Author: edited by Martin Gill and Bonnie Fisher
ISBN No: 1-903240-62-X
Review date: 29/02/2024
No of pages: 0
Year of publication:
The latest academic word on workplace threats and aggression, Violence At Work - Causes, patterns and prevention is timely.
Robbers wave guns at cash in transit staff, truckers, shop assistants. A journalist is shot dead in Northern Ireland on his way home from the pub. CCTV consultants and installers get threatened, stoned even, on housing estates. What have these work sectors in common? There’s a lot of violence about. Professional Security articles in recent months on violence against security staff and front-line workers generally have provoked much debate among readers. Hence the latest academic word, Violence At Work – Causes, patterns and prevention is timely (and is dedicated to ‘all those who lost their lives at work on September 11, 2001’). The editors are Martin Gill (Director of the Scarman Centre, University of Leicester), Bonnie Fisher (University of Cincinnati) and Vaughan Bowie (University of Western Sydney). The book reflects that broad span of experience across the English-speaking world (Canada too). I applaud this drawing on perspectives from beyond the UK, easy these days thanks to the internet. The editors begin and end by stressing that their book aims to encourage thinking, to help prevention of violence by backing it with theory and research into what works. As reported last month, the book argues that violence at work is little understood and under-reported to police, never mind the media hysteria about extreme cases of employees killing colleagues. The authors point to new forms of workplace violence, such as stalking, harassing e-mails, and domestic troubles spilling over into work. There are nuggets throughout the chapters – to take page 24, ‘females tend to experience higher levels of verbal abuse, while males tend to receive more overt threats and physical assaults’ and ‘there are four core risk factors: the business exchanges money with customers; there are few workers on site; the business trades in the evening or at night; and workers have face to face communications with customers’. These quotes stand as examples of a gripe about this book: theory ain’t much use without facts, which at times border on stating the bleeding obvious. Matt Hopkins (UK researcher into violence against small businesses) at least gives real cases of bother against an off-licence and an electrical shop (whose staff bang an iron bar against the counter to make an angry customer leave – presumably not part of any conflict management training course). However he summarises that we can develop a framework for understanding abuse and violence against premises ‘by considering the lifestyle and routine activity characteristics that promote abuse/violence, the triggers of incidents and incident processes’. Rather more to the point, I’ d’ve thought, are alcohol and drugs and shoplifting and other ‘triggers’ at places like bookies, pubs and 7-11 shops. Security managers and trainers don’t need academics to tell them that ‘the final result of the incident is highly dependent upon the intentions of both the offender and the victim’. Security professionals know UK plc is beset by criminals quick to resort to the fist and knife … and companies that see any security or training as a grudge purchase. Such firms for instance avoid acting on at-risk employees and sites and then are shocked when an employee ‘explodes’ – except that managers can indentify employees on a fuse, and seek to de-escalate tension. And then there’s CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design). True, US chapter author, James Kenny, speaks of ‘sick companies’ and ‘toxic work groups’ that are more prone to violence. (We all know them.) This book on a pressing topic shows all the ideals and drawbacks of academics writing about security management.