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Employee Relation Laws in India: Case Study of Violence in Workplace

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Introduction

Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. However, it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide.

Workplace violence refers to incidents where workers are abused, threatened or assaulted, either by people from within or outside their workplace. Workplace violence may have severe negative consequences for the workers affected, their co-workers and families; as well as for organisations and the society. The aim of this article is to: present a conceptual framework of the phenomenon; outline and discuss the main types and antecedents to workplace violence; and, finally, provide an informed commentary on the methods and practices used to manage and, moreover, prevent this work-related issue.

Violence is a complex and heterogeneous phenomenon. The perception of what constitutes violence is diverse in different contexts and cultures. The World Health Organisation defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation”.

Types of workplace violence:

Type I: Criminal intent. In this kind of violent incident, the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the business or its employee(s). Rather, the violence is incidental to another crime, such as robbery, shoplifting, or trespassing. Acts of terrorism also fall into this category.

Type II: Customer/client. When the violent person has a legitimate relationship with the business—for example, the person is a customer, client, patient, student, or inmate—and becomes violent while being served by the business, violence falls into this category.

Type III: Worker-on-worker. The perpetrator of Type III violence is an employee or past employee of the business who attacks or threatens other employee(s) or past employee(s) in the workplace. Worker-on-worker fatalities accounted for approximately 15 percent of all workplace homicides in 2014.

Type IV: Personal relationship. The perpetrator usually does not have a relationship with the business but has a personal relationship with the intended victim. This category includes victims of domestic violence who are assaulted or threatened while at work and accounted for about 7 percent of all workplace homicides in 2014.

Background of the case

This is a case study of the Las Vegas Valley Postal Service. A semi-structured interview was used to collect information from key postal service management personnel. The person interviewed worked at the main post office administrative offices in the Las Vegas Valley as a Workplace Improvement Analyst of the post office. Knowing how sensitive a subject this can be and especially at the post office, at the on-set of the interview I set parameters that I would observe. In addition to reminding the analyst that the interview could be terminated at their wish at any time, I also explained that my interest was not in soliciting details of any violent events involving this or any other postal station. I had read enough in my research. I explained that I had no intentions of gathering the information to later besmirch the post office. (Cochran, 2000)

Since 1970 and with the introduction of the Postal Reorganization Act, the postal service is a self-supporting agency, independently managed, and operates in a competitive market where it’s no longer a true monopoly. Though independently managed, it is still under the scrutiny and criticism of two very tough and direct congressional subcommittees. The Postmaster General must report annually to the Senate International

Security, Proliferation, and Federal Service subcommittee and the House subcommittee on the Postal Service and explain past, present, and future operations and problems.

The postal service is always under pressure to meet increasing mail volume at affordable rates in an industry that is expanding and getting more competition. The rapid change in technology has been an asset and an adversary. While the postal service uses better automation technology to keep postage rates low, private industries such as banks use advancement in technology, duplex printing to reduce the weight of letters while sending out the same number of pieces. The same is true for the use of the Internet; the postal service uses the Internet to reach more people and to add convenience like parcel tracking. Businesses use the Internet to reduce marketing cost by way of reduced advertising postage charge. (Cochran, 2000) (Henderson, 2000)

Because of growth in mail volume, infrastructure, and numbers of personnel employed, the postal service deals with at least six labour unions, four representing mail operations, one representing nurses, and one representing the postal police. With the increase in staff and increasing mail volume notwithstanding, the postal service is managing to keep the cost of postage down. Given raising labour and fuel cost coupled with the impact of inflation, this is not easily done. (Henderson, 2000)

With good news there’s also bad news for all its success, the postal service, like other government agencies or private businesses has fallen victim to incidents of workplace violence. The postal service is profiled here not because it has the higher number of violent incidents nor because of the notoriety it received from the media. In fact the federal agency with the most violent incidents is the Department of Veterans

Affairs. (Freeman, Fox, Burr, & Santa sine, 1996) Outside the federal government, residential care and nursing home facilities had the highest rates for assault in 1994.

Whether deserved or not, the postal service has taken a pounding from the media. Over the last several years more than thirty postal employees lost their lives in eleven violent incidents in and around their workplace, postal stations. (Nigro & Waugh, 1996) One of these incidences occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Alternatives

Government agencies, especially large ones, are not known for their willingness to change their mode of operation; Slow to change is how a bureaucracy is pictured. After all, this mode of operation has been working for years and everyone has adapted to its way of thinking. This mode of operation may have been that of postal stations in the past, but it is now meeting many challenges and having to change its way of operation to remain a self-supporting agency. The requirement to change extends to methods used to handle people and problems. The change is from an autocratic to a more humanistic management style.

The post office requires that all validated threats be investigated to a conclusion within twenty-four hours after a threat assessment level is determined. The last form used by the threat assessment team outlines the risk abatement plan to bring the process to conclusion. Many resources are used when determining the proper abatement plan: a review of personnel, medical, and disciplinary records as well as the input from the postal inspection report.

Proposed solutions

Employment Process

Recommended practices: Interviewers should conduct interviews that allow an evaluator to determine the true personality of applicants. Since personality characteristics remain consistent over the lifetime of most healthy individuals, a pattern of behaviour can be discerned. Have a thorough background check conducted to evaluate past employment history, criminal record, education, experience, training, military service, credit history, and inquiries regarding general character and reputation. The thorough background check would lay the foundation for a complete review. (Kelleher, 1996)

Post office practice: The post office requires prospective employees to complete its suitability requirement. This requirement consists of a medical examination, a drug screening test, employment information verified, a check by local law enforcement, a five-year residency check (through the courts), fingerprint background check and be interviewed.

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Evaluation: The post office pre-employment process exceeds the recommendations by researchers. The drug screening, five-year residency check, and medical examination are added measures use to enhance the possibility of rejecting a potentially violence prone individual. This section exceeds the recommended requirements.

Termination Process

RECOMMENDED PRACTICES: Human Resources personnel should be mindful that the termination process can be a dangerous undertaking. They should treat employees being terminated with respect, sensitivity, and dignity. Standards used to terminate employees should be applied equally. If possible avoid terminating when an employee is undergoing other stressful life situations such as divorce and death in the family. Make it a policy to have at least two members of management and in some cases a member of security present at the termination proceedings. Be ready for the proceedings, complete actions such as collecting keys, badges, parking permit, and company equipment. After the proceedings change passwords as necessary. Handle the process in a confidential manner and use multiple concurring opinions of members who are sensitive to the impact of terminations.

When possible, management should provide post-employment and outplacement support after termination, this support may help relieve the emotions that are bound to be present during a termination. (Kelleher, 1996).

Evaluate the work environment

Recommended practices: Solicit employee input; they are often in the best position to provide valuable information because of daily contact with the work environment. Cultivate this source of information; foster a climate that make employees feel secure in offering suggestions, take all suggestion seriously and encourage input on a continuous basis. Maintain employee interest by providing recognition of employee participation and as well as giving credit for recommendations accepted. Employees should feel as though they are a valued part of the company.

Post office practice: The post office conducts a “Voice of the Employee” survey every quarter. The Voice of the Employee survey results are intended to formulate policy in the areas covered by the survey. Typical questions cover the employee opinion on rating the USPS as a place to work, ability of management to communicate, value of diversity in the workforce, quality of service, job safety, physical working conditions, ideas and innovation, co-worker cooperation, recognition, training, accountability, expectations, meeting goals, union and management labour climate, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Security Measures

Recommended practices: Identify potential threats, vulnerabilities. Develop and implement a security plan. Educate the workforce on the security plan. (Kelleher, 1996)

POST OFFICE PRACTICE: In response to a prior violent incident the postal station made the following changes. The traffic flow in facility parking lots was changed to a one-way flow through pattern. The postal station implemented a smart identification badge system that electronically allows access to controlled areas such as employee parking and parts of buildings. Access to the building is now restricted to only parts of the first floor for non-badge wearing unescorted visitors. All visitors to the administration section is required to check in at the personnel office before conducting business. Because of the new restrictions, a visitor cannot conduct business without a badge or an escort.

Evaluation: The steps taken by the post office fulfils the recommendation to provide reasonable protection for the workforce and without hindering the customer.

Security systems much like fire alarm systems should be periodically tested. All too often employees grow accustomed to the security environment and undermine their own security. For this reason, unannounced non-punitive security exercises to test employee’s awareness and security system integrity should be conducted. The focus of the test should be to keep everyone focused on security.

Education and Training

Recommended practice: Change the current method of supervisor/employee interaction by training the entire workforce. Supervisors should be trained to change from an autocratic supervisory style. This style of supervision is most present in organizations that experienced high incidences of workplace violence. Enhance interpersonal skills for all employees to instil better understanding and to improve listening skills. Teach employees how to recognize and respond to threats. Provide conflict resolution training to encourage constructive means to deal with stressful situations. Educate the workforce on new policies dealing with workplace violence and to know the consequences of violating the zero-tolerance policy. (Kelleher, 1996)

Post office practice: Consultants are used as needed to provide training to supervisors and employees on any topic deemed necessary. Example, if a complaint or threat is received from an office; a counsellor is sent to that office to provide an educational stand-up talk as appropriate. The subjects are wide ranging and include conflict resolution, interpersonal communication, and how to spot violent tendencies. On a required basis all employees receive training about hostile work environment, under the heading of sexual harassment. Managers and supervisors must also attend a four-hour course on hostile work environments. Employees are given a series of stand-up talks throughout the year approximately every month. The stand-ups last about fifteen minutes in length. Mandatory information briefings are conducted weekly to cover subjects on anything from changes in automation to safety to performance evaluations. Supervisors are required to provide the information to employees not in attendance.

Information regarding policies on violence and policies addressing sexual or any type of harassment are posted on bulletin boards located in well-known places and sent to all offices. The posting of information includes national policies and information of local interest.

Recommendations

Programs and procedures put in place to reduce the potential for workplace violence parallel those recommendations suggested by various researchers. All elements of the basic structure needed to develop an effective workplace violence prevention plan were utilized in its plan. The security enhancements are designed with protection of the employee in mind as well as the one step threat reporting hotline that that assures anonymity.

The postal station has the necessary resources and the will to combat the potential for future workplace violence; specifically, it conducts climate assessments, provides constant training rotates personnel at the workplace improvement office to keep fresh people on board, and makes counselling available for all employees. no reason to believe that the post office would change its policy to address workplace violence, change the mind-set of how it handles people or engage in intervention efforts. The agency was large had been around for a while and expecting them to dig-in and hold their ground against the media and everyone else looking their way. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the level of commitment displayed by the post office as it addresses workplace violence.

With an emphasis on violence prevention, the post office should offer limited outplacement service for employees terminated through no fault of their own. This practice if adopted may further reduce the potential for a violent event stemming from the termination process which is known to evoke emotional stress.

Currently there is no feedback to the employees who completed the Voice of the Employee survey. This practice keeps the employee in the dark and may make them apprehensive about completing surveys in earnest there by reducing the effectiveness of the surveys. This is from the principal that people like to know that they have been heard.

Security systems are only as effective as its weakest component. In most cases that is the human component. I recommend conducting periodic locally managed no-notice non-punitive checks to test employee awareness and response with the emphasis being, keeping the workforce security aware.

Despite the above recommendation, I highly recommend that the postal service’s Las Vegas valley program be evaluated by agencies or business interested in establishing an effective shield against workplace violence. There is no program that can guarantee a one hundred percent safe work environment, however, this program offers a good chance at achieving a safer work environment and peace of mind for employees.

Conclusion

If the Las Vegas Valley Postal Service can be equated to the rest of the government or the private business, we should be relieved that workplace violence mitigation is doing well. However, one cannot generalize or conclude that incidents of workplace violence are being properly attended to throughout the United States or throughout the Postal

Service using one case study. The Las Vegas Valley Postal Service has made giant strides in the effort to reduce the potential for future workplace violence. The interest in violence prevention is evident from the highest level of management.

Bibliography

  1. www.osha.gov/dte/library/wp-violence
  2. www.cos-mag.com
  3. www.jointcommission.org
  4. www.workplaceanswers.com/resources
  5. www.pshsa.ca.com

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Employee Relation Laws in India: Case Study of Violence in Workplace. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/employee-relation-laws-in-india-case-study-of-violence-in-workplace/
“Employee Relation Laws in India: Case Study of Violence in Workplace.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/employee-relation-laws-in-india-case-study-of-violence-in-workplace/
Employee Relation Laws in India: Case Study of Violence in Workplace. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/employee-relation-laws-in-india-case-study-of-violence-in-workplace/> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2023].
Employee Relation Laws in India: Case Study of Violence in Workplace [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/employee-relation-laws-in-india-case-study-of-violence-in-workplace/
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