MRO Magazine

Head Games

For the first time, Canadian organizations with Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) now have a way to predict the likelihood of workplace violence, according to a report by the WarrenShepell Research Group, a subsidiary of WarrenShepell Consultant...


December 1, 2003
By MRO Magazine

For the first time, Canadian organizations with Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) now have a way to predict the likelihood of workplace violence, according to a report by the WarrenShepell Research Group, a subsidiary of WarrenShepell Consultants Corp. of Toronto, a provider of EAP and related organizational health and wellness services.

“There is an urgent need for employers and human resource professionals to recognize the signs of a violence-prone workplace, says Rod Phillips, president and CEO of WarrenShepell Consultants. “And with pending legislation in the province of Qubec that will enable employees to make claims against their employer as a result of ‘psychological harassment’ on the job coming into effect in 2004, employers need to act now.”

According to the study, serious mental health issues are directly linked to higher rates of work-related trauma, including violence, harassment and workplace conflict.

Worse still, personal problems such as anger, grief, marital/relationship issues, addictions and family challenges are going untreated in many organizations. The result is a high potential for violence in certain corporate environments.

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The study shows business leaders how to use their organization’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) data to predict the likelihood of workplace violence.

“We tested our theory that the issues presented to the EAP could be viewed as a ‘psychosocial fingerprint:’ a profile of an organization’s overall mental health climate, and its risk for workplace violence,” said Gerry Smith, vice-president of organizational health at WarrenShepell Consultants.

Qubec’s changes to its Labour Standards Act define psychological harassment as ‘any vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures, that has an effect on an employee’s dignity, psychological or physical integrity and results in a harmful work environment for the employee.’

While there is a variety of legislation in place at both the federal and provincial levels to combat physical abuse and threats of violence, the Qubec law dealing specifically with psychological abuse will be the broadest and strongest to be introduced in North America.

“What this really means is that employers will now be held accountable for preventing the emergence of harmful work environments,” says Smith.