By: Dr. Nicole Cvenkel, President and CEO, My Work & Well-Being Consulting Inc.
Research investigating employees’ experiences of workplace violence in diverse occupations have shown the dangers at work in some Canadian workplaces (CareerBuilder Canada, 2014; Chechak & Csiernik, 2014). Researchers have also shown that health care, hospitality, and social service workers experience the highest rates of workplace violence and injury among Canadian workers (Boyd, 1995; Pizzino, 2000; Statistics Canada, 2009).
Despite research conducted on workplace violence, little understanding exists of Canadian workers experiences of workplace violence, particularly referencing workers in Canadian Northern Communities. The drivers of workplace violence; the direction of workplace violence; consequences of workplace violence; and solutions to prevent and stop workplace violence remains under-researched. How can we better understand the problems of workplace violence in Canadian organizations and specific types of violence that occur in occupations in Northern Canadian Communities? Furthermore, the level and prevalence of violence against Canadian Northern workers remains largely undocumented. Therefore, these gaps can be addressed through empirical research that can assist organizations to develop strategies to promote and maintain a respectful and violence-free workplace.
Section 4.27 of BC regulation on violence in the workplace defines workplace violence, in this context, as
Incidents of violence including attempted or actual exercise(s) of physical force by a person, other than a worker, so as to cause injury to a worker and includes any threatening statements or behavior which causes a worker to reasonably believe he or she is at risk of injury. (WorkSafeBC, 2012, p. 2)
The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety ([CCOHS]; 2012) defined workplace violence as any act in which people experience abuse, threats, intimidation, or assault while employed. Workplace violence includes threatening behavior, verbal/written threats, harassment, verbal abuse, and physical attacks.
Workplace violence can also be defined as behaviours associated with psychological, physical and social/relational behaviours at work. Psychological behaviours relate to one feeling threatened, receiving threatening messages, discrimination, inequality, and or having someone kick or shove their personal items. Physical behaviours can include hitting, pushing, and shoving a person. Social/relational behaviours are associated with swearing, name-calling, yelling, threats to personal safety, threats about personal debt, criticizing a person in front of workers, negative comments about religion, gossiping, offensive statements, threatening to fire a person and making fun of a person’s looks.
Most Canadian organizations have developed corporate policies associated with legislation on bullying, harassment, and respectful workplaces to foster an environment conducive to anti-violence, psychological wellness, well-being, and productivity. However, there is uncertainty regarding how well these corporate policies prevent and stop workplace violence.
Some suggestions that organizations can adopt to prevent and/or stop workplace violence can be through education, communication and collaboration, zero-tolerance policies and approaches to people management, employee assistance programs (EAP), work-life conflict strategies, mental health and well-being awareness and intervention, stress management, employee engagement and fostering a respectful workplace.
Some employers may implement a corporate wellness program that focuses on employees’ violence prevention and assistance that supports employers and workers better in the workplace. This wellness management anti-violence initiative may reduce workplace stress, address mental health challenges in the workplace and help to foster a respectful workplace. Respectful workplace culture is likely to improve a sense of dignity, respect, engagement, a sense of well-being, appreciation and overall satisfaction among employees.
Organizational leaders should consider a position primarily responsible for the promotion of the health and well-being of workers. My Work & Well-being Consulting Inc., is a people-focused company, committed to working with Northern and Aboriginal Communities and Organizations, as well as Government and Resource-Based Industries towards client-focused outcomes to unlock workplace well-being and potential.
- Dr. Nicole Cvenkel, CEO of My Work & Well-Being Consulting Inc.