Assessing Workplace Violence Risk Factors in the Hospitality Industry In “What’s Growing in the Corporate Culture”, Mattman (2001) discussed the steps a company needs to take in order to set up an effective workplace violence prevention program. This process involves classifying various risk factors, reviewing the existing policies in place, and establishing a way to collect pertinent, unbiased data. In this paper, I will summarize Mattman’s key points and gear the discussion more directly towards issues especially relevant to the hospitality industry. Types of Workplace Violence
To begin with, Mattman (2001) distinguishes between three types of risk identification for workforce violence incidents. Type I incidents are those in which the perpetrator holds no legitimate relationship to the workplace or the victim in question (e. g. , the robbery of a convenience store by someone who does not know the cashier). Type II incidents are perpetrated by individuals receiving a good or service from the workplace or victim (i. e. , customers/patrons). Finally, Type III cases are employment-related incidents with the workplace; these can be direct or indirect.
Direct cases are those with current or former coworkers or supervisors; indirect cases are those between an employee and a current or former spouse, lover, relative, or friend. Unlike many other industries, the hospitality industry has a very large proportion of its workforce making in-person communication and contact with its patrons. As such, this industry inherits a larger share of Type II cases than other professions. Similarly, the hospitality industry includes many jobs subject to larger risk from Type I incidents such as late-night food establishment and hotel lobby workers.
This is of particular concern since roughly half of all workplace homicides are of the Type I variety. Review of Existing Policies and Company Culture Any establishment of a successful workplace violence prevention program begins with a review of the existing policy manual. Are the policies reasonable and are employees aware of their details and implications? The primary focus should be on preventing violent attacks on personnel (and in the case of the hospitality industry, its patrons); however, some attention hould also be paid to occupational hazards that increase the overall stress levels of employees. Some areas of particular concern are the safety of parking areas, cash handling and fire, panic and intrusion alarms. Identification procedures of employees and visitors should also be reviewed. This aspect is especially challenging in the hospitality industry as patrons often have free access to common areas. Another area of concern is the company’s policy on prohibited possessions such as weapons and drugs. Is the policy clearly articulated and consistently enforced?
Are random drug tests given and is the punishment for failure well understood by all? With the difficulty of screening patrons in hospitality establishments, it only exacerbates the problem to have a flimsy policy regarding drug usage and weapon possession for employees. Additionally, there should be a review of the in-house medical capabilities and ease of access to nearby healthcare facilities. Next, the worksite assessment should include a review of the management climate in the organization. What is the overall management style and does it foster teamwork or competitiveness?
What roles do the different departments have in the workplace violence prevention program? What is the approach to performing evaluations, awards, and promotions; does everyone feel they are treated equally? Additionally, there should be an assessment of the degree of stress employees are exposed to. Are employees asked to cooperate or compete? This is especially important in the food service industry where orders travel through various groups and everyone needs to stay on the same page, but some may feel the need to compete (for tips, for example).
How tedious is the work and what effect does this have on morale? Are employees treated professionally, feel they are suited for job, have job security and are properly compensated? Are reasonable efforts made to improve work accommodations related to loud noises, cramped spaces and the safety of the working environment? Hospitality jobs add a lot of physical demands on many employees that other professions do not have to deal with. These demands coupled with a busy workload and the uncertainties of patron behavior all ontribute to stress levels. Hoel and Einarsen (2003) detail other working conditions that are “conducive to violence and stress at work” (p. 5-7) in the hospitality industry. These include long and irregular working hours, income insecurity, the tendency to possess a more informal economy (payment in cash, lack of insurance schemes, etc. ) and growing competition and productivity expectations. Causes of stress in the industry include emotional labor (having to put on a smile regardless of the situation), a feeling of lack of control and burnout.
Finally, it is necessary to review the supervisory competency of the firm. Larger companies often have a large degree of training for supervisor roles; smaller ones, on the other hand, especially those in lower skilled labor such as fast food restaurants lack such training programs. Training in ethnic and cultural differences has become increasingly worthwhile; supervisors should be able to communicate in the same language as their employees and understand cultural sensitivities that may result in workplace violence.
Risk Factors for Workplace Violence in the Hospitality Industry Due to the patron interaction common in the hospitality industry, an assessment should also be taken regarding the risk factors particular to this field. The WorkCover Corporation provides some situations where the risk of violence increases in the hospitality industry. First, when employees are stationed alone with patrons they are at larger risk.
To alleviate some of this risk, efforts should be made to work more than one staff member at a time if possible, make physical contact difficult between patron and worker if possible, providing adequate means of communication and alarm systems and clearly advertising security measures to make the workplace less attractive to potential offenders in the first place. Secondly, employers should investigate the level of training workers have had dealing with client aggression. Hospitality workers, after all, interact with patrons whose previous drug and alcohol consumption and current state of mind are a mystery.
Employees should be versed in identifying early signs of aggression, have a clear code of conduct of what is appropriate patron behavior articulated to them and know the appropriate actions that need to be taken should a violent act arise. Finally, certain hospitality workplaces are common targets for robbery and proper attention should be paid to control this risk. For example, make cash handling procedures less visible and accessible, create physical barriers that makes contact difficult and provide appropriate training on what employees should do in the event of a robbery (Managing the Risks, 2002).
Analyzing Trends and Gathering Data Mattman (2001) stresses that a company can learn a lot about the level of satisfaction workers possess by observing some key trends. These indicators include absenteeism and tardiness rates, accident rates and volunteerism rates. Other informative details are employee turnover, security and safety concerns, complaints by employees and patrons and lawsuits filed against the company. In analyzing these trends, the assessment should be made not only relative to past performance of the company, but also relative to the performance of similar companies.
Having gathered this data, the assessor can gather additional information by conducting confidential interviews with employees. It should be stressed to participants that honesty is beneficial to all parties and that they need not worry about being seen as “informants” since the entire process is confidential. The actual interview itself should possess several qualities. First, the interviewer should be well versed in easing participants. Second, the interviewer should ask open-ended questions that directly relate to the interviewees’ concerns.
Third, the interview should be conducted in the employee’s primary language without coworkers serving as interpreters. While the interview should not feel overly structures, certain topics are especially appropriate. These include company culture, working conditions, coworkers, supervisors, management style, policies and regulations and training protocol. On a more complex level, Homel et al. (2004) take a statistical approach to root out the origins of violence in venues.
They link the consumption of alcohol, physical discomfort, the degree of overall “permissiveness” in the establishment, the availability of public transportation and a larger “ethnic mix” to more risk for workplace violence in clubs and bars. Using this statistical data, companies can make more sophisticated judgments on appropriate workforce violence training programs. Putting Together a Final Report In putting together a final report, the investigator must differentiate between fact and allegations; any allegations that are particularly alarming should try to be verified by future evidence gathering.
Unless paid to do so, the investigator should simply provide hard facts to management and let it develop its own recommendations and policy changes. If asked to provide recommendations, they should be provided in a distinct section of the report. An executive summary should also be provided for ease of communication. Summary This paper discussed the steps necessary to evaluate existing company policies with regard to workplace violence and to gather appropriate data to establish an effective workforce violence prevention program in the hospitality industry.
This industry is at more risk for Type I and Type II violence incidences due to its regular interaction with patrons receiving its services. Areas to review include policies regarding drugs and weapons, safety of the workplace environment, stress considerations and management style and competency. After this review, a company can analyze trend rates regarding attendance, complaints, and overall safety. Next, the company can conduct confidential interviews with employers to gather more data and eventually put together a final report from which policy changes can originate. : References
Hoel, H. , & Einarsen, S. (2003). Violence at work in hotels, catering and tourism. International Labour Office, Geneva. Homel, R. , et al. (2004, March). Making licensed venues safer for patrons: what environmental factors should be the focus of interventions. Drug and Alcohol Review, 23, 19-29. Managing the risks of violence at work in the hospitality industry. (2002, November). WorkCover Corporation. Mattman, J. W. (2001). What’s Growing in the Corporate Culture? Workplace Violence Research Institute. Retrieved from http://www. workviolence. com/articles/corporate_culture. htm