Dispelling 3 Common Myths about Workplace Violence Prevention and Workplace Security

Archive for the ‘Workplace Violence’ Category

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