Tempers flare in U offices

by Jessica Steeno

Bitter or obsessed employees sometimes lash out at co-workers or supervisors instead of managing their stress in a healthy way, according to David W. Johnson, director of the University Employee Assistance Program.
Violence in the workplace is rising, Johnson said. But he also said the numbers do not represent an epidemic.
Violence “is in the society,” Johnson said. “It’s just a reality that we’re living in.”
Two incidents involving workplace-related violence at the University were reported to University Police last week.
A University Hospital employee’s life was threatened by a co-worker July 25, according to a University Police report.
Sgt. Joe May said the victim reported one of the threats as: “I know what to do to you now. You’re not going to know how it will happen to you, but it will.”
The man who made the threats is rumored to carry a gun and was arrested and charged with fifth degree assault. May said the man could receive $700 in fines, 120 days in jail, or both for the incident.
In a separate incident, two University Hospital co-workers, a man and a woman, fought verbally. The woman filed a report with University Police.
University Police Detective Marianne Olson said the man filed a report with the hospital administration. Both reports said foul language was exchanged, and both people claimed the other physically restrained them. Olson said the case is currently under investigation.
Johnson said the University offers training and education for supervisors to help them deal with violent occurrences in the workplace. His office also offers counseling for people to help them deal with work-related stress, which is the No. 1 cause of workplace violence.
“We (the University) are experiencing the stress of downsizing,” Johnson said. “People are worried about losing their jobs and paying their mortgages. Some people are not very good at dealing with stress.”
The U.S. Department of Justice reports nearly 1 million violent crimes in the workplace each year.
Each week 15 people in the United States are murdered at work, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Workplace-related violence has always been around, Sgt. May said.
“I think they’re telling us about it more since the Jennifer May incident,” he said. “The University is one of the largest employers in the state, and it’s bound to happen.”