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Acts by current, ex-employees account for most federal workplace violence

Oct. 2, 2012 - 03:30PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Federal hospitals have among the highest rates of workplace violence within the federal government.
Federal hospitals have among the highest rates of workplace violence within the federal government. (Getty Images)

Roughly one in eight federal employees witnessed workplace violence over a two-year period, according to the results of a new Merit Systems Protection Board survey.

About 54 percent of those incidents were committed by current or former federal employees — compared with 34 percent committed by agency customers and 12 percent committed by employee relatives or others, according to the report.

The report estimated that a quarter of all incidents during the 2008-2010 survey period resulted in either injury or property damage, although it did not attempt to tally individual incidents.

“The results of our survey of federal employees indicate that when an incident of physical assault, threat of assault, harassment, intimidation, or bullying occurs in a federal workplace, it is most likely caused by current or former Federal employees rather than customers, criminals, or those who have a personal relationship with an employee,” MSPB Chairman Susan Grundmann said in a letter to Congress and the administration.

She said agencies should make sure their violence prevention programs address violence caused by co-workers.

Federal managers should also foster an office culture that does not tolerate violent behaviors, Grundmann said.

The results come from the MSPB’s 2010 Merit Principles Survey with responses from more than 42,000 federal employees from 30 agencies.

The risk of workplace violence is higher in certain categories: 26 percent of federal employees working in medical and hospital occupations and 21 percent in security occupations said they witnessed workplace violence over the last two years, far higher than the 13 percent figure for federal employees overall. These were the two occupational areas witnessing the most violence.

The report recommends that agencies:

• Establish programs that outline responsibilities to prevent or respond to workplace violence and ensure that agency components can work together if violence occurs.

• Collect data on the prevalence and nature of violence in their organizations in order to develop more effective prevention programs. The data should include the type of violence as well as demographic information.

• Bring together managers, supervisors and human resources officers to help foster a culture of openness and tolerance of people and ideas in order to reduce violence.

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