Gig Economy - The Key to Reducing Workplace Violence?
How the Gig Economy Is Making the American Workplace a Safer Place
Workplace violence has been a problem in the United States for the longest time. There are several factors that could contribute to the level of violence in the workplace, including the fact that the U.S. is the most overworked developed nation in the world. (G.E. 2018) Here are several reasons to support that assertion:
- The U.S is the ONLY country in the Americas without a national paid parental leave benefit (G.E. 2018).
- 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the workweek, the U.S. does not (G.E. 2018).
- The U.S. remains the only industrialized country in the world that has no legally mandated annual leave (G.E. 2018).
While I don’t think that these factors cause workplace violence, when you add these factors to workplaces that are filled with tension, hyperactive, intense, and aggressive personalities, the mix is potentially dangerous.
In modern times a lot of companies have been transforming their workplaces into more comfortable settings, as well as providing more amenities in order to create a more, “collegial atmosphere.” The thought process is that, if work environments are like home environments, workers will be more engaged, and perhaps be a little nicer to each other. Even workplaces that have a, “no asshole policy,” still have incidents where co-workers are very rude and disrespectful to each other; incidents that have led to workplace assaults, beatings, and shootings.
Despite all the efforts mentioned above, workplace violence continues to rise with, “17% of workplace deaths happening directly as a result of workplace violence” (Rici 2019). In 2018 workplace violence was one of the major causes of death in the corporate world, second only to transportation (Rici 2019). Think about that!
Bullying in the workplace is very common here in the U.S. I’ve been a victim of it myself, and I can tell you that when it happened, it took a toll, even though I’m a mentally strong man with an even-keeled temperament. Nobody tried to intimidate me physically, but at a bank I worked at, when I was going through a management training program, a woman on my team constantly made disparaging remarks about me, and towards me. She didn’t do it to just me, and her behavior took a toll on the team’s morale. Although she never tried it with me, this lady physically intimidated the other women on the team. This individual was used to leading all the team building exercises, and would intimidate the other team mates whenever they tried to take an initiative. When I introduced my initiatives, she would hurl insults or mock me during my presentation. Our new manager, who was encouraging my professional development had enough, and began to intervene to improve the team dynamics. Within two months, the bully was fired.
I love working in the, “gig economy,” for several reasons:
- I can make my own schedule. I don’t have to justify to anyone if I decide to take off to attend to a personal or family matter.
- With my independent contracting work (outside of food delivery), if I encounter an unpleasant, rude or disrespectful client, I can choose to decline to work with them next time, if they request to be a repeat customer. As an employee in a corporate environment, I don’t really have a choice whether to work with a difficult colleague or client, particularly if I’m given specific direction by a boss to work with this person.
- The overwhelming majority of my bosses (my customers), are pleasant to work with, because we both need each other. They need my service, and I need their money. There is an equilibrium to the power dynamic, particularly if I’m providing a specialized service. This creates a dynamic where both parties are incentivized to be on their best behavior. In an employee-employer dynamic, the equilibrium exists in theory, but not in practice.
- When there is a disagreement, I’m free to express whatever is on my mind, in a professional manner of course. In a corporate environment you can say whatever you want, but the consequences of being completely honest could being devastating, including being ostracized, and your career being made to stall, or even worse getting fired.
- If I become ill, I don’t have to worry about exhausting sick days or vacation days, and possibly violating company policy. I just indicate on the app that I’m unavailable to take any jobs that day, that’s it!
- I don’t have to work day in, and day out with a group of people who I utterly dislike, or whose personalities clearly don’t mesh well with mine. In connection with that, I don’t have to put on a façade to pretend that I like a person, who actually irritates me, but with whom I have to maintain peace in order for work to be completed, and to avoid being labelled as someone who can’t work well with others, or worse, destroying the team dynamic.
The gig economy has given millions of people the opportunity to earn additional money on their own timetable, which can vary if they choose to do so. The gig economy has also allowed entrepreneurs like me, who didn’t have a lot of savings, but were desperate to leave jobs that made them unhappy, to be able to support themselves while they pursue their passion.
While the overwhelming majority of people who are unhappy in their jobs won’t commit violent acts, there is a strong case to be made that a lot of individuals who could have possibly turned to violence in the past possibly, and probably, channeled that energy into seeking opportunities where they could easily leave that work environment, which is a great opportunity that the gig economy has created.
To be 100 percent clear, when I was frustrated in the workplace, I NEVER CONSIDERED, NOR WOULD I EVER CONSIDER VIOLENCE, VERBAL, PHYSICAL, OR OTHERWISE. I REJECT VIOLENCE IN ALL ITS FORMS. My main point is that the gig economy has provided those individuals who might have been prone to commit acts of violence at work, due to their frustration about being mistreated at work, a way out of a stressful environment, and to be able to continue to provide for themselves, and their families.
In my opinion, the Gig economy has saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives.
What are your thoughts?
G.E., Miller. 2018. The U.S. is the Most Overworked Nation in the World. January 2. Accessed March 31, 2019. https://20somethingfinance.com/american-hours-worked-productivity-vacation/.
Rici, Danielle. 2019. 2018 Workplace Violence Statistics. January 1. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://alertfind.com/workplace-violence-statistics/.