Dispelling 3 Common Myths about Workplace Violence Prevention and Workplace Security

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Dispelling 3 Common Myths about Workplace Violence Prevention and Workplace Security

Posted on: August 3rd, 2018

When I speak with people about the topic of workplace violence prevention, their responses indicate their understanding of what constitutes workplace violence prevention.

“Our Zero Tolerance Policy addresses our workplace violence prevention efforts”.

“Management deals with such problems with discipline and if necessary we terminate the problem employees.”

“We call the police when we have a situation we can’t handle.”

“Security problems that our employees have in the community are referred to the police.”

What I hear are cookie-cutter responses because workplace violence consist of physical violence and non-violence related behaviors like harassment, bullying, name calling, verbal abuse, intimidation, threatening conduct, stalking, sabotage and cyber security threats. It is not waiting for the homicidal incident! OSHA documents about 2 million such incidents annually. We believe that number is much higher simply because it is underreported as workplace violence.

In short, what I hear is a rational that seems devoid of an articulated top down organizational workplace or school prevention and violence response strategy. It appears that prevention is based on assumptions, convenient decisions and expedient actions.

They seem not to know what they don’t know and convinced themselves they know – “Doing the same thing over & over, expecting different results.”

Here are the 3 of the most common myths most often applied over the years:

MYTH #1: Workplace violence will not happen here.

“Too many workplace cultures subscribe” to the theory that Zero Tolerance puts employees on notice that such behavior will not be tolerated. Experience has shown that employees are reluctant to report their co-workers if it means disciplinary action. Others believe that their background screening will help them hire the right person. Truth is that background screening cannot predict what an employee with diminished coping skills will do in the future in managing conflict. So applying the “walk like a duck it is a duck” euphemism may not apply in addressing workplace violence. Best Practices have a place so long as they are not applied as a blanket solution without adaptability and flexibility.

Some organizations believe that employing armed guards will discourage the homicidal threat of violence. The question I always pose is who protects the workplace against the lone armed guard. The solution is not the lone armed guard but the prevention strategy.

With the emphasis on the homicidal threat of violence the nonfatal acts of violence are treated as employee misconduct and improperly addressed. Contributing factors are rarely identified because the focus is on the employee misconduct and not “why” the employee became aggressive, confrontational or threatening. So while the focus may be on the active shooter threat, we forget to focus on prevention to identify the contributing factors that might very well lead to such aggression and a civil liability suit for failing to foresee a recognizable hazard.

Assumptions about workplace violence and the value of prevention nullify the thinking required in the development of a comprehensive holistic workplace violence prevention program intended to be proactive.

MYTH #2: Workplace violence is not preventable.

This myth more or so applies to the threat posed by the non-employee opportunistic criminal, armed robber or domestic violence/intimate partner violence threat but should not apply to the employee threat. The employee threat is PREVENTABLE. There are workplaces that subscribe to the common belief, at least in part to the notion that the disgruntled employee is hard to detect and therefore hard to deal with. As such, workplaces do not invest in developing adequate prevention strategies, measures and procedures to proactively engage prevention measures. The reasoning may defer to this belief due to expediency in their efforts because it may lack senior management commitment and investment in proper training and alignment of resources.

Creating a culture of organizational responsibility, accountability and leadership can go a long way towards building employee trust and confidence in reporting their observations. Key is to create employee engagement based on credibility in reporting, accountability and supervision so that witnesses and victims can believe proper action will be taken. .

MYTH #3: We have workplace violence under control.

We have things under control is the typical response I’ve heard from larger organizations that believe they have matters under control and they very well may have. In speaking with some of their representatives, I am impressed by the level of commitment and investment. While they  rely on their Zero Tolerance Policy there appears to be a coordinated effort between Human Resources, Security and other departments. However, I wonder how many of such organizations have actually surveyed their workforce in receiving actual feedback? In order to tap into their workplace realities, management must ask the workforce about their experiences and actual impressions in evaluating the organization’s workplace violence prevention posture. Transparency in responding to employee reports and complaints will give the prevention effort credibility.

Maximize the Prevention Value through Multiple Intervention Strategies

Prevention is directly linked to how organizations intentionally manage the workplace violence prevention policy/plan/program. Workplaces and educational institutions that make a management commitment and deliberate investment in applying Multiple Intervention Strategies will have a clear advantage over those that live in a world of ‘MYTHs”.  Deferring issues and situations to their local law enforcement rather than investing in a proactive workplace violence prevention initiative may expose their liability.

Supervision, coaching, counseling, EAP, training, and performance improvement plans are examples of Multiple Intervention Strategies that may avert disaster. I find “Employee Engagement” as a new component of a Multiple Intervention Strategy from the standpoint of an engaged workforce built on employee trust and confidence. “Employee Engagement” is measurable. For example, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion dollars each year.

According to Accenture, less than 50% of CFO appear to understand the ROI (Return on Investment) in human capital. Could this perception play a role in supporting a strong argument for why the above myths exist today? After all, by understanding and measuring the threat of workplace violence against poor productivity and performance, medical and injury compensation and time and attendance, impact on the organization’s bottom-line can be measured along with identifying ROI.

I think correlation is significant in helping to understand impact. The World Health Organization reports that stress cost American Business an estimated $300 billion annually. On the other hand, workplace violence is estimated to cost $121 billion annually. One can safely conclude that stress is a by-product of harassment, bullying and other related behaviors. Time away from work results in an average of 3.5 lost days per workplace violence incident recorded. Out of court civil law suit settlements average $500,000  Nonfatal assaults results in 876,000 lost work days annually. How do these areas help your organization develop your own metrics?

In Closing…

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Would you agree that by understanding the “WHAT, HOW and WHY” of workplace violence prevention and understanding and measuring employee satisfaction, productivity and impact on the bottom-line, effective programs can be developed and managed? Drawing a correlation between workplace violence prevention and employee engagement can help enhance the organizational response and begin to appreciate the value of proactive intervention. Hasty intervention and speedy response to employee complaints and observations will help organizations avoid being surprised by the active shooter. Remember that a workplace or school active shooter is a failed workplace or school violence prevention policy.

Workplace Violence Prevention – Myths, Confusion & Misunderstandings

Posted on: July 9th, 2017

My business associate and Founder of the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute Kathleen M. Bonczyk, Esq. Attorney, Consultant and Advocate properly calls June a bloody month when a former employee named Henry Bello entered the Bronx Lebanon Hospital, New York City at about 2:50 p.m., Friday, June 30, 2017 with a rifle concealed under a lab coat and began shooting. At least one person was killed and 6 others were injured before Bello apparently committed suicide. It was reported as a disgruntled ex-employee rampage shooting – the fourth in the United States since June 5th.

Pretty straight forward report. However, would you agree that there’s too much confusion and myths about Workplace Violence Prevention and what it is? I often read of news reports where experts are quoted as saying that though “workplace violence is rare workplaces need to take relative measures to protect against armed intruders such as actives shooters”.
According to OSHA USA there are over 2 million reported incidents of workplace violence every year and that the number could be considerably higher. This lack of understanding in defining workplace violence might be at the root cause of why the prevention effort is woefully underfunded and under managed. There is a tendency to confuse the use of “workplace violence” as referring to a homicidal threat. When in fact, “Workplace violence” includes much more than just homicides or workplace shootings.
The U.S. Department of Labor defines “workplace violence” as any threat or act of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at a work site. In making a distinction between the types of violence both the FBI and OSHA  separates “workplace violence” into four (4) categories of violence based on victim-perpetrator relationship. Such acts of workplace violence are even further defined as nonfatal and fatal incidents.
In reality, homicidal incidents of violence involving current employees, former employees and disgruntled spouses and intimate partner violence in the workplace is a fairly rare occurrence in the United States.

Media coverage and sensationalized reports by some misinformed suggest that homicidal violence is increasing. The number of workplace related homicides has fallen from 518 in 2010 to 417 in 2015, the last year for which complete statistics are available. Of these cases, only an average of 12 percent were committed by a current or former co-worker.

It is important that we clarify these myths and confusions in reporting and in categorizing workplace violence if workplaces are to appropriately commit and invest resources. Managing the threat of workplace violence requires understanding the continuum acts and their direct correlation to escalation such as name calling, verbal abuse, bullying, harassment, arguments, personal disputes, fights and other forms of workplace related nonfatal acts of violence if, human resources, security managers, risk managers and others responsible are to justify implementation of comprehensive policies and plans.

Language is important in applying the right mixture of prevention strategy, resources, awareness and training. If and when the language is cleaned up employers can then begin to appreciate the value of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in rolling out and managing comprehensive workplace violence prevention policies that are aligned with strategies, plans, procedures, training, plans, people and technology.

I thought you might find this article from my blog on the topic relevant and appropriate. Please click the link.  http://www.naterassociates.com/what-does-workplace-violence-prevention-mean-to-you/

Workplace Violence Prevention is NOT preparing the workforce to take on armed intruders in the workplace.   That’s too late and suggest a failed prevention initiative. Prevention is hopefully never having to deal with the threat of posed by the disgruntled current or former employee who transitions to active shooter or hostile intruder.

It certainly isn’t waiting for a disgruntled employee to exact his anger on the workplace. Workplace Violence Prevention is preventing that kind of thinking from happening in the first place. It requires an integrated, collaborated, coordinated and a communicated leadership philosophy. 

The myths and confusion associated with Workplace Violence Prevention continues to be a challenge for most organizations regardless of size or type. We accept that no organization is immune and many are unprepared to deal with routine incidents let alone complex issues associated with an armed intruder.

What’s particularly concerning is that disgruntled employees transition to homicidal aggression without notice or reporting by employers, employees and/or family members. Rarely is the employer alerted. Rarely do employees report their suspicions or observations.

Employers are encouraged to take proactive measures in educating the workplace in understanding the “WHY” in resolving existing conditions or contributing factors that when left unresolved escalate to aggression, threats and fights and even worst when the  separated employee rationalizes his intentions to retaliate.

If interested in creating an organizational paradigm shift in your workplace violence prevention efforts from reactive to proactive, “Stop Talking and Take More Action today. Call to learn more about how the Workplace Violence Prevention Consultant, Nater Associates, Ltd. can help you. Please feel free to call Felix P. Nater, CSC for a complimentary 30 minute phone session with any questions or concerns. 1-877-valu101 (1-877-825-8101), NC: 704-784-0260, NY: 516-285-8484.

 

Active Shooter a Microcosm of Our Society Impacting Workplace Safety and Security

Posted on: January 25th, 2017

Intro by Felix Nater…

In this article my Special Guest Blogger, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood, author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, and I collaborate to draw correlations between the threat of workplace homicides and the societal impact the active shooter and mass shooter has on everyone  no matter where we might find  ourselves.

 

Since we spend as much time at work as we do away from home, we believe whatever violence response training workplaces can provide must be as comprehensive and realistic as possible.

When workplaces make decisions to train on “Run, Hide and Fight” employers must understand that policies plans and procedures must be aligned. Can you tell an employee to fight as a measure of last resort when your workplace violence prevention policy says fighting or acts of aggression are against the policy?  This contradiction might freeze decisions and appropriate responses. Just saying!

 

When we tell the employee to run without proper training the employee might run into the shooter or while running away might be shot. Is there the possibility of creating unintentional civil liability consequences, which a skillful attorney might exploit during a civil lawsuit emanating from a serious injury or wrongful death allegation? I don’t know! What do you think?

 

It’s like “Zero Tolerance”–a well-intended policy but maybe too rigid and too structured. The employee who notices a co-worker exhibiting warning signs rationalizes his observations before reporting a co-worker knowing that his co-worker can be disciplined and even fired.

 

I do not encourage that workplaces undertake a frequency of an impractical training schedule on active shooter drills just because it is the right way to train. My point is that current training may not be addressing the workplace responsibilities or properly addressing the tactical common sense decisions needed to be taken.

 

What I do encourage is thoughtful training that realistically connects employee and management responsibilities and expectations. Training which fails to articulate what occurs in a real world shooting incident, and which only pushes out information, will assuredly produce more conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding, and increase risk for those involved.

Mike and I served in the military, where vital survival skills were reinforced through intensive,  repetitive training in order to make them more reflexive.  We understand that employers lack the time and resources to train to this standard, and it’s not realistic to expect that a workplace training program will build ” muscle memory” that makes responses automatic.

My law enforcement career as a United States Postal Inspector / Firearms Instructor and Threat Management Coordinator exposed me to realities typically encountered in the law enforcement community associated with serving search warrants, making arrests, car stops and training law enforcement personnel in scenarios they are most likely to encounter. Inherent in these scenarios are behaviors that must be understood and multiple simultaneous actions that must take place.

 

Well the same thing happens to employees or shoppers during a shooting incident. The “brain freezes” not intentionally but because there’s no stored information that the reflexes can draw upon. Fear overcomes the moment. There are tactics one can take to manage the moment that are not difficult to train to but can help the recovery process during the initial sounds of hysteria. When I audit this training I cringe at the lack of substance and correlation.

 

Suffice to say that we have expertise and specialized skills unlikely to be found in most workplaces. As such, training “employees” needs to create a training objective that allows employees to understand their actions, how to act out independently or in concert during the escape, evasion, evacuation procedures.

 

Because time, money and resources are limitations, training must bring clarity to what it is participants are most likely to encounter, what they need to “Know, Do and Why”. Absent clarity in the content presented will not improve survival and only add to the confusion.  There are tactics employees can take before encountering the shooter and encountering the police.

 

I am saying that training in active shooter / hostile intruder should be informative, enlightening, educational and realistic. To have real world value such training must empower the employee to know what to do and why, no matter where they may find themselves during an active shooting or mass shooting incident. If you are in a movie theater you know how to minimize risk. When caught in a mall or department store or open area know how to make better decisions.

 

* * * * *

Thoughts by Mike Wood…

The New Year had hardly begun when a terrorist killed scores in a shooting attack on an Istanbul nightclub, and we hadn’t even completed the first full month of 2017 when another shooter killed five and wounded more here in our own country, at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

 

While both of these attacks were horrific, neither was completely unexpected by those who were paying attention to the world around them.  We didn’t know the specifics of when and where the next “active shooter” attacks would take place, but we could be confident that they were on the way, in the same manner that we can predict there will be more to come.

 

We live in a world where the threats of attacks like these are ever-present.  Here in America, we have an increasingly violent criminal class which has become emboldened by failed public policies and the virulent anti-law enforcement culture which has taken hold in some communities.  Our mental healthcare system is broken, leaving untold numbers of emotionally disturbed persons, including many with violent tendencies, without access to proper care and supervision.  Additionally, there are a burgeoning number of foreign and domestic terrorists who would use violence to advance their political and cultural aims. In fact, our intelligence agencies have warned us that small-scale, asymmetric attacks like the Istanbul or Fort Lauderdale ones, are a preferred method of our enemy because they have a large impact while demanding very little in the way of resources or planning.

 

With all of these potential actors in play, it takes no imagination whatsoever to forecast that more attacks are coming.

 

So, what should you do about it?

 

The most important thing is to get your mind right. Accept the fact that it can happen to you. Doing so will help you to avoid the paralyzing effects of denial, and free your mind to solve important problems, should you find yourself subject to attack. Would you rather stand frozen in shock in the wake of an attack, or take immediate action to save yourself and others? The choice is yours to make, and it begins now with an acceptance of reality, and the appropriate programming of the mind.

 

Accepting that you could be the target of attack will allow you to change your behaviors in a positive and proactive way.  If you’re conscious of risk, then you’ll become more aware of your environment, and will do a better job of detecting and avoiding potential trouble. You’ll see the threats and indicators that people who walk around with their noses stuck to smart phone screens won’t, and you’ll have the time to avoid them. You’ll also do a better job of weighing costs and benefits, allowing you to avoid some unnecessary risks entirely, by opting out of the activities that would needlessly subject you to them.

 

Despite our best efforts to detect and avoid problems, trouble still has a way of finding us at times. In those cases, the more prepared we are to deal with trouble, the better off we will be.

 

From the perspective of mindset, we need to train ourselves that in an emergency (whether it’s a fire, a medical situation, or an attack), we will be active participants in our own rescue. If we are in danger, we must immediately take action to either remove ourselves from the threat, or terminate the threat, as conditions warrant. It would be nice to have help with this, but we cannot count on it, and we cannot delay our response until we receive it.  There is nobody who is more responsible for your personal safety than you, so you must take the lead role in rescuing yourself from danger.

 

Make that commitment now.  Train yourself to look for avenues of escape when you enter a room. Refresh yourself with the locations of alarms or emergency equipment in your workplace. Make mental notes of the things in your environment that could serve as cover, concealment, or makeshift weapons. Give yourself the permission to use righteous force in the defense of yourself or others. Mentally rehearse your response to an active threat. Take classes to educate yourself in first aid and self-defense, and ensure you have access to lifesaving equipment.

 

Do these things now, while you have the time and resources.  We know that more trouble is on the way, so the only question is whether or not you’ll be a victor or a victim when it comes.

-Mike

 

 

Workplace Violence Prevention – Proactive or Reactive

Posted on: November 16th, 2016

So what does workplace violence prevention mean to you?  http://www.naterassociates.com/what-does-workplace-violence-prevention-mean-to-you/

Is your Workplace Violence Prevention Policy a living document? A policy that is part of a process that began with senior management understanding, commitment and investment, supported by plans, procedures and training?  Can it withstand an unannounced OSHA Inspection because the OSHA 4 categories of workplace violence prevention and guiding principles are the foundation of your policy? Your Workplace Violence Prevention Initiative should have the appreciation of the workforce in understanding your concerns about their safety and security. The policy does not belong on the SHELF.

The intent of this Blog is to encourage organizations to create an organizational culture that reinforces the OSHA Workplace Violence Prevention guidance in developing your own prevention and violence response philosophy. I think OSHA has been ahead of the game for years, it’s just that some of us worried about “other people’s statistics”and what others were doing instead of worrying about your own data and what you should have been doing at our own workplaces.

Management commitment & investment. One approach is a model that focuses on the value of integration & collaboration of resources as a work in progress. Accepting that violence in workplaces is preventable & manageable when leaders employ a multi-dimensional & multi-disciplinary approach that holds itself accountable. Be Proactive!

  • Prepare  for the “WHEN,” not the “IF”
  • Recognize the realities and take appropriate measures
  • Maximize the value of shared resources
  • Enforce & support existing plans
  • Adopt innovative proactive strategies
  • Conduct internal and external ongoing self-assessments & validations

Workplace Violence Prevention Starts with The Recognition of the Aggression Behaviors and Managing The Outcome… http://www.naterassociates.com/workplace-violence-prevention-starts-with-the-recognition-of-the-aggression-behaviors-and-managing-the-outcome/

Proactive workplace violence prevention takes place when senior management understands the commitment and the needed investment in supporting quality training, policy, plans and procedures that prepare employees to be a part of the prevention methodology and security technology in the protection of the workforce and stakeholders.

“Workplace Violence Prevention is not the publication of policies that are managed in silos but a collaborative effort that promotes quality prevention strategy and training that helps identifies aggression before it escalates to physical violence.”

So what if anything are you doing to protect your organizations against their new enforcement directive? http://www.naterassociates.com/new-osha-directive-tackles-workplace-violence-concerns/

In the last 15 years, deaths resulting from workplace violence have ranked among the top four causes of occupational fatalities in American workplaces and remains in the top 5 areas of workplace security concerns.  In response to this serious threat to worker safety, OSHA released a new compliance and enforcement directives on Sept of 2011 that offers procedures for agency staff who respond to workplace violence cases or complaints. Caution is always recommended in assuming that compliance is prevention but it at least takes a leap forward in being proactive as a regulatory body.  If you don’t educate on the value of prevention, compliance merely becomes another checklist protecting the organization but doing very little for education and increased awareness.

“The Directive identifies several broad categories of workplaces that OSHA says are prone to workplace violence, including sites where employees work with the public or volatile, unstable people, sites where employees work alone or in isolated areas, sites where employees handle money or valuables, and sites at which employees provide services and care. The Directive goes on to describe other factors that can create the likelihood of workplace violence, such as working late at night or working in areas with high crime rates”.

Don’t wait or hesitate! Are you open to a different approach to workplace violence prevention? If you interested you may want to contact me. http://www.naterassociates.com/start-workplace-violence-training/

10 Practical Workplace Violence Prevention Tips to Energize Your Honorable Intentions

Posted on: February 15th, 2016

Workplaces tend to avoid developing comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs probably because they associate comprehensive with complicated. Comprehensive merely means taking a broad view of what workplace violence means and how it affects your workplace and workforce and applying appropriate strategies and measures. To me comprehensive can mean practical. Practical can apply to complex situations in breaking down assignments and responsibilities in coordinating the effort.

In this Blog, practical workplace violence prevention tips are just that, common sense, cost effective tactics that workplaces can implement and manage without investing a whole lot of money, time and energy spent arguing for or against logical implementation of prevention measures. Practical simply means KISS (Keep It Simple Silly). I would like workplace leadership to think in terms of small nuggets as in an ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure. In short, it is hopeful that these 10 practical tips can dismantle the notion of being complicated in favor of developing an approach supervisors and security personnel can adopt. The intent of this discussion is to start a robust discussion that considers workplace violence prevention well within your own capability and ability to implement and manage interdependent, with minimal outside intervention.

Why is implementing and managing a workplace violence prevention initiative important to your pocketbook and brand?  According to the requirements established by OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Administration) employers are obligated to provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm…to employees.” 

Creating an agile and proactive workplace violence prevention program insulates the workplace against possible charges of dereliction and negligence in civil liability law suits or by employee organizations. In addition, it sends a message that Zero Tolerance is not the definition of termination but of a proactive intervention strategy that looks at every reported incident for possible root causes and contributing factors. Creating credible complaint reporting system and hasty resolution process can benefit an organization when supervisors are actively engaged, as part of a culture of zero tolerance. Without a credible complaint reporting system employees lose trust and confidence in the workplace violence prevention policy. Credible reporting can be anonymous as well.

These suggested practical workplace violence prevention tips will not only energize workplaces or an educational institution’s prevention efforts, but “incentivize” the performance and initiative by avoiding OSHA citations. While these OSHA citations are not necessarily financially debilitating, they are a negative impact on the internal and external public image, adversely affecting the Brand, employee morale, performance and production.

Here are 10 Practical Workplace Violence Prevention Tips to help identify the potentially at risk workplace in preventing escalation, managing aggression and protecting the workforce. These tips are not intended to be the end all but a part of an ongoing integrated and coordinated seamless process:

  1. Review and reissue your Workplace Violence Prevention and/or Harassment Policy Statement annually if needed.
  2. Instruct and remind supervisors of their responsibility to report, document, assess and evaluate every complaint as part of the hasty complaint resolution effort.
  3. Take the time to review incidents in a timely manner to identify repeat offenders, repeat incidents, patterns, gaps in security and identifying situations requiring immediate attention.
  4. Instruct and remind employees that reporting at risk situations and employees is their responsibility in preventing escalation and at risk situations.
  5. Instruct and remind employees of the organization’s workplace violence prevention policy reporting protocols and procedures as necessary.
  6. Review your visitor protocol policy to include visitor management and access control for all visitors especially former employees, spouses and families.
  7. Review your domestic violence/intimate partner/personal relationship policy to ensure employees know what services are offered and what their responsibilities are.
  8. Train supervisors & managers in how best to hastily manage at risk situations in providing needed intervention.
  9. Test your emergency evacuation plan to respond to a hostile intruder/active shooter threat procedures.
  10. Managers should conduct frequent on site work-site specific assessments of employee work settings and operations.

“Because workplace violence prevention should be an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies, these tips can make the process cost-effective, proactive and seamless.”

Seamless can mean many things to different people, for the benefit of this Blog, seamless means the ability to integrate, collaborate and coordinate resources with little disruption, cost effectively, efficiently and routinely. In other words, you will not need to have a large human resource department fixated on prevention or an armed security force as an employee confidence builder or even a large budget.

Armed personnel are not immune from the societal, environmental or family risk factors. Investing a lot of money does not mean effective either.  The focus must be on “prevention.” What we really need is an organizational culture that understands leadership’s role in workplace violence prevention, preventing escalation, resolving conflict and managing aggression.

Experience teaches workplace violence prevention consultants that having a well-trained supervisory workforce in aspects of workplace violence prevention can be effective in managing the potentially hostile workplace and at risk work settings. Workplaces that recognize the value of prevention realize that having robust, agile and proactive (RAP) interdiction strategies really contributes to the cost-effective, seamless coordination and results.

For those of us who do not subscribe to the myths of workplace violence we’re ahead of the problem because proactive workplace violence prevention interdiction strategies are key in effectively reducing risks by managing potentially hostile situations and employees. We know that a proactive workplace violence prevention program creates a trusting workforce that believes that management’s effort are not just lip services, but a commitment and investment in workforce safety and security. This investment must start at the top with clear expectations and go to the bottom of the workforce and meet at the center in achieving understanding. I have seen this play out in several organizations with positive results.

Preventing workplace violence is a duty, legal and moral responsibility CEOs, Executive Directors and Agency Administrators have as part of their fiduciary roles. Those of us responsible for workplace violence prevention can benefit from having a robust, agile, and proactive approach in managing aggression, at risk situations and taking immediate corrective measures. If interested in moving in this direction the approach is not difficult?

The San Bernardino Shootings: Was it Workplace Violence or Domestic Terrorism?

Posted on: December 6th, 2015

I am not trying to take on the those bigger than me but, I see many lessons learned from this San Bernardino tragedy that has increased my passion to do the right thing for the right reasons. Whatever the media, law enforcement, politicians or the employer finally decide to call the San Bernardino Shootings is their prerogative based on their investigations. The law enforcement the effort is commendable leaving no stone unturned, I understand their concern and due diligence .  I have a saying, “I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” (I don’t know who said it, I just live by it.) In the meantime, we must collaborate to insure we do not misidentify this incident.  I prefer under speculation and over delivering. A security management consultant with a specialty in workplace violence prevention never limits the options in arriving at the most holistic assessment.

Judging from all the varying raw news reports, it is difficult to dismiss the workplace connection.  After all, there were employee observations and witness accounts pertaining to a possible workplace dispute at the party. 

We know something occurred at the San Bernardino County Health Department holiday party at the Inland Regional Center between employee(s) and Syed Rizwan Farook.  Whatever transpired, it triggered an angry reaction causing the employee to leave the party.  Coincidentally, witness accounts have since described the shooter who had left the party earlier as possibly being Farook.  We will never know what actually escalated to such retaliatory anger unless those involved come forward to disclose their knowledge.

The holistic workplace violence prevention assessment views the workplace incident from a variety of angles in arriving at conclusions and recommendations. Even while law enforcement appropriately pursues the shooting as an act of terrorism, there is some grounded speculation that this incident may relate to employees and a workplace related unresolved dispute. For most of us who view holiday parties as an opportunity to relax and let our hair down, holiday parties and other settings where employees mix joviality with disgruntled attitudes there exist a mixture for fueled hostilities.  Who knows what might have been said at the holiday party or whether there was ill will over a prolonged period of time.  Only an independent critical assessment of the facts, circumstances and observations will help lead to what might have actually triggered the shooting.

What has been reported is that San Bernardino County employees Syed Rizwan Farook and others were engaged in some verbal altercation at the holiday party.  Media reports have also developed varying witness accounts of their observations who said that shortly before Farook stormed out of the party he appeared upset about something.

Others have said that one of the shooters who had his face covered sounded and appeared like the employee in question, saying he appeared similar to the employee who left the party earlier.  What we know as fact is that Farook along with his wife, Tashefeen Malik are dead.

Law enforcement has an obligation to establish what happened, the motive and determine if the shootings were a Mass Shooting, Domestic Terrorism or Workplace Violence. Truthfully, violence of this type in my mind’s eye is “workplace terrorism”! I have written on the topic of workplace violence and domestic terrorism in the past. The fact remains that Mr. Farook was a San Bernardino County employee who either had an unresolved grievance or ongoing dispute with a co-worker(s).  Existing, unresolved workplace disputes and social events sponsored by the employer are nasty combinations for mismanaged grievances and ongoing conflict.  These are observations and clues that can offer perspective and shed some light. Lessons can be learned regardless of the outcome in the need to develop comprehensive workplace violence prevention and violence response policies and plans and training for all levels of the workforce.  

As we view the threat of workplace violence and the impact on the workplace and worker safety, emotions run rampant.  It is not unusual for employee perpetrators of such violence to store weapons and ammunitions prior to their deadly rampage. The Nation’s first workplace mass murder occurred at the Edmonton Post Office, Oklahoma, August 19, 1986. Robert Sherill, letter carrier at the Edmonton Post Office entered the Post Office carrying his mailbag over his shoulder. In the bag were two. 45 caliber semi-automatic pistols, property of the National Guard and his own .22 caliber handgun.  At his home law enforcement found more guns and stacks of magazines, mostly of Soldier of Fortune and Soviet Life. Draw your own conclusions! 

Person’s feelings exposed to ongoing harassment, verbal abuse and unresolved bullying creates a sense of festering and intimidation. Poor management intervention implies disparate treatment, poor supervision and poor leadership create harsh feelings in the hearts and minds of alleged victims.  These feelings in some are sufficient enough to create validation and justification for their intended retaliatory decisions and subsequent actions. We must keep in the mind that mental illness can’t be the rationale used to always describe these “perpetrators”.  

Pre-planning is essential. This particular incident isn’t only about news coverage and reporting speculation, it is about realities that regardless of the speculation, indicates little investment in workplace violence prevention and violence response policy and training. More can be done to increase situational awareness through quality workplace violence prevention training to prepare employees to respond appropriately anywhere to a homicidal threat of  homicidal violence. Such training when designed with the workplace in mind considers the unique worksites and the employee risk factors.

According to news reports there was mass confusion at the Inland Regional Center.  Responding police officers said, fire alarms were blaring and there were employees who were reluctant to comply with their request to exit the center.  Such observations indicate those employees were not aware of what to do during such an emergency.  Training has to prepare the work force to be better prepared and informed of what options and courses of action to take, the police response and police encounter and post incident notification instructions. 

Discovery by law enforcement of 12 pipe bombs, tools and components to construct IEDs or pipe bombs, weapons and ammunition are not out of the norm in describing the active shooter mindset.  Active Shooters typically progress through five stages: fantasy stage, planning stage, preparation stage, approach stage and implementation stage. Each stage has a unique set of behaviors and activities on the way to the final stage. The materials and weapons found at the Farook home appear consistent with the patterned behavior within the active shooter mindset as in the Robert Sherill Post Office Murders cited above. In other words, it would not be unusual to use IEDs to create confusion or distractions. However, there are always distinctions that can be made and applied in any unique situation such as in these shootings.  This tragedy may just as well be a shooting involving domestic terrorism, I want to seize the moment to extract valuable lessons we can learn apply.  But, on the surface it appears to be the act of a disgruntled employee whom for whatever reason(s) transitioned to become an angry killer with possible domestic terrorism implications.

Minor incidents of workplace violence occur daily in every type of business whether you know it or not or care to know about it. Victims of workplace violence often tell their doctors, families, friends, neighbors, law enforcement, and pastor of their frustrations before reporting it to their supervisors out of fear of reprisals.  Lately I can include myself on this list.  

That’s why it’s important for workplace leaders to cautiously consider external statistics not reflective of their own data collection of reported incidents. Considering other national statistics in the implementation of workplace violence prevention and violence response strategy could be faulty.  Avoiding the need to prepare on the probability of occurrence in the end may not be prudent.  Such risk management practices suggest such an incident can never happen and “IF” it does happen the police can handle it. So if it’s a management’s belief that it is highly improbable a workplace shooting will ever happen, the prudent decision to invest may not happen.  Employers have an ethical, moral and legal duty to provide the workforce a safe workplace. Courts do not weigh lack of budgets and corporate culture in considering responsibility. 

Workplaces experience varying levels of verbal abuse, name calling, harassment and intimidating behavior by employees on employees, non-employees and opportunistic criminals.  The concern is whether the workplace has policies and procedures in place to handle such incidents in managing the potentially hostile workplace. 

When organizations fail to recognize the need to take proactive workplace violence prevention measures, they contribute to unintentional consequences and are surprised by employee/former employee acts of violence. From the observations and speculation, the San Bernardino shooting appears to have a workplace relationship. One report said that  Farook and a co-worker had a heated argument over Farook’s Islam Religion several weeks earlier.  As such the consequences are huge in terms of loss of life, physical injury and psychological trauma.  The unfortunate reality is that these incidents force employers to take a closer look at their workplace security and not their workplace violence prevention strategy. And even when post shooting recommendations state specific changes be adopted, these implementations are often slow because of internal disagreements and budgets. In some cases recommendations are not yet adopted.

Surely, we must agree that preparing for the “IF” it happens instead of “WHEN” it happens is not the right business-security approach. “IF” implies denial or reluctance to implement proper procedures and protocols. Employers who dismiss the need for quality workplace violence prevention policies to include procedures, protocols and training are uninformed and unaware of the impact and are misinformed about the value of strategies tied to quality training.  Just having a written workplace violence prevention policy is not enough. the workforce must have knowledge of what to do upon witnessing an incident and when they are victims; and supervisors must know how to assess and evaluate reported incidents.

So, does your company have a workplace violence prevention and violence response policy? Have you been trained on the policy, procedures and protocols? How frequently? On a 1-10 point rating scale, how effective do you rate the training you’ve received? From your experiences, what is your gut feeling about the San Bernardino Tragedy?

Remember, once a disgruntled employee transitions to thoughts of homicidal violence, those thoughts and subsequent decisions were likely predicated on their validation and justification based on their perceptions of unfairness, disparity and exposure. In the end this may well be a case of “domestic terrorism” tied to an international group.  How prepared are you now? What protective measures are in place?

 

What Does Workplace Violence Prevention Mean to You?

Posted on: September 9th, 2015

First off, what does your workplace violence prevention efforts look like to you? Is it a living document, a policy supported by plans and procedures? Is it reinforced with appropriate training? Can it withstand an unannounced OSHA Inspection? You have to be honest with yourselves in answering these questions if, you really want to dump the old and start out with the new was of looking at WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION.

I am not discarding the helpful OSHA definition, tools and support but rather, asking you to create an organizational culture that reinforces the OSHA Workplace Violence Prevention guidance in developing your own prevention response. I think OSHA has been ahead of the game for years, it’s just that some of us worried about statistics and what others were doing instead of worrying about what we should have been doing at our own workplaces.   

It doesn’t matter whether you are a school, college, university, processing or production plant, warehouse, government organization, office building, hospital, movie theater, mall or news station, you should consider a plan to prevent the threat of violence and minimize the risk of violence.  The plan must begin with an understanding of what WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION IS. Startups, small and midsize businesses are not immune from addressing workplace violence prevention. Their risk are higher when it comes to recovery and business continuity.”

Investing in a serious commitment to WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is not a joke. You must first accept the reality that workplaces have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to provide for a safe and secure workplace for your workforce and stakeholders.  We are not just talking about employee on employee violence but, non-employee on employee violence and violence associated with armed robberies and other crimes of opportunity by criminals. However the tendency to wait for the “if” it happens will not allow you to have an effective WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION initiative. It requires a proactive mindset. Thinking about the minor nonviolent psychological incidents that can escalate and lead to conflict and confrontations tomorrow must be addressed today. These are known existing hazards that OSHA refers to in their regulations.

How many workplaces can honestly say that they design prevention measures intended to address the current employee threat, the former employee threat and or the domestic or intimate partner workplace spillover violence threat?  How many workplaces actually provide their field personnel, sales personnel and repairmen orientations and training on responsible behavior and risk mitigation measures?  That’s prevention at its best or its worst. How engaged is your Workplace Violence Prevention initiative? What are you waiting for?

So what does WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION mean to YOU? What does your program look like? Is it proactive or reactive? Do you understand what prevention means? A proactive WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION policy is an investment in training your workforce in ways that help them respond to non-violent at risk situations and the violent threat posed by an active shooter or hostile intruder? How many CEOs, COOs, HR or Security Directors know that WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is an ongoing process that involves multiple intervention strategies? A mouth full? YES! BUT, PREVENTION by it definition is the act of preventing.

So if prevention is the action of prevention it implies enthusiasm in what we do. Thus, enthusiasm and being proactive go hand in hand. Hence prevention is the process of preventing workplace violence.”  

If you know that you have a problem employee, remote employee workforce, employees that deliver service related customer services or that often engage with the public, you have an obligation to increase the employee’s ability to protect themselves and make independent decisions in the face of danger or how to recognize warning signs and at risk situations and personnel. With knowledge and awareness of prevention measures the workforce is empowered to make better decisions about managing the outcome when dealing with disciplinary issues, employee misconduct or at risk conditions. Remember! Prevention requires responsible supervision and leadership. Do not treat discipline as a “GOTCHA” because it can GET YOU.

Workplace Violence Prevention can run the gamut and is only limited by the program manager’s lack of enthusiasm, commitment and imagination. But for the sake of this discussion let’s throw out  a few intervention strategies and tactics that could save the day: positive communications, engaged leadership, effective supervision, performance coaching, EAP counseling, managing one’s  behavior, approach to situations, engaging customers, working in high crime areas, traveling, entering building and elevators just to name a few.

Proper WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is comprehensive but should not be complicated even though we know that workplace violence is a complex societal and environment reality. Nevertheless, WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is a proactive process that focuses on the “when” and not the “if”.  Preparing for the “if” makes an assumption that the likelihood of any violence occurring is a small risk not worth spending our money on waiting for something to happen.  The thought seems to be that   “if” an act of violence or serious threat should happen we can call in the police to handle the threat.

This is a bad attitude that will not only place the workforce at risk but place your unprepared approach in a collision course with a civil liability law suit, bad press or bad publicity. 

This  wait and see attitude is exactly what you do not want to be associated with. This attitude increases personnel risk and organizational risk as victims and witnesses will assuredly tell it like it is on the witness stand of truth. We know where to find the skeletons and in which closets they are hiding in.  I don’t know of any hard-working, trusting employee who when confronted with answering questions about a workplace injury or fatality will graciously protect their employer in the face of a charge of willful negligence. Don’t be fooled that loyalty is your payoff.  When co-workers are seriously injured by a workplace offender or killed incident to an active shooter or armed robbery encounter your trusted workforce will come out of the woodwork or be found by a sharp reporter working the crowd. 

Such a trusted employee witness will reluctantly tell his or her side of the story because they’ve known you’ve never taken WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION seriously.

Being compliant is a good thing but, it is NOT PREVENTION. CRISIS MANAGEMENT IS NOT PREVENTION. Think of WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION as your workplace security insurance policy. In remembering the old Lee Myles Transmission advertisement, “Pay me now or pay me later” can easily apply in workplaces that were too smart for their bridges, too cost conscientious  or who decided that workplace violence prevention could wait until next year’s budget.  Don’t even think that way today.

Workplace Violence Prevention Starts with The Recognition of the Aggression Behaviors and Managing The Outcome…

Posted on: July 11th, 2015

In this Blog I ask John Byrnes, CEO of Aggression Management to draw an important correlation between management commitment in understanding the need to invest in an appropriate prevention strategy and training tactics that deliver results. Such prevention strategy must include quality training for supervisors and employees on recognizing at risk employees and situations.

“It is irrational to believe that employee engagement campaigns can effectively be administered from the bottom up. Yet, workplace violence prevention tends to be a bottom up effort that eventually loses momentum because it lacks senior management commitment.”

True workplace violence prevention takes place when senior management understands the commitment and needed investment in quality training and procedures that give employees skills.

“Workplace Violence Prevention is not the publication of policies that are managed in silos but a collaborative effort that promotes quality prevention strategy and training that helps identifies aggression before it escalates to physical violence.”

For years employers and their management have assumed there was some connection between Nonfatal Acts of violence and violence itself. As the highly respected security professional, Felix Nater, CSC has pointed out in his article, “New OSHA Directive Tackles Workplace Violence Concerns…What Are You Doing About It?”

“The unknown impact of nonfatal, non-violent incidents committed by nonviolent employees are cause for concern among supervisors, managers and human resources professionals who contend with them on a daily basis. Harassment, bullying, sabotage to systems and operations, product contamination, theft of sensitive information, compromise of proprietary information, theft of services, identity theft, work slowdown etc., etc., contribute to diminished productivity and performance and increased stress.” Felix continues with, “Acts of defiance by non-violent people are as disruptive as the more serious “assaultive” conduct that leads to injury and even death. Such behavior gives rise for concern in our workplaces from groups who might resort to non-violent act of retaliation as described above. Do not make the assumptions in dealing with the threat of workplace violence. Defiance is a safe way for this type of offender to exact his or her vengeance without causing physical harm to people and yet get even. Disgruntled employees in particular take out their frustration in very unique ways simply because they have access to workplaces and vulnerable areas. When it comes to justification and rationale, imagination runs the gamut in terms of creative misconduct and reasoning.”

What is the connection between “Acts of defiance by disgruntled employees,” customers and visitors and the threat of violence that these employees, customers and visitors to often exact on our workplaces? We are told by professionals that we must “connect the dots!” But this is too often a question asked in retrospect; this is an after effect accounting, not prevention! If we are to prevent violent and non-violent activities, we must foresee the precursors (get out in front of violence and non-violent acts,) if we actually want to prevent violent or non-violent behavior. Let me show you how!

Twenty-one years ago, we developed our now scientifically validated Aggression Continuum, a progressive scale which chronicles aggressive behavior from its outset/beginnings through to include the most lethal of all aggressors, the perpetrator of murder/suicide. We also discovered two types of aggressive behavior, Primal and Cognitive. Primal is adrenaline-driven aggression and Cognitive is intent-driven aggression. We combined these two types of aggression and created the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua; once done, all of the body language, behavior and communication indicators that have been known since the beginning of human interaction, all became objective and empirical, leading to scientific-validation. The Primal (adrenaline-driven) Aggression Continuum represents an individual “losing control” due to the effects of adrenaline. What about conscious deliberate aggression, it doesn’t fit in the Primal Aggression Continuum? This is why we developed the Cognitive (intent-driven) Aggression Continuum.

Can we actually predict who is escalating toward violence, and if so, how? Predicated upon the acclaimed and seminal Safe School Initiative Study, a collaborative effort conducted by US Secret Service, the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Justice; which states, “An inquiry should focus … on the student’s behaviors and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.”

“The ultimate question to answer …. is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack …” Finally, on December 16, 2013, this is further confirmed by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center’s Chief, Andre Simmons, who states their ability to prevent violence is predicated on identifying a person who is “on a pathway to violence.”

What we discovered 21 years ago, the FBI is now affirming. We prefer the phrase “emerging aggression” over identifying someone “on the path to violence” because the latter only identifies someone when you can reliably see the potential of violence, whereas, “emerging aggression” identifies someone at the very outset/beginnings of “aggressive behavior.” This gives us the ability to prevent lower levels (stages) of aggression, like “bullying,” “sabotage,” “conflict” and “discrimination.” It also offers us a better method of truly getting out in front of violence well before the aggressors’ intentions become violence. Not only can we identify someone on the path to violence but to Felix Nater’s point, we can identify “aggressive behavior” well before most even realize that behavior is “aggressive.”

Let me offer an example of what is “aggressive behavior” but too often is not seen as such! There are Nine Stages of Cognitive Aggression, at Fourth Stage, an aggressor is not yet prepared to go face-to-face with their victim, they work behind the scenes to undermine the relationship the victim has with their own community (those people the victim likes, loves and respects and with whom they wish to be liked, loved and respected in return).

“We observe what we call, “Planting the seed of distrust;” this is a behavior that permeates all organizations.”

This aggressor turns to the victim’s community and says, “I don’t know about Jane anymore, I just don’t know if I can trust her anymore!” This insidious seed (malicious intent) will grow like weeds in a garden; because partial truth can be far more detrimental than complete truth! This aggressive behavior also undermines “trust,” a key ingredient in Teamwork, Leadership and Loyalty. The revelations made by Felix are emphasized here. Lower levels of aggressive behavior are not only reflective of the potential of violence to come, but also undermine productivity and profitability. Employers who actively identify emerging aggression, will not only make their workplaces reliably “as safe as possible,” the highest form of Evidence-based Best Practices, but will enhance productivity, profitability, teamwork, leadership and loyalty.

“After 21 years of implementation, we have come to realize that as more employees understand that they are being overtly or covertly aggressive, they will typically move away from their aggressive behavior.”

We have seen employee cultures become far more productive as employees learn how to identify, engage and prevent, not only violence but aggressive behavior that precede violence.

As Felix Nater points out in his article, if you believe you have a Workplace Violence “Prevention” program, think again. You must start identifying aggressive behavior (Harassment, bullying, sabotage and, yes, even planting the seed of distrust) prior to violence and non-violent behavior, so as to prevent them. The only way to achieve reliable Workplace Violence “Prevention,” as well as harassment, bullying and sabotage behavior is to implement our scientifically validated Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS)!

If you would like to know more about CAPS, go to http://www.aggressionmanagement.com/CAPSMovie.html.

Change-Management Can Have an Over-Reaching Impact on Workplace Violence Prevention

Posted on: March 8th, 2015

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. I have been a part of the workplace violence prevention effort in one form or fashion prior to the Edmonton, Oklahoma Tragedy of August 20, 1986 when Patrick Henry Sherrill, shot and killed 14 co-workers, wounded six, then shot himself inside the post office. But violence in the workplace was not alien to the Postal Service as Postal Inspectors dealt with armed robberies of letter carriers and post offices.

Workplace Violence continues to be a legitimate workplace security concern that may be ripe for a paradigm shift, changing traditional approaches in favor of more Robust, Agile and Proactive (RAP) strategies and tactics. While terrorism still ranks high on the list of workplace security threats, workplace violence by its ominous name continues to weigh heavily as a critical factor impacting people security, morale, performance, production, efficiency, injury compensation and medical costs as well as the legal cost of defending serious injury and negligent homicide and training allegations. Workplace violence and workplace terrorism are concerns worth insuring such preparedness and training is relevant and competent. The December 2, 2015 San Bernardino County Shootings teaches us many lessons learned we must adapt to current workplace violence prevention and workplace security measures. “Free” training is relevant but only if one considers the source and the organizational value. 

As a tangible factor, personnel turbulence can be measured. In 2008 the consulting firm CPP conducted a study that revealed employees spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict, equating to approximately $359 billion in paid hours in the United States.  

The intangible cost from the daily non-violent workplace avenger and disgruntled employee before transitioning to violence are hard to measure until uncovered in the aftermath.  Credibility in reporting can expedite the reporting and decision process. Beyond the emotional and physical impact on the affected employees, significant impact on diminished performance and production are the outgrowth of victims suffering from low morale and lack of confidence in the employer’s capability to provide for a safe and secure workplace all affect the bottom-line. This perception of a lack luster investment in people security effects witnesses and their families who are cognizant of the perceived questionable management commitment and distrust the process.

Recent events in the news continue to validate the reality that the threat of workplace violence is a genuine human resource security concern that can come from a disgruntled employee, estranged spouse or an intimate partner relationship.  Long gone is the correlation between having conducted a thorough background check as a way of identifying those with predisposed violence related and criminal tendencies. Employers have gotten better at screening these potential predators out. Oddly enough, we’re discovering that employees with non-criminal history are just as likely to commit an act of homicidal violence as the predisposed criminal.

Nevertheless, warning signs can help when the right personnel are trained in avoiding false positives. In understanding that our workplaces are a microcosm of our society and communities, multiple intervention strategies are required to effectively mount a proactive workplace violence prevention campaign in conjunction with warning signs and credible reporting.  Workplace violence prevention cannot be a reaction to an event as in the case of an active shooter or hostile intruder but, rather, an ongoing process and measured responses. Robust, Agile and Proactive (RAP) strategies provide for aggressive intervention, accountable supervision, responsible alignment, internal reporting and audience specific, segmented training as critical components of an investment in workplace violence prevention through multiple intervention strategies.

Homicidal acts of violence by employees, spouses, domestic and intimate partners and/or criminals in the commission of violent crimes have been occurring frequently and without regard for the type workplace (healthcare or educational institution). We see in recent news reports that the disgruntled predator doesn’t discriminate.  Violence can occur from disgruntled family members in business related disputes gone awry, students upset about grade scores and intimate relationships, angry individuals, and despondent patients and family members in healthcare centers and nursing homes.  

We saw in a Columbus, Ohio incident, February 14, 2012 that the weapon of choice can be a knife affecting the emergency alert, response and communication time between the events, reporting and the 911 Call.  In the Ohio incident, four people were stabbed emphasizing the importance that workplaces understand the response and prepare for threats appropriately. The disgruntled threat can come at any moment from any source and with any weapon. February of 2012, we saw the rare case of the Immigration Agent who shot his manager and was shot and killed by another Agent, clearly validating the need for every workplace to have workplace unique and specific countermeasures in minimizing the potential of workplace violence as a function of their environments. In other words, let’s change the way we’ve been implementing and managing workplace violence prevention by taking proactive measures that increases workforce readiness and employee trust and fidelity in the process. Change is needed in how employers manage their workplace violence prevention policies and plans. Who says that Human Resources can’t share the responsibility with Physical Security, leaving HR as the Program Manager and Security as the Incident Manager?

Making a paradigm shift in how workplaces have traditionally responded to reports and threats of workplace violence isn’t easy but, it can yield proactive value when integrated into a comprehensive violence prevention initiative. Dismiss the temptation to make assumptions in assessing at risk situations and individuals. We must come to grips with the reality that although workplaces are not immune from the threat of unprovoked homicidal violence, workplaces can reduce risk by increasing their response to workplace violence prevention by taking every report seriously in resolving at risk situations or conditions.

“To Properly address the threat from within, experts in the field of workplace security and workplace violence prevention can play a significant role in helping to shape and recommend strategies that help improve worker safety and security”.  

Managed intervention and prevention strategies can empower employees and the organization in taking effective steps to address troublesome individuals and at risk situations by preparing the workforce to take immediate protective measures to reduce their risks in responding before, during and following any reported threat of violence. Become change managers, by modifying current approaches to workplace violence prevention. Adopt appropriate robust, agile and proactive strategies that integrate and collaborate the effort through a coordinated response. No one says your approach has to be a template or restrictive, only defensible.

The following Workplace Violence Prevention solutions can be effective in any workplace setting:

– assessment of early warning signs through some form of behavior assessment model;

– commitment to conduct annual workplace specific assessments in evaluating and assessing known and discovering unknown hazards impacting safety and security;

– employ flexibility in evaluating current physical security, visitor management, access control measures and terminations in helping to identify gaps in security;

– conduct frequent work-site analysis and employee assessments to identify, correct/resolve immediate concerns;

– assign a senior manager as the workplace violence prevention program manager to provide oversight, continuity, coordination, collaboration and integration of effort;

– conduct and conclude hasty workplace investigations to identify root causes, contributing factors and at risk situations; and:

– consider retaining an external consultant to serve as your technical Advisor.

In the end the ultimate goal of the workplace violence prevention initiative is to create an empowered workforce capable of applying the right mix of proactive strategies and tactics designed to address their unique aspects of their workplaces. Working in concert or independently as part of the risk minimization effort.

“Don’t overlook your corporate counsels, and labor attorney recommendations. Risk and compliance managers offer perspectives from their points of view. When considered as part of a coordinated effort, they are all priceless and worth their weight in gold as key components of your proactive strategy”.

Remember that when you engage your legal team they can be very effective NOW and TOMORROW. They are anxious to be engaged now as part of the employer’s management commitment and investment in proactive workplace violence prevention measures.

Workplace Violence – A Reality of Real Proportions

Posted on: February 8th, 2015

Since 1989 statistics and surveys generated by the American Society of Safety Engineers, Pinkerton, the Conference Board and other prominent organizations have consistently reported that workplace violence was a workplace security threat. In the years following September 11, 2001, Workplace Violence  remains a Reality of Real Proportions.  Workplace Violence remained in the top three categories of workplace security concerns: Workplace Violence, Business Continuity, Terrorism and Computer-Based Crimes in that order.

If workplace violence is truly a concern, can we imply by the surveys that companies are in denial or lack the resources to address the threat?

Is the counsel and advise requested falling short of viable solutions and tools available to workplaces? While technology alone is the not the solution to workplace violence prevention, proactive intervention strategies that include technology can create creditable value in the hearts and minds of the workforce.

In terms of viable alternatives,  on October 5, 2011, ASIS International and SHRM Released a Joint Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention ANSI Standard ASIS/SHRM Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention American National Standard aimed at helping organizations implement policies and practices to more quickly identify threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to engage in effective incident management and resolution.

The new Standard reflects a consensus from professionals in the fields of security, human resources, mental health, law enforcement, and legal. It serves as an important tool to help organizations evaluate current practices; develop or enhance workplace violence prevention and intervention programs; and effectively manage post-incident issues. So why aren’t workplaces familiar with this document and the value it offers? Can we defend our actions in the aftermath of a major workplace or school incident?

Does Your Firm Have a specific policy on Workplace Violence Prevention?

Could the lack of a coordinated response be the real threat to workplace safety in preventing workplace violence or has the discussion of probability justified no response or a limited response? I reluctantly say I think so. Though the decision to commit resources is certainly a thoughtful one, can a misunderstanding of what constitutes incidents of workplace violence be at the head of the discussion? How are workplace violence prevention consultants selected? Do we ask for verifiable proof of past performance or rely on warm and cozy feelings of compatibility when critical thinking should be the objective?

In reviewing employee handbooks on misconduct, a lack of specific references on the topic of workplace violence is evident. Often times relative references appear in different section throughout the handbooks without any specific mention or a dedicated section to workplace violence. Either the contributors to such handbooks are misinformed or just defining the behavior as “misconduct” under an umbrella clause? Whatever the reason(s), employees do not know what to report or why they are being cited. Could it be that no one on staff knows what constitutes workplace violence?

In reviewing newspaper accounts of recent workplace shooting incidents they appear to to cry out for intervention and prevention measures that might have had different outcomes.  Are these shooting incidents preventable? One familiar with prevention strategies could be in a better position to recognize the need for swift and appropriate interdiction and begin applying multiple intervention solutions. While the denial might be an unintentional consequence  of corporate misunderstandings, I submit that employers are concerned but might lack the awareness, understanding and the technical expertise. What can we do?

Applying Basic Strategies Might Help To Reduce the Threat.

Because most workplaces are unique, we recommend that you avoid the cookie-cutter mentality to deploying Workplace Security & Workplace Violence Prevention Strategies. When the approach is based on attempting to apply the cookie-cutter approach, one will miss the value of conducting unique work-site assessments that might not yield relevant vulnerabilities to your specific environment. The cookie-cutter approach in applying best practices do not always work. Basic strategies might not work without applying unique site-specific assessments and customized approaches.

All is not lost, because even with a little effort there are steps you can take to begin the process of identifying your unique characteristics and needs. May I suggest you begin the process with a site assessment, employee and management surveys, risk assessment, training, developing a policy and supporting programs and sustaining the effort with ongoing training and new employee orientations. When considering whether to begin the process of deploying a Workplace Violence Prevention Program or not, begin with a critical vulnerability assessment of your own business practices.

When was the last time you conducted an assessment of your workplace security and business practices? Or, when was the last time you had a medical examination?  

Can you survive the scrutiny of an OSHA complaint inquiry or a civil liability lawsuit? I would begin the process now rather than later. Having a demonstrated commitment can bolster credibility and create confidence in employees who otherwise have private discussions about where they might hide when the shooter comes in. Or why should I report a potential threat and have my job changed in the interest of safety? In many cases, both sides are mutually sharing the excuse of,if it’s not broke don’t fix it“.

The time has come for all workplaces to confirm the need to improve workplace violence prevention by asking tough questions that go to the core of how vulnerable are we or how prepared are our workplace, educational or healthcare institution employees in recognizing risk, at risk situations and responding to a hostile threat or active shooter.

Stop the cookie-cutter application of cutting and pasting policies and plans and do consider your workplace unique with unique circumstances. Begin the process by conducting a critical workplace violence prevention vulnerability assessment.