Workplace Violence Prevention – Proactive or Reactive

Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

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?

 

New OSHA Directive Tackles Workplace Violence Concerns…What Are You Doing About It?

Posted on: June 14th, 2015

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”. 

OSHA’s directive focuses on two primary questions to determine whether or not an investigation or citation is appropriate: 

(1) Did the employer recognize potential hazards in the workplace?and (2) Are there feasible means of preventing or minimizing such hazards?

While incidents of Workplace Homicides are down, according to recent workplace violence reports, threats posed by the active shooter/hostile intruder are a workplace security nightmare with capacity to immobilize unprepared workplaces. However, the threat posed by nonfatal violent acts of workplace violence are a daily occurrence. Nonfatal acts of violence like harassment, threats, intimidation have been on the increase while destruction and sabotage of systems, equipment, property and vehicles ranks high as the weapon for the non-violent offender.  Workplaces should not only look at the homicidal threat of workplace violence but for the reasons why an employee might “go postal’. I don’t use the term to denigrate any organization but to emphasize the real and present danger that exist in workplaces when they fail to take “PREVENTION” seriously.

Sometimes the workplace culture contributes to the  unintentional consequences of workplace violence through its policies, practices, procedures, management and supervision.  The unknown impact of the 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 slow down etc., etc., contribute to diminished productivity and performance and increased stress.

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.

Workplace Violence Prevention Policies and Plans can better serve the workplace in identifying potential contributing factors and at risk situations through collaboration and integration of resources. Violent prone employees become so by their workplace exposures, environmental and societal experiences or perhaps even changes in their personal, medical and mental well-being. The lead-in to acts of homicidal vengeance is a methodical choice that, I think is based on their extreme brand of rationale and justification. Exploitation of the workplace by the non-violent employee who engages in nonfatal, non-violent acts of workplace violence serve to harass and threaten the safety and security of other employees who, can find themselves retaliating if, they feel management is insensitive or frustrations rise through perceptions. This is why it’s important to act hastily on all employee reports and complaints and protect victims, witnesses and complainants. Workplaces that are not equipped to anticipate or recognize the known hazards or take preventative, precautionary and corrective measures are likely targets of opportunity for an unannounced OSHA Inspection.

Employers can take these 5 OSHA recommended steps prior to any incidents to keep their employees safe and minimize the risk of investigations or citations by OSHA:

1.  Analyze potential workplace hazards.

2. Implement reasonable safety measures.

3. Train employees.

4. Develop record-keeping practices.

5.  Reassess hazards periodically.

Workplace can take the implementation of Workplace Violence Prevention and Security Awareness seriously. Begin the process by conducting thoughtful critical assessment of your workplace violence prevention and security policies, plans and procedures. Conduct  work-site specific risk assessments and include security and business practices alike. Include employees in the process by utilizing surveys that attempt to uncover signs of disgruntled behavior, unknown hazards and situations or conditions exacerbated by poor supervision and the unintentional consequences of management business practices. Reduce existing security gaps in your current operations identified by the assessments. Institute countermeasures that provide as early warning signals of problems on the rise.

Support employee victims and complainants who come forward. Aggressively respond to and monitor employee hotline or complaint lines. Create an impression that the leadership cares through hasty intervention and monitoring.

Don’t assume that non-violent acts of workplace violence will not rise to a level of homicidal concern because you will find yourself asking why didn’t you take preemptive measures early on. Know that this threat’s capability while immediately  unknown is devastating in terms of impact on people and the organization’s performance, production, standing and brand along the way.

Take the following 10 steps NOW to minimize your risks and identify contributory practices and procedures:

  • Be proactive.
  • Implement credible reporting systems.
  • Educate supervisors and managers on recognizing at risk situations.
  • Conduct a thorough workplace specific violence risk assessment.
  • Review existing workplace violence prevention policy and plans, security management and emergency preparedness measures.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your emergency evacuation plans as part of your violence response training.
  • Train your workforce on the impact and consequences of violent and non-violent acts.
  • Hold all employees accountable and responsible for engaging in or failing to report at risk situations & employees &  others.
  • Conduct annual facility and employee assessments and training.
  • Include workplace violence prevention in your New Employee Orientations.

You don’t want to be the employer of the employee who the media seems to always locate in the aftermath who says, “They knew he or she was nuts. We saw what he/she did”. When an incident occurs is not the time to prepare but to properly react.

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.

Corroborating Workplace Bullying Complaints Through Documentation

Posted on: February 21st, 2015

In this Blog, Ruth and Phil MacNeill of PRMAC Consulting and Research share their perspective on corroborating workplace bullying complaints through documentation.  While the MacNeill’s focus is on the employee rather than the employer, and workplace bullying rather than violence, we share the common goals of promoting safer, healthier and more productive work environments. Reporting and documentation are inseparable partners

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time a tremendous whack.Winston Churchill

Workplace bullying can have serious negative impacts on individuals and on companies, and is all too common. The Workplace Bullying Institute estimates that up to one-third of workers may be victims of workplace bullying, with about 20 of incidents crossing the line into harassment. If left unchecked, reduced productivity, chronic absenteeism and the possibility of expensive litigation are just a few of the costs of bullying. Therefore, rationale self-interest is a valid prompt for supporting a respectful work environment, whether your role is employer, supervisor, or employee.

But stopping workplace bullying is easier said than done as the devil is in the details. Only by  meticulously documenting bullying incidents as they occur, can there be any reasonable expectation that an ensuing investigation will lead to a successful resolution.

Consider the task of an investigator who has to establish facts in order to fairly assess the alleged bullying situation. It’s safe to assume they know nothing of your character or background, but even if they do, any fair determination must be based on an impartial rendering of facts. The same applies to a review by a judge and a court of law, should a complaint escalate to litigation. So, what do either need to establish what the facts are in order to perform their analysis?

Written and/or verbal accounts of the event(s} are an essential part of an investigation because they provide perspective and leads. However, multiple perspectives on the same incident can be contradictory and ambiguous because of personal bias and even fabrications by those involved. So, without tangible proof, a complaint often remains an “alleged incident” due to insufficient evidence.

Evidence that can stand up under scrutiny must be accurately detailed and presented in a way that supports an investigator or a judge and a court of law reaching a thorough and accurate understanding.

Documentation is composed of material that provides official information or evidence, and serves as a legal record. Ideally, every incident needs to be documented with other supporting documents, if these are available. Documentation establishes facts and may also reveal a pattern of bullying behavior. It may be noticed as you document that each incident alone may not add up to the the “bomb” but bullies are often a stone in your shoe and the documenting of many incidents will uncover their intent.

Therefore it is in your best interest to keep an organized record.

When you are designing your documentation matrix, it should contain this detailed information:

  1. The date and time of each incident.
  2. The location of each incident.
  3. Who was involved in each incident? Include the names of the bully or bullies, as well as witnesses.
    Note: Although bystanders may not feel that they are involved, they are
    automatically drawn in as a part of the scenario as witnesses.
  4. A description of each incident in detail including the exact nature of the actions. Try to include
    quotes and don’t censor profanity and expletives. Indicate how these actions made you feel and
    how it impacted your work.
  5. Supporting documentation: Be thorough, as each incident, even small ones, can map a pattern
    of repeated bullying. Attach each supporting document as an appendix to the record of the
    incident and be sure to cross-reference the appendices with the incident to ensure the accuracy
    and readability of your evidence. In addition to hard copies, keep the electronic files, as these
    provide a date signature. Some examples of supporting documentation include:
  6. Communications such as emails, notes, letters and cyber postings.
  7. A transcript of each offending voice mail.
  8. Photographs of any acts of vandalism.
  9. Try to obtain written statements from anyone who witnessed the harassment. Their written
    description of an incident will help validate your complaint.

Make two copies of all documentation and store them in secure and separate places. Don’t keep the evidence at work or you may find it missing. Similarly, if you are fired, you may not otherwise have access to it. If you keep at least one electronic copy of the documentation, this will electronically date the document(s).

While the above doesn’t guarantee an investigation will necessarily swing a decision in your favour, the stronger your evidence base, the closer you will come to aligning with Winston Churchill’s prescription for making your important point.

The OSHA General Duty Clause and Workplace Violence Prevention

Posted on: February 4th, 2015

In this Blog Dr. Mike (Mike Atwater, Ph.D)  shares a perspective on the role of the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSHA) General Duty Clause and workplace violence prevention. He and Felix collaborate in a small way to help keep the dialogue going in bridging the gap of awareness and responsibility.

“We recognize that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and invoke the need to be proactive rather reactive” in containing all costs.

The effort put forth in investing in “prevention” can enhance the outcome and reduce the negative impact of poor planning.  While we are not suggesting that using other people’s data is representative of what can happen at your workplace (school, college, university or healthcare setting), it is our desire to create urgency in understanding the impact to your workplace and workforce your employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers. According to OSHA’s fact sheet,Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide. Some 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year.

Furthermore, domestic violence is the number one cause for emergency room visits by women in the United States, causing more injuries to women than car accidents, muggings, and rapes. Like other forms of violence, domestic violence may spill over into the workplace in various ways. Of all employed battered women, 96 percent experience problems at work and 75 percent must use work time to deal with their situation because they cannot do so at home.

“As a licensed clinical psychologist practicing for over 30 years in Florida”, Dr. Mike has worked with numerous clients to help them recover from workplace violence and/or spillover domestic violence. These clients can suffer a variety of consequences and mental health issues in addition to any possible physical injuries, including:

  • Short- and long-term psychological trauma
  • Fear of returning to work
  • Changes in relationships with coworkers and family
  • Feelings of incompetence, guilt, powerlessness
  • Fear of criticism by supervisors or managers

Because each case will present with varying degrees of problems, Dr. Mike draws upon a multi-disciplinary counseling approach to reduce the acute psychological trauma and general stress levels. With all, a major goal is to help them return to meaningful work and for the employer to have a healthy worker as well. While Dr. Mike does not have expertise in the regulations and programs needed to provide for safe workplaces, Dr. Mike does know employers must be proactively responsible to educate staff about workplace violence and to positively influence the workplace and organizational cultural norms in order to reduce the possibility of incidents.

Workplace Security Plan: Does Your Company Have One?

Posted on: July 13th, 2014

Consultant’s Perspective…

The threat of violence whether it emanates from a disgruntled employee or the threat of terrorism require both a concerted and an individual response. Terrorism in any form is terrorism. Having been exposed to the daily taunts, acts of intimidation, verbal threats of bodily harm are as debilitating psychologically as the blunt strike or the piercing bullet. Vigilance and security awareness makes for a good prescription. In my previous writings on the topic of workplace security, I’ve attempted to draw a correlation between the disgruntled employee and the terrorist from within by suggesting similar patterns of behavior, traits and characteristics coupled with freedom of access and possession of the company’s secrets. My observations clearly implied a volatile ingredient worthy of skeptical assessment.

Following a recent article written by Louis Rovner, Ph.D, entitled “Protecting Your Company from Terrorism Within”, I interviewed him regarding the article. Dr. Rovner is a psychologist in LA who consults to businesses, government agencies and law enforcement agencies, one of a handful of polygraph – psychologist nationwide. He believes that the potential for disaster is at every employer’s doorstep and I agree with the assessment. He said, “Thousands of Terrorist call the United States home…hundreds of terrorist sleeper cells scattered throughout the U.S. awaiting orders and instructions need to assimilate in order to survive”. What do they do? The thrust of this edition is a testimonial to the existing synergy between Dr. Rovner and I on the topic of workplace security as a legitimate discussion. I believe the solution to the minimization of any potential exposure is an aggressive but practical security plan which addresses the workplace security issues in greater detail incorporating training and security awareness.

Now I would like to draw that necessary correlation between the seamless similarities existing between the “event driven” explosive conduct of the “disgruntled employee” and “the Terrorist from within”. In an investigation I conducted several years ago an otherwise hard working employee with a diagnosed personality disorder was reassigned from his regular duties due to a medical determination. It was to have been a temporary change. However, during the ensuing assignment he was exposed to constant abusive taunting and harassment by co-workers. In response he began retaliating in his own way, initially innocuously and eventually more aggressively. The verbal threats directed at co-workers and supervisors escalated to more hostile conduct. It was clear he was sending a message of his displeasure. While left alone at the office computer terminal he began browsing the Internet for bomb making sites. He had been engaged in this clandestine operation for several days before a sharp supervisor noticed his strange behavior at the terminal. In an effort to protect the evidence, he used a ruse to get the employee away from the terminal until my arrival. The subsequent interview of the employee disclosed a pattern of hostile retaliatory conduct in response to a lack of confidence in management and his co-workers to protect him from the abuse. His aggression escalated from the verbal to the near physical as he sought ways to avenge his tormentors.

Are You Really Safe…?

Before we get into a technical discussion about the potential Terror from within, we need to answer a few questions and remind you that the problem lies well within your ability to manage. Do you know what to look for? Do you have a mechanism to address breeches of safety or security? Are your employees properly screened during the hiring process? Is there a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy and Program and lastly, are employees receiving relevant training? If we acknowledge NO to any of these questions we have the ability to take corrective action NOW. I know how resource intensive the process can be, but you don’t have to go at it alone. Like the disgruntled employee who is “event driven” the Terrorist waits for the event. In both cases, they are the classic “sleepers” willing to hide their intentions until they are ready to act out. Linda Lockwood, PhD at the Metropolitan State College, Denver, Colorado reminds us that workplace violence is obviously a serious problem that must be better understood in order to prevent its occurrences. I ask that we consider the threat from within a bit more seriously by developing your security policy and plans to minimize your exposure.

Protecting Your Company From Terrorism From Within…

In the article by Dr. Rovner, he writes that the Employee-Terrorist is “calculated” and will wait for the opportunity to strike, while using the employer to survive beyond the stipends provided by their terrorist group, the unwitting employer is the potential target depending on the type of business or government agency. But even if the companies are not specifically targeted says, Dr. Rovner, they are indirectly and unknowingly supporting Terrorist by providing a source of income. Like the Terrorist who awaits the call to action, the disgruntled employee is “event driven” by the circumstances. Both the “Terrorist” and the “Disgruntled Employee” share some other common opportunities as “employees”; they have access to the company and are familiar with the company secrets.

The Potential Threat…

Driving home a clear and evident example of the potential terrorist’s ability to penetrate even a secure environment, I am reminded of the British Daily Mirror Reporter, Ryan Parry who compromised the Buckingham Palace’s hiring and recruitment procedures by providing false credentials and gaining precarious access to the President of the United and his wife while staying at the palace. Even though the palace had an elaborate security system and employed the most stringent security measures to guarantee the safety of President Bush, Parry successfully breeched security by falsifying his references. According to security officials they were satisfied that both the security and criminal records check were robust and done correctly. The response may have satisfied some political end but didn’t answer the question of what type of employee background check was done to authenticate and validate the hiring during the screening process. Such access was a breach at the hiring phase when in all likelihood, the responsibility fell on the lonely shoulders of a lowly paid clerk who merely followed the checklist.

What To Look For…?

I believe the collaborative process of the Threat Assessment Team concept enhances the essentials and promotes shared awareness in the identification of the potential threatening applicant during the hiring process. The same collaborative process can be used to insure the right individual passes the hiring and recruitment process early on before permanent employment. Dr. Rovner says that companies, agencies and organizations can take preventive measures. He suggests that the Human Resource Department be a bit more aggressive during the hiring phases by instilling the essential skills of the investigator. Verification of all data at the hiring process is critical. He said, “One of the scariest things about the Terrorist is that they look just like you and me”. While psychologist have not developed a foolproof terrorist profile, he suggests that most Terrorists posses a number of the same traits. Tactfully worded questions during the interview process will alert the interviewer. Dr. Rovner further suggest that since the Terrorist possess common traits the use of properly designed questions will tell whether the applicant has most or all of the traits.

He suggest they are:

  • Loners
  • Dissatisfied with their lives
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Are true believers
  • Are antisocial
  • Lack pity or remorse
  • Have grievances against our country and our alliesAre tremendously loyal to their terrorist group.

Anyone intimately familiar with the Threat Assessment Process would quickly discern that some of the Terrorist’s traits and characteristics are common to the disgruntled employee. If you would like a copy of Dr. Rovner’s article, please request if via email and I will send you a copy of along with contact information for Dr. Rovner.

The Permissive Environment is the Suspect

Posted on: June 29th, 2014

(this post originally appeared on eZine Articles and updated since)

The real workplace daily threat is the permissive and participatory conduct most employees take for granted and eventually escalates into the more serious aggressive and assaultive behavior commonly referred to as employee on employee workplace violence starts with yelling screaming, innuendos, a bad word, or simple jokes taken out of context or used to inflame another.

Such behaviors are covered under OSHA’s (Occupational Safety Health Administration) definition of workplace violence under harassment include verbal abuse, name calling and intimidating conduct. Bullying is a form of harassment.  

Initiation of a proper and thorough investigation begins with an incident or threat assessment under the auspices of Human Resources. Banter between employees if left alone by supervisors becomes tense and often results in a more aggressive response. Bullying can lead to aggressive confrontations. The truth of the matter is that in most cases this banter is perceived as harmless shop talk or attributed to well-intended supervisors/managers. It is especially problematic when it involves a supervisor, manager or senior executive of an organization. Regardless the origin, all allegations require forthright assessment and intervention in avoiding false impressions and perceptions that lead to allegations of a permissive environment that pits the workforce against management.

Supervisors often believe that healthy shop talk builds camaraderie and does not detract from performance. However, such permissive behavior empowers the potential perpetrator who may feel he enjoys the favor and partiality of the supervisors. After all, he/she does his job well, pumps out the numbers and meets the “boss’s” demands.

Regardless of the relationship and work performance, definite and clear action should be taken initially and immediately to curtail the potential of an explosive situation from impacting the workplace. The spontaneous reaction by the victim although surprising could be sufficiently volatile to affect bystanders who may be aware and are equally infuriated. This is when an aggressive intervention strategy by the Human Resource Professionals can engender a spirit of accountability in representing management’s commitment to workplace violence prevention.

“Remembering that the business owner has a fiduciary responsibility and is ultimately responsible for the actions they fail to take in any situation places the decision in question and action imperative.”

The prevention of workplace violence requires a proactive response. Security is everyone’s responsibility but ultimately management’s duty. The exposure to violent behavior by an employee is yet another issue which will be presented in future articles. Suffice to say here that how employees are treated and perceives the treatment can have a negative impact on the organization’s integrity, credibility and believability in civil liability lawsuits.

In a permissive environment, the uninformed employee has no idea that emotions tied into simple acts of harassment are an explosive combination often leading to a spontaneous counter response by the victim. While the response is unfortunate in terms of who ultimately precipitated the incident, the victim who takes the action into his/her hands becomes the aggressor and must be held accountable. Human Resource can nullify the perception of unfairness by conducting a critical assessment of the circumstances in identifying root cause, blame and contributing factors. This is where the truth shall set the record straight.

Though  threat assessment is a reaction to an at risk situation, the Threat Assessment Team or a trained group of individuals would be the proper approach in assessing current reports and complaints as part of the prevention effort.

The conduct of the Threat Assessment Process would involve the total analysis of information and intelligence available about the participants, the incident and the environment in order to render a fair and impartial outcome. Being properly trained is key. Knowledge of how to conduct a fact-finding investigation is critical to the successful make a determination of the type of risk abate measures to take, disciplinary action or criminal prosecution it might bring. The process should be synchronized, collaborated, well-coordinated and reflective of the organization’s leadership team to ensure that the preliminary responsibility of conducting the fact-finding investigative process does not fall on the shoulder’s of the Security Director after the fact.

The major players of such an incident or threat assessment team might include at a minimum: the immediate supervisor, personnel & human resource managers, employee assistance (EAP), safety and security managers and legal to insure a thorough assessment (investigation) is conducted.

In assessing victim response to harassment the root cause of the spontaneous confrontation was the unabated name calling, verbal abuse and innuendos, created by a permissive and improperly supervised environment. Supervisors who fail to step in to correct this type of behavior can be held civilly liable and responsible for their failure to act early or appropriately to prevent escalation or confrontations. In cases of death or serious injury between employees or customers, wrongful death law suits are often filed in addition to criminal prosecution. Not knowing is no longer a legitimate excuse.

When supervisors fail to act appropriately, senior management has the burden of investigating the incident and determining fact, dealing with the issue of the aggressor and the contributory behavior of the instigator in deciding the appropriate disciplinary action (or if necessary, EAP referral, or referral  to local police for prosecution).

And, so while a Zero Tolerance Policy is necessary and highly recommended, it should not be an absolute standard in administering discipline until the “root cause” of the contributory behavior becomes clear through the assessment process.

When controlling or addressing the potential fruits of unwelcome behavior or to more appropriately prevent incidents dealing with workforce security and safetey issue, every situation should not be resolved in the same manner with the same administrative action, decision and our outcome in mind.  Any broad-brush approach to enforcing the Zero Tolerance Policy sours the innocent bystanders and prejudices the potential witnesses who may fear retaliation or retribution, factors which may further complicate the disciplinary process, arbitration and/or criminal
referral.

The permissive environment is the culprit!