Physical assault is never OKAY. No one should have to endure physical assault from anyone at any place. When it is the workplace, the issue is just amplified multiple times. You are in what you perceive to be a “safe zone,” surrounded by well-educated people who are familiar with the law.
Everyone at your workplace knows assaulting a person – sexually or non-sexually is illegal, and they can get into a lot of trouble for it. Despite all this awareness, what can you do about it if they still do it?
It will take you some time to actually digest what just happened and process the whole thing in your head. Then comes the stage where you start wondering if it was your fault and what you can do about it.
Physical Assault In The Workplace Explained
So, how to know and identify physical assault in your workplace? People who are fully aware of what they are doing can be smart and pass off their assault as a joke. They can turn the tables around and make it look like you amplified a harmless joke.
Here are a few instances that one cannot and should not accept and let go of as a “joke.” If someone does any of the following, you can and should take it up with the concerned authorities before it gets out of hand.
A colleague might attack another in the office due to a disagreement, a promotion, a demotion, or just about anything that is not good news. What starts as an exchange of words can soon turn physical. A person’s rank does not give them the liberty to abuse another physically. Even if a superior is unhappy with the performance of someone of a lower rank, they cannot assault the person.
· Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is also a common phenomenon in the workplace. Whether it is a man or a woman; they are both at the risk of sexual assault in the workplace. It is not okay for a person to touch you if you are not comfortable with it, whether it is the opposite sex or the same sex; they need to respect your personal space.
Bullying does not stop with high school. It happens at workplaces too. If a person is very physical about their emotions, like patting on a person’s back, elbowing, claiming it to be a joke, or playing dangerous pranks, you need not tolerate it. Such people can and will cover up these assaults as a joke. It would be best if you stopped them before someone was seriously hurt.
· Mentally Unstable
If you notice a colleague in depression or is mentally unstable due to recent events in their personal lives, you need to keep an eye on them. They are going through a difficult time and may not be able to articulate their emotions effectively. The frustration can cause them to become violent in the workplace, thus causing harm to others around them.
Who Is At A Risk?
Anyone can be a victim of physical assault. However, some workers are at a higher risk than others for physical abuse in the workplace. They are –
· Delivery Persons
People who exchange money and products with the public are vulnerable. Service or delivery people are at risk of physical assault. You never know what mood or situation the customer will be in. They might have ordered something, and the delivery person might deliver some wrong product or, even worse, a defective product. It is not their fault; they are just delivering what they are supposed to, at the delivery address.
When the customer is upset, they might lash out, and the delivery person cannot really do much about it unless it comes to self-protection.
· Health Care Professionals
Taking care of sick patients is never an easy task. A patient might lash out at their healthcare professional or hit their healthcare professional when the healthcare professional is about to give them an injection or try to restrain them from doing something they should not.
They are following the doctor’s instructions, but the patient is not happy about it. If they attack, the professional cannot hit them back. They can only try stopping them to protect themselves. Instead of hitting back, they need to call for security or a backup to help them out.
· Public Service Personnel
People in the public service department are at a high risk of physical assault in the workplace. When you deal with the public, you can never say what each person is going through. If you are dealing with an unstable person, they might try to physically assault you if you were to give them unpleasant news.
· Law Enforcement Personnel
The frontline officers who deal with criminals and even the public who break the law are at a high risk of physical assault in their workplace. Though a police officer can legally retain a person who assaults them, they may not do it all the time. Especially if they realize the person is just upset or unstable and didn’t attack on purpose.
· Service Providers
Sometimes service providers can be at the receiving end of a customer’s wrath. For example, suppose an Internet connection is unstable and is affecting an individual’s business. In that case, the said person can get violent with the repairman who comes to their door. This is not right, but such service providers are at risk of physical assault for no fault of theirs.
What Can You Do
If you are subject to physical assault or are a witness to physical assault at your workplace, what can you do about it? Here are a few steps you can take for your own or your colleague’s safety:
Speak To Someone In The Human Resource Department
Every workplace has an HR team to prevent and act on such incidents. If you are a victim of such physical or sexual assault, you should take it to HR. You can provide them with whatever proof they have and file an official complaint with all the details. HR should ideally conduct a review, look into the issue and get to the bottom of it.
However, there will be instances where the HR may not believe you or might side with the offender if it is a person high up in the hierarchy. In such cases, you need to take legal action.
A physical assault is illegal, no matter how small it is. You can file a formal complaint at your local police station and provide a copy of the complaint to HR too. If you witness a physical assault, you can file a complaint only if the victim comes forward. The police will need the victim to give an official statement.
Though it is not right for you to physically assault a person, you should learn to defend yourself. It is always good to be prepared for such situations, within your workplace or out on the roads.
Assault of any kind in the workplace should not be tolerated. If you tolerate such behaviors, they can quickly get out of hand and become a threat to you and others around you. Physical assault is illegal, and you have every right to take legal action against the offender.