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<xTITLE>Violence and Harassment In The Workplace: The 10 Most Common Mistakes Companies Make</xTITLE>

Violence and Harassment In The Workplace: The 10 Most Common Mistakes Companies Make

by Lynne McClure
March 2001 Lynne McClure
  1. They don't know how to define or identify a hostile workplace.
    A hostile workplace is any work environment where violence, harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and other abusive behaviors interfere with the ability of employees to perform their jobs.

  2. They are unaware of their responsibility to prevent a hostile workplace.
    A 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Faragher v. City of Boca Raton) said companies are required to prevent and not simply react to a hostile workplace. This is a stronger statement than a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson) that said companies must avoid a hostile workplace.

  3. They believe it's a Post Office problem and deny its existence elsewhere.
    An average of 2 million acts of violence occur in the U.S. workplace every year, and only 3.1 percent of non-fatal incidents at work occur within federal government agencies. Another 56.1 percent occur in the private sector, 33.7 percent occur in state or local government, and 6.7 percent occur in self-employment environments.

  4. They believe that sexual harassment prevention policies alone will protect women.
    Homicide is the number-one cause of death for women at work. Of women who are killed at work, four out of five are victims of someone other than their current or former spouse or partner. Every year in the workplace over 600,000 women are victims of assault or assault with a weapon, over 42,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted, and over 23,000 women are robbed.

  5. They fail to recognize racial issues as a component of a hostile workplace.
    A 1998 U.S. Court decision (Booker v. Budget Rent-A-Car) was the first decision to include racial harassment as an element of a hostile workplace and states that employers must take steps to prevent racially hostile environments.

  6. They believe security guards and metal detectors are substitutes for a violence-prevention program.
    Security guards and security hardware can help prevent workplace violence from external sources who are strangers to the company. However, violence from current and former employees and their spouses or partners more often leads to lawsuits against the company for "negligent hiring" or "negligent retention".

  7. They fear getting involved in employees' personal issues.
    Domestic violence comes into the workplace. One out of every five women killed at work is a victim of her current or former spouse or partner. In non-fatal attacks on women at work, nearly 50 percent of the perpetrators are known by the victims. When an abuser shows up at work, everyone is at risk.

  8. They are negligent in doing background checks.
    If companies checked criminal, credit, and driving records, educational backgrounds, and work histories, they could prevent a lot of "surprises" at work and, at the very least, show their intent to provide a non-hostile workplace.

  9. They rely on generic profiles and conventional wisdom to predict who will become violent at work.
    The most common profiles rely on demographic information and other stereotypes that can ultimately lead to accusations of discrimination. What managers need instead is to learn the observable behaviors that indicate high-risk and the need for intervention.

  10. They believe violence, harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and other elements of a hostile workplace can't be prevented.
    Companies can prevent violence, harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and other elements of a hostile workplace if they use early-intervention methodologies.


Lynne McClure, Ph.D. is nationally-recognized as a leading expert in managing high-risk employee behaviors before they escalate to violence and other hostile acts at work.

Dr. McClure identifies eight categories of high-risk behaviors, based on personality disorders and mental illnesses defined in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV). Her categories portray what these conditions look like in the work setting. Unlike "profiles" - which focus on demographics, and which tempt managers to "diagnose" employees - her categories put structure on observable behaviors. Her methods empower managers to intervene early without contradicting ADA or EEO requirements. She received her doctorate in business from Arizona State University and has had counseling training at the Gestalt Institute and Milton Erickson Foundation.

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Additional articles by Lynne McClure