The growing unhappiness in the world (with 99 out of the 250 countries of the world in conflict or at war) is causing us all to be concerned about personal safety. With last week's terrorist strikes on working Americans, many more people now understand why the phenomenon of physical and verbal violence in the workplace has become a pressing business issue.

Security firm Pinkerton, Inc. says workplace violence is still the No. 1 safety concern among companies surveyed. The Bureau of Justice Statistics expects to release sometime soon its first study of the issue in three years. Jon Cioffi, Senior Consultant with the AON Consulting's Loyalty Institute in Ann Arbor, MI, tells us that employee concerns about working in a safe and respectful environment jumped a significant 5% points from last year's US@Work study.

Longer hours, open office spaces with little privacy, increased workloads and widespread layoffs are fueling explosions of temper even in once-staid offices. Companies generally do not report instances of worker confrontations, but occupational experts and authorities on workplace stress say that the number of incidents is rising along with their severity.

Lost tempers are probably the most common. A survey on workplace stress released last summer by The Marlin Company of North Haven, Conn., showed that 42% of office workers said they had jobs in an office where yelling and verbal abuse happened frequently.

Unchecked, employee growing concerns about workplace violence can negatively affect performance, turnover and your ability to attract people from outside the company. In extreme cases, workplace negativity can even spread to clients and customers.

Here are a number of actions you can take to address this wave of pessimism:

1. Make employees feel comfortable coming forward about bothersome issues.

2. Tell employees what they can do to help maintain a safe and respectful workplace. Video presentations, like "The Respectful Workplace," can help your employees open the right doors where they work.

3. Provide a 'message board' on the company Intranet where employees are encouraged to post workplace issues. Other employees can then pick up on a comment and add their own thoughts, criticisms or suggestions. Postings should be anonymous but the employee can choose to include his or her name when appropriate. Management monitors the site to learn what kinds of issues need to be addressed.

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Note: If your company doesn't have an Intranet--or is too slow in creating an employee message board, employees can go to Tell the Boss! at www.tellboss.com and tell anonymously what they think. Their anonymous message will eventually get back to company management and the human resource department will begin monitoring this public-access message board.

Author's Bio: 

John G. Agno is president of Signature, Inc., an executive and business coaching firm in Ann Arbor, MI. He can be contacted through www.CoachThee.com