Abuse at work – how can you prevent it?

abuse at work

People go to work for different reasons.  To face abuse is not one of them.  This month is a tale of two workers.  Both of whom have had their confidence shattered as a result of abuse at work.

One, a teenager, works in a large chain of shops.  With no manager working that day, an irate customer shouted at her for around 20 minutes before her colleagues stepped in.  She spent two hours upset and may quit her job as a result.

The second, a lady, made redundant after 10 years, took a temporary role.  She told me the agency were aware her computer skills were limited.  Sadly, the message did not reach her supervisor who told her she was “useless”.   Weeks later, you could see by her body language that she was still affected by this.  I’m sure the people responsible would not have been happy had their own mother/daughter been on the receiving end of their actions.

As an employer, you have a duty to protect your employees from foreseeable risks.  What should you be doing to protect them from possible abuse at work?


What are the risks?

As with any area of health and safety, the first thing you need to do is to carry out a risk assessment.   You need to consider:

  • How likely are your employees to suffer abuse at work?
  • What type of abuse is it likely to be (eg physical/verbal)?
  • How can you reduce the risk of abuse at work?

Sadly, you should always consider that someone working with the public may suffer abuse.  Click here for a truly outrageous clip of a lady who lost all control over chicken nuggets (contains strong language from the start).  If alcohol is present or you work with people who may be subject to violence, the risk is greater.


How can I prevent abuse at work?

  • Ask your staff if they have experienced abuse at work.
  • If so, how could it be prevented in the future?
  • Keep records of any incidents.
  • Follow up and speak to anyone who has been affected.
  • How could your customer service be improved to reduce issues?
  • What training could be given to help them deal difficult situations or improve product knowledge?
  • Look at your environment.  Could additional lighting or security cameras help?
  • How easily can they summon help?
  • Encourage respect. If someone is not able to do their job, how can you manage them better?
  • Deal sensitively with any grievance raised.

No one wants to suffer abuse at work.  No employer wants to put them in the position where they may have to.  Is there anything more you could be doing to protect your employees?  To discuss any situations you may be facing or for more information, please do contact me.

Categories Health and Safety, Staff Performance, Uncategorized