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“...‘man up’ and get on with it”: young workers’\ud experiences of customer abuse and violence.

By Ian Elliott, Karen Goodall, Chris McVittie, Rahul Sambaraju and Anna Trejnowska


Many of the UK Government’s Welfare Reforms have been predicated on evidence, cited within the Dame Carol Black report, that work is good for health. Yet the original research base upon which this assertion lies makes the distinction that it is good work which leads to positive health outcomes. This research study investigates one particular aspect in which employment may have a negative impact on health outcomes – the incidence of workplace abuse and violence.\ud \ud The prevalence of abusive customers is widely recognised and researched. Yet it remains unclear to what extent young workers (16-24 years old) are particularly vulnerable. This study examined young workers’ experiences of customer abuse and violence including: the frequency; nature and type; impacts; and employer responses to abusive or violent customer behaviour. The study used the internet to recruit participants and to collect data using a survey, a discussion forum and interviews. A total of 365 young people completed the survey, of whom 20 also took part in the discussion forum and nine also took part in interviews.\ud \ud Overall, 65% of participants experienced at least one incident of workplace abuse or violence in the past year. This is in contrast with 37% of the overall working population who experience such incidents. It was found that, for many young workers, abusive customers are seen as part of the job. There is a lack of empowerment in how staff can deal with abusive customers and a general lack of\ud training or management support. The short-term effects of continued exposure to abuse are lack of confidence, anger and irritability; longer-term effects could not be discerned from this study.\ud \ud It is concluded that employers, and employees, perceive violence as normal behaviour and subsequently it often goes unreported. Recommendations are relevant to the Scottish Government, associated public agencies and employers. Yet without a significant change in public values and behaviours the problem of violence is likely to remain

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