding or sufficient literature regarding the incidence of workplace violence

4.      Are there sufficient prevention or intervention measures?

5.      What is your prognosis on the issue? Will there be a further increase in incidence or gravity? Is the threat easing?

According to the interview conducted, there is a consensus that workplace violence has affected the well-being of individuals, companies and communities because it severely undermines sense of security and even personal freedoms in the interest of security. Schulman (2006) points out that this can also increase existing social stress among groups or individuals who have become victimized by acts of violence since many of the incidents have been linked to gender, race and other social issues. In a study conducted by Johnson (2006), there is indication that exposure to workplace violence also influences social construction and personal value determination since the workplace serves as a major platform of determining social significance or competence.

There has been greater recognition of the issues influencing the incidence of work place violence particularly in the conditions that lead to the behavior. However, this has also raised issues regarding the need to compromise personal freedoms to enforce security measures or to afford disclosure of mental and psychological conditions (Eriksen et al, 2004). The prevailing consensus seems to be that personal rights may sometimes be needed to enforce security and monitoring but these efforts merely respond to the issue and does little to prevent its occurrence. Thus, the USDOJ and the FBI (2004) suggest that there is a need to understand the etymology of the phenomenon to create effective response.

This requires intensification of the study regarding the phenomenon. This effort is not only valuable in understanding the incidence of workplace violence but also can provide insight to other settings such as schools and other social organizations. Prevention and intervention measures must become more active in their efforts to identify critical factors that influence incidence and the establishment of measures to mitigate risk. Furthermore, efforts can be enhanced by grater coordination among concerned offices. Schulman (2006) suggests that there is need to treat issues such as workplace violence in a social context since the motivation and the impact of the acts are in the same context.

Ms. Charles believes that there is greater opportunity now to address the issue because of the degree of exposure it has received in the media, the academe and professional studies. Furthermore, the interview suggested that it was critical that workplace violence be understood for its social and personal significance and not limited to its setting because at times, the incidents are indicative of deeper social issues. In conclusion, the need to understand the phenomenon of workplace violence should be investigated as a social issue because of the scope of its impact and because of the evidence of the significance of social experience and issues in its prevalence.