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Workplace Violence – Is Your Company Still in Denial?

December 31st, 2014 Comments off

Tragic events of violence in the workplace are continuing with disturbing frequency. Does your management really still think violence couldn’t happen in your 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. It is an unpleasant topic to talk about, let alone make policy on, but you are taking a huge financial risk by not recognizing it could happen in your workplace and developing prevention strategies to reduce those chances. Your only defense against being found negligent and liable is to have done the necessary research to overcome a reasonable foreseeability argument and to have an assertive workplace violence prevention program in place. Furthermore, when you tell employees they are your most valued asset, what message are you sending to them when you do not address violence prevention? It’s not just about reducing liability- it is the right thing to do for your employees.

Let’s look at some conditions that can lead to a workplace violence incident.  Has your business/organization ever:

  • had crime in your neighborhood?
  • had a domestic violence situation with one of your employees?
  • fired anyone?
  • had a crime happen in your business?
  • had one of your employees stalked?
  • had an irate customer threaten one of your employees?
  • had a bully in your ranks using aggressive, intimidating language or action against another?

Yes, all of these things can lead to workplace violence and will be looked at in court as contributing to reasonable foreseeability.

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 may keep quiet about their concerns. They expect that someone should be doing something about an issue but don’t know how to report what they see, or are afraid to. This is not the employee’s fault if they haven’t been made aware that they have a responsibility to report certain things.

Let’s just take the example of not reporting inappropriate aggression in the workplace. This can stem from a number of reasons including but not limited to:

  • Fear of repercussions from the individual in question
  • Not knowing what 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 employees. This fear can be coming from an internal or external source. Not only should all employees be trained in what to look for but they should be required to report the problem to supervisory personnel. Supervisory personnel also have to be trained in how to investigate such reports and follow up with those designated within the organization to handle such matters.

Denial is evident when ongoing intimidating conduct is never reported, or a mildly violent incident occurs, and no action to investigate or correct the behavior is taken. This will assure that the aggressive conduct or bullying will continue. Others may even mimic the aggression since it seems to be tolerated by the company. 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 who the aggressor is, the behavior must be addressed and stopped. Don’t transfer the person out to another department hoping they will change their behavior.  Don’t promote them out, and don’t make excuses – correct the behavior.

For more information regarding workplace violence prevention, safe terminations, bullying prevention, active shooter response planning and training, supervisory training and other related topics check out the Workplace Violence Series on our website at www.imac-training.com.

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