Workplace Violence in a Recession
The 2008 article From the Editor-in-Chief’s Desk: The “Workplace-During-Recession” Reminding Us of Employee Rights and Responsibilities, published by Margaret H. Vickers in the Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal states that “many workplaces take on a subtle but definite shift in identity when the R-word (recession) is on the horizon. However, the outcome of this identity additive is less than subtle. For workers who are marginalized for any reason… it’s a time to be nervous.” Workers at the margins, those most likely to be affected by recession, are also the most likely to “snap” a work.
There are three primary pressures that may increase anxiety for workers during a recession:
• Job losses
• Job uncertainty
• Slashed budgets
These factors are often in addition to personal issues employees often face such as financial or relationship worries.
Reason to Worry
Experts indicate that there is reason to worry. Most perpetrators of workplace violence seem completely “normal” before an incident. But, fear can be a powerful persuader – fear of losing a job, not being able to make financial ends meet, and the intense pressure that can be put on personal and work relationships when so many worries pile up – make recessions a contributing factor for workplace violence.
Because recession often forces an organization to cut costs, many elect to forgo thorough pre-employment screening and/or continued employment screening. Right when the need is most pressing, many companies remove one of the most important barriers to workplace violence. Although it’s not entirely necessary to step up screening during a recession, it’s never advisable to reduce or eliminate the practice.
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, “pre-employment screening is an important part of workplace violence prevention.” Recession, which promotes an environment of increased worker stress, is a major contributing factor to workplace violence. Companies that have a sound pre-employment screening plan in place, in addition to education and response policies, may experience less violence than workplaces that don’t screen workers.