Workplace Violence – The biggest mistake is denial
Workplace violence is a critical issue for employers to deal with and one of the biggest mistakes that many organizations make is to remain in denial that they either have a problem, or one could develop in their workplace. How often, after a tragic violent incident, do people who are interviewed say something like “I knew he would do something like this” or “he always made me afraid.” Often those who are in the best position to recognize problem behavior from an individual are the employees who engage with them every day. They know something is wrong but keep quiet about their concerns. They expect that someone should be doing something about an issue but don’t know whether to report what they see, or are afraid to. This is not the employee’s fault. It is the fault of an insufficient or nonexistent policy regarding the reporting of aggressive behavior. Not reporting inappropriate aggression can stem from a number of reasons including but not limited to:
- Fear of repercussions from the individual in question
- Not knowing when a behavior is deemed unacceptable and must be reported
- Not knowing to whom or how to report the behavior
- No assurance that there will be a follow up by a supervisor
All of these reasons can be addressed with an effective workplace violence prevention policy that is enforced and is an employment compliance requirement. Workplace violence prevention policies must address inappropriate intimidation through language, gestures, direct and indirect threats, or any other aggressive conduct that instills fear into other employees. Furthermore, employees should be trained to recognize such behavior as unacceptable and require that the conduct be reported to supervisory personnel. Supervisory personnel also have to be trained in how to investigate such reports and follow up with those designated within the company to handle such matters.
Bullying is the simplest, and usually the beginning form of violence in the workplace. If bullies are allowed to intimidate using inappropriate behavior, they will soon get even more brazen in their tactics. If an employee uses intimidation and fear to influence others in the workplace they will often go undetected just because of the nature of their tactics. No one wants to upset them. The conduct continues and the perpetrator assumes that the conduct, since it is being tolerated, is acceptable. If the workplace violence prevention policy does not force action by those who are experiencing the behavior, then the bully becomes empowered, and in their own minds, become even more dangerous.
Denial is even more evident when ongoing conduct is finally reported, or a mildly violent incident occurs, and no action to investigate or correct the behavior is taken. This will assure that the bully will continue the intimidating behavior. Others may even mimic the aggression since it seems to be tolerated. Soon the behavior can take on a more violent form when people begin to fight back. Eventually the workplace becomes a hostile environment. No matter whom the aggressor is, the behavior must be addressed and stopped or consequences, including termination, should result. Don’t transfer the person out to another department hoping they will change their behavior. Don’t promote them and don’t make excuses – correct the behavior.
Now, if termination does become necessary, that should be done carefully as well. Safe terminations will be another topic to be addressed in the future. For more information regarding workplace violence prevention, safe terminations, bullying prevention, employee training and other related topics check out the Workplace Violence Series on our website at www.imac-training.com