Psychology With Business In Mind


Sadly, more and more organisations are finding it necessary to take steps to protect their staff from incidents of verbal abuse, threat, intimidation, racial abuse and even, in some circumstances, physical violence. Almost anyone who deals with the public in some way can be at risk of violence and aggression from those they serve or otherwise come into contact with. As many organisations now recognise, work-related violence has become one of the biggest occupational health hazards in the modern workplace.

But there is also the violence and aggression that staff might face from within the organisation itself, i.e. from their colleagues or peers, superiors or subordinates. Some commentators and researchers consider such bullying and harassment to be more damaging to employee health and well-being than all other sources of occupational stress put together!

What can be done?

The first step is to assess the true scale and nature of the problem. This is to ask – and answer – such questions as:

  • Who is exposed to what forms of aggression and violence?
  • Who perpetrates this violence and aggression?
  • Are there ‘hot spots’ of violence and aggression in terms of factors such as location, work-group, staff demographics, tasks or duties?
  • What damage is done to both individual well-being and organisational health?
  • What factors, if any, exacerbate or ameliorate any negative impact (e.g. an employee’s own conflict management style, the availability of violence management training, work design issues, and the like)?

Zeal’s consultants have been conducting ‘violence and aggression audits’ of this kind since the mid 1980s through to the present day. Importantly, each audit is tailored to the needs and circumstances of the host organisation, with the lessons of earlier audits informing and enriching the questions asked in subsequent investigations.

Having assessed the risk of workplace violence, whether through an audit or some other methodology, steps should be taken to manage that risk. Our ‘duty of care’ under existing health & safety legislation requires us to be able to demonstrate that what we do to protect the health and well-being of our staff actually works, at least to some degree. This is an area where many organisations are sorely lacking.

In the case of violence from customers, clients, service users and the public, for example, most organisations see some form of violence management training as the backbone to their intervention activity. But does such training work? Is the content and method of delivery right? Is the content predicated upon a careful needs analysis? Does the training cover all of the areas it needs to cover? What are these areas? Does the training transfer from the training room to the workplace? In many organisations, answers to these questions are based upon belief and assumption rather than systematically gathered evidence.

Zeal consultants include several leading experts in the area of work-related violence and aggression. Our services here include:

  • Designing and running bespoke ‘violence and aggression audits’
  • Designing and delivering violence management ‘train the trainer’ programmes
  • Designing and delivering violence management training to ‘front line’ staff
  • Training evaluation
  • Designing and developing incident reporting systems
  • The evaluation of post-incident support and rehabilitation services
  • Developing more supportive organisational cultures to help combat the adverse effects of violence and aggression whether from inside or outside the organisation

Contact us today for more information about our services and to receive examples of our work in this area.