Workplace Violence: 'One-third of Americans Go to Work Every Day Afraid' - Page 2

Whitmore went on to highlight the cost in lost productivity that the problem of workplace violence is extracting:

Consider that one-third of Americans go to work every day afraid-that's what this survey says. Think about the lack of productivity. Yes, there can be an incident that results in a lawsuit and a worker's comp claim, and there's definitely a cost there. But I would propose to you that the far bigger cost is the cost in lost productivity. For years we've heard about the effect a bully can have in school. That bully can have the same effect in the workplace. When I finally met the pollster, David Michaelson, I asked him what his top three takeaways from the survey were. He said he does a lot of surveys for a lot of people, and he had never paid attention to workplace violence. But he said he can't get over what an epidemic it is in America. No. 2 is what I just mentioned, that one in three Americans go to work every day afraid. The third is that most Americans believe that the senior leaders in their companies have very little regard for this issue.

I asked Whitmore if he had any sense of the incidence of workplace violence perpetrated by people in the IT profession compared to people in other professions, and he said he does not:

The external panel that I put together for this book-chief security officers from a variety of organizations, all of which would have IT departments-one of their [concerns] has been [the lack of] data surrounding the demographics of workplace violence. If you look at workplace safety, for example, there are all kinds of key performance indicators and metrics that you look at, but certainly not around workplace violence. I can't tell you that I've seen or read or heard anything that it's more or less prevalent within one discipline at work.

I noted that there's a lot of resentment among IT workers who feel that jobs are being taken unfairly by people from other countries, primarily people from India here on H-1B visas, and I asked Whitmore whether he's seen any indication that that resentment has led to workplace violence. His response:

Not specifically that resentment, but what we heard from this external group that we dealt with, there is certainly a lot of tension in the work force, just generally, over the economy. Certainly, jobs going overseas has been the focal point of a lot of the conversation politically, within the business world, and within academia. I think I just saw a statistic that the number of programmers in the U.S. has not risen for 10 years. Generally, economic issues cause employees to be under pressure, but to say that anyone has been targeted because of it, I haven't seen any evidence of that.

Finally, Whitmore stressed that it's essential to understand that workplace violence is a "continuum," in the sense that the violence tends to escalate from what was relatively mild behavior. He charts the continuum this way:


  • Milder: Unusual behavior, acting out
  • Midrange: Verbal assault, harassment, threatening behavior
  • Violent behavior: Physical assault, deadly encounter


Here is how Whitmore encapsulated the continuum idea in his book:

Workplace violence typically occurs on a continuum. It starts small and then it gets big. You rarely see an incident that starts out at the top of the scale. It's frequently a progression, which means that in many cases it can be recognized and stopped early-which is good news. Part of this issue is understanding that behavior matching any level of the continuum is going to prevent you from getting the full potential of your employees. The lower forms of workplace violence are disruptive to productivity and bad for morale. Nobody wants to work for or with anyone who disrespects them, speaks poorly to them and generally doesn't give them the time of day. These are all forms of harassment, and you need to get a handle on them throughout your organization. With a disrespectful, aimless culture, you will get an employee that says "forget this guy; I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to put out the least I can." Such a person may decide to retaliate, sabotage, do work incorrectly or go up the continuum of violent behavior. It's a lit fuse.

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Feb 24, 2012 10:47 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

Not to trivialize or minimize workplace violence, but I find it highly unlikely that 1/3rd of Americans are afraid to go to work.

When I was going through college I was an electrician apprentice - almost built up enough hours to be a journeyman.  I normally worked with small operations and one of the guys I worked with who owned the small company got angry when I let out a snicker after he stepped in dog mess.  He lived a tough life, and construction is a tough business.  Anyways he wacked me with something metal... it hurt and left a lump on my head.

We had words but he apologized for wacking me and I apologized for the snicker.  We were beer buddies again that night.  There was not fear of showing up to work.  No lawsuits.  No HR intervention team.  I curled up in the fetal position that night with my teddy bear and went right to sleep

Technically that was workplace violence... and there isn't room for that in the IT profession.  But fear is a strong word and having seen some pretty rough and tumble stuff when I was younger in construction even then I don't think there was much fear.

Who are these 33% and why are they afraid? 

People should have more economic fears in the workplace - such as "will the offshore this project" or "will they downsize" and insult me by calling t "right-sizing" but I don't ever remember fearing that someone would harm me at work.  I was afraid that I would get hurt doing the job - especially when working around high voltage and a fear of heights where falling would result in certain death... but that type fear can keep you safe. 

I guess I just don't get it Don.  I agree that we should take workplace violence seriously but I just haven't seen that in IT.  It's probably more common in more "blue collar" occupations.  I mean I've been ready to throw down over a really bad DB schema design... just kidding.  I've worked with professionals and we have professional disputes but they've never been violent.

Feb 24, 2012 11:17 AM Su Su  says: in response to R. Lawson

Yes even I can't imagine even 1% is worried in IT to go to work for workplace violance.

Probably that is the reason for "lack of focus or leadership around it".

IT leadership has other things to worry about and I don't think anyone much focused about workplace violace in IT just because it doesn't happen  -almost never.

Feb 24, 2012 2:42 PM SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6  says:

I think most people are afraid of the psychological violence that has been created by apathetic companies in this shaky working environment. More people are afraid of that "pink slip parade" on a friday afternoon than anything else.

Feb 24, 2012 6:03 PM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to SealTeam6 SealTeam6

One third? That sounds like something a "corporate security services provider" might say, but I don't believe it.

Feb 25, 2012 12:06 PM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to Su

Another point, there is some resentment over the h-1b visa and still I haven't personally witnessed any violence related to that.  I think most anger is directed at corporations or politicians.  I've witnessed some insensitive commentsuu but I'm not aware of any h-1 b workers who face fear.  I'm sure some are reading this so please say something if you've seen things to the contrary.

Feb 27, 2012 9:01 AM Su Su  says: in response to R. Lawson

True and correct in work place.

I personally saw abuse outside work (say in pubs and all) due to cultural differences and resentments you mentioned

But then bouncer and bartenders actually throw those elements out - not me. That is why US is great

Feb 27, 2012 2:24 PM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to Su

Su, I am glad to hear you say that (regarding the patrons and bar staff).  I have always railed against people making insensitive comments on this matter.  I don't believe it furthers the debate.

On the other hand, when you read Don's next post it is easy to understand where this anger and resentment comes from.  That doesn't make it right, but the actions of corporations are breeding hatred.  I don't understand why so many people can't see through the what these corporations and politicians are doing and why they point the finger at foreign workers.

But to be fair I have seen a number of foreign workers make insensitive comments towards American workers. 

I disagree with Don on globalization.  I don't believe it has been a net-positive.  Globalization was suppose to create a more stable world and spread democracy.  I don't see that happening.  Instead, I see globalization triggering a race to the bottom.  Instead of bringing people out of poverty, we are putting more people into poverty.  Instead of expanding environmental protections we are seeing them trampled on - in the name of global competition.

The bottom line is that for globalization to work, you need participants in the global economy who value human rights, democracy, and a sense of fair play.  We don't have that, and without that globalization will always reward cheaters, exploiters, and abusers.

I may repost something like this to Don's next thread.  I don't understand why people think globalization is such a good thing when there is evidence that it causes so much harm.  Sure, we get cheaper shoes and toys.  But how is it improving society?  How can we justify perpetual trade deficits?  The reason trade and globalization is so harmful is because we have all these cliches and straw man beliefs that globalization is always good - and to fix anything wrong with it is "protectionism".

Jan 31, 2014 3:21 PM Jen Jen  says:
Well, I'm afraid on most days, because I work with violent, emotionally damaged and disabled children. I am threatened to be killed, (stabbed, cut, murdered) almost on a daily basis, and I also have been beaten by clients, ( Scratched, kicked and punched). I take care of the children that parents have "thrown away" and they are very angry children. Someone needs to take care of these kids, and I do, however I am afraid of gettimg my teeth knocked out 62 plus hours a week. Reply

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