'Part of the Job' and Other Perspectives on Workplace Violence
Is violence and aggression ‘just part of the job’?
In the lives of many employees, it is difficult to believe otherwise. Healthcare, service sector and other industry professionals find themselves caught in a paradox. While they dedicate themselves to the well-being of others, providing essential care, service, and support to those in need, they also face a disturbing reality where violence and aggression have become distressingly normalised within their work environments.
“Nurses are regularly exposed to verbal abuse and physical violence in the course of their work. These high levels of violence have resulted in a desensitisation on the part of many nurses to the point where violence has become an expected and accepted part of their job.”
In this blog post, we will explore the stark realities faced by employees and investigate the different perspectives surrounding occupational violence and aggression.
By shedding light on this topic, we strive to create safer workplaces and advocate for change on a societal level.
Perspective 1: Accepting Mistreatment
In a culture where ‘the customer is always right,’ a prevailing perspective emerges—that violence and aggression are inevitable and acceptable parts of a job. Healthcare and service sector employees frequently endure mistreatment, subject to various forms of harassment and abuse from patients, clients, and even the public.
Compounding this perspective is the notion that nothing can be done about it. This leads to an astonishingly high number of incidents remaining underreported.
Often, professionals in these fields have internalised the belief of tolerating such acts as unfortunate side effects of their chosen careers. This acceptance leaves employees feeling unsupported and alone when confronting instances of workplace violence. The psychological toll of experiencing such difficult circumstances without proper guidance cannot be understated as it often leads to employees experiencing heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and even trauma.
Furthermore, the discrepancies in workplace boundaries reinforce the perspective of acceptance and contribute to the ‘part of the job’ mindset. When some employees dismiss the severity of workplace violence and aggression, viewing it as less significant than it is, it can leave others feeling overwhelmed, afraid to speak up, and ill-equipped to handle such situations. This perpetuates the cycle, hindering progress in preventing these difficult and sometimes dangerous situations.
Perspective 2: Ignoring & Disengaging
Among the perspectives surrounding workplace violence and aggression is the belief that ‘it is not our problem.’ Some employees reject the idea that they should contribute to efforts to address these challenges, insisting that such responsibilities should lie solely with management.
‘Others did not think more training would be helpful and even felt this should not be part of their job, as their role was delivering health care, not engaging in the resolution of violent situations.’
Healthcare and service workers have a tremendous amount to deal with daily which often leaves them physically and emotionally drained, leaving little energy for addressing additional concerns such as workplace violence and aggression. But instances where workplace violence is dismissed or ignored only prolong its existence.
When occupational violence and aggression is allowed to persist unchecked, it undermines the well-being and morale of employees, compromises teamwork and collaboration, leads to higher rates of staff turnover, and erodes productivity within the workplace.
Although ignorance may be bliss, taking ownership and working together to address this issue will ultimately benefit everyone in the long run. Doing so can reduce difficult situations and alleviate some of the pressure.
Perspective 3: Embracing Collective Responsibility
A contrasting viewpoint emphasises the need for collective responsibility in addressing workplace violence and aggression, recognising that combatting this issue is not an individual burden.
Supporters of this perspective argue that everyone, from employees to management, has a role to play in reducing difficult situations. This perspective leads to safer workplaces as it encourages open communication, comprehensive training, and effective reporting processes.
Violent and aggressive incidents are unfortunate symptoms of a larger issue, but not one that should be tolerated in healthcare and service spaces. With this perspective, it is understood that workplace violence is unacceptable and that together, we can advocate for a culture that promotes respect, dignity, and compassion.
Our Perspective: A Call for Change
From our experience, enduring verbal abuse or navigating physical altercations with heightened individuals takes a toll on employees’ well-being. Given that everyone’s perceptions differ, the most effective approach lies in creating inclusive workplaces that demonstrate empathy and consideration for the well-being of all employees. This involves implementing clear policies, procedures, and boundaries.
To further support this goal, organisations would benefit from establishing strict reporting processes and opening a space to discuss incidents that occur. By doing so, they create a cohesive team who feel supported and empowered to listen to their instincts and take proactive steps towards creating a positive and productive work environment.
We recognise that healthcare and service sector professionals are resilient and show unwavering dedication, but this level of commitment and care cannot be taken advantage of. All professionals deserve the necessary support and resources to help them better perform their duties and maintain their well-being.
In order to achieve this, employees and managers alike need to recognise that maintaining consistency and upholding professionalism within the workplace is not a matter of personal preference but rather a collective effort. Through these proactive measures, a positive workplace culture is established that rejects the acceptance of violence and actively promotes respect and safety.
In conclusion, by promoting collective responsibility, we can create safer and healthier work environments. As a unified workforce, we have the power to alleviate stress, support our colleagues, and foster a culture that prioritises respect and compassion. This starts by establishing clear policies, procedures, and boundaries within organisations.
Let us reject the notion that violence is acceptable and expected in our workplaces so that we can work to improve the safety and well-being of everyone. It is time to challenge normalcy and pave the way for a future where respect, compassion, and safety are prominent in our professional lives.