Taking steps to prevent ‘going postal’: HR practices preventing workplace violence

Workplace violence: Assessing organizational awareness and planning interventions

From Advances in Developing Human Resources

Workplace violence continues to be a topic of great importance to many companies, as tales of extreme cases hit the media. Today’s human resources departments spend a great deal of time preparing for these cases. However, this study questions whether time might be better invested in further investigation. The article proposes that using a theory called awareness development to assess employees responses to situations can help HR departments better craft their workplace violence policies and procedures. The author reveals that part of the diagnosis process, is surveying employees to see where they are in one of the five stages of awareness development. These stages include pre-encounter (having little to no knowledge of workplace violence), intellectualization (having knowledge but no experience with workplace violence), encounter (having experience with workplace violence), empowerment (seeking strategies to adapt or cope after workplace violence), and integration (regaining a sense of control after workplace violence). In this study, most of the participants’ organizations fell into the intellectualization stage. The article concludes that the use of the awareness development theory can be used to help companies assess their current status and plan initiatives based on awareness level of workplace violence.


The problem and the solution. Workplace violence is an extreme manifestation of escalated workplace incivility. Strategies for addressing workplace violence are generally proactive, focused on prevention and preparation, or reactive, focused on response to an incident. Before strategies are put in place, however, the complexity of the issue demands an organizational assessment so that chosen strategies have maximum benefit. Awareness development is a construct for analyzing cognitive and psychosocial growth in relation to a transitional issue, such as workplace violence, then planning interventions that support growth in relation to the transitional issue. This study shows that the use of the awareness development construct to examine individual employees’ perceptions regarding the transitional issue of workplace violence may serve as a practical measure for human resource development (HRD) practitioners to assess the organization and plan intervention strategies. Implications for theory and research are discussed.

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Article details

Kormanik, M. (2011). Workplace Violence: Assessing Organizational Awareness and Planning Interventions Advances in Developing Human Resources DOI: 10.1177/1523422311410658

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