Human Behavior is a critical component of preventing workplace violence. So how can employers improve their capability to reduce the threat of violence before it escalates to the homicidal acts we have seen recently. ASK ALAN: How To STOP Workplace Violence? – (alan-adler.com)
May and June were a period of horrific workplace and public shootings. On May 14, 2022, there was the TOPS Market Mass Shooting in Buffalo, New York. Then at the start of the Memorial Day weekend there was the Robb Elementary School Shooting at Uvalde, Texas raising questions about the school’s lock down response plans and the police department’s violence response. On June 1st, there was a shooting at an Oklahoma Hospital involving a distraught patient complaining of back pain following the surgery a week earlier who killed the surgeon, and three others. Can poor communications a contributing factor?
Organizations may be waiting too long before intervening in preventing the escalation of potential problems because of confusion in not understanding the meaning of workplace violence and workplace violence prevention.
Workplace violence is not just the homicidal act of violence by the disgruntled current or former employee or the intimate partner violence spillover into the workplace. But it is the everyday variety of harassment, verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, pushing, shoving, kicking, and fighting, which OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) defines as nonfatal acts of workplace violence.
Does Human Resources (HR) have a role in training supervisors as a workplace violence prevention strategy?
If you view workplace violence prevention as an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies, then you agree employers must maximize their internal capabilities early on. It does not require a complex process, but it does require senior management commitment and investment that allows for training in the recognition of warning signs, risk factors and swift intervention.
So, can Human Resources play a role in making supervisors a workplace violence prevention strategy?
I think so! Supervisors can be an effective part of the workplace violence prevention strategy if HR can play a role in providing them training in how to manage the potentially hostile workplace on aspects of workplace violence, workplace violence prevention, technical expertise and consultation that helps them determine what course of administrative action is most appropriate in specific situations.
My position is that there is NEVER an excuse for a supervisor not knowing their workforce, or for failing to recognize their responsibility in providing a work environment that is RESPECTFUL, SAFE AND CONSISTENT in its handling of both good and poor performers as well as in managing and maintaining appropriate employee behaviors. Could this be asking too much when one considers whether the workforce trust supervisors and even considers them part of the problem?
It is my belief that HR can play an initiative-taking, constructive role in building trust and confidence in the workforce? They can improve the perception that HR overlooks the minor incidents that contribute to the daily victimization of employees reluctant to report in avoiding having a bullseye painted on their chest. Employees believe that HR waits for the escalation as proof of the premediated behavior and overlooks the psychological damage the day-to-day exposure has. Training supervisors in the role they can take to address such behaviors a strategy worth pursuing before it is too late.
Can supervisors be effective in creating positive communications between management and workforce by developing an empathetic leadership style that promotes trust and confidence in the hearts and minds of employees? Employees want to be a part of the solution but view supervisors as part of the problem.
While the questions are many does it make sense for HR to play a role in training supervisors to understand their resources in assessing, evaluating, and addressing the threat of workplace violence, including use of Alternatives to Discipline and use of Alternative Dispute Resolution process, and receiving advice, and counsel regarding personnel and labor law regulations? What do we have to lose now? Despair is not a solution.
The overriding goal of supervisor involvement is to make civility and decency in the workplace as critical as the paycheck. Shouldn’t the objective at this stage be the need to upgrade and humanize the way in which employers deal with all employees every day rather than just to focus narrowly on how to respond to the one who has made threats; is confrontational, disruptive or a disciplinary problem? So why cannot HR enhance supervisor prevention capability through their visibility by training supervisors to be the solution.
Long-term planning to improve employee morale pays in human terms. Studies have shown that companies with effective grievance redress, harassment procedures also reported lower rates of workplace violence and workplace conflict.
While the intention of the Zero Tolerance Policy is well known, how effective is it really when discipline is the perceived outcome. How does an employer motivate an employee to report observations of a co-worker who might be his friend or Godparent to their child if the outcome is discipline and/or separation?
Despite the perception problems, employers must pursue alternative prevention strategies if they are to stem the alarming rise of the homicidal act of workplace violence in recognizing the employer’s duty and responsibility to provide for a safe and secure workplace. A workforce that is convinced that working from home is not as risky as working from the office, plant, warehouse or being shot in the parking lot.
Are there any undocumented obstacles and hurdles? HR needs to be viewed as the Champion of workforce safety and security if they are to dismantle negative perceptions when it comes to workplace violence prevention and zero tolerance.
As an ongoing workplace violence prevention strategy HR can play a role by assisting, assessing, and investigating allegations of workplace violence in the initial stages to address root causes and contributing factors? Do you have an answer?
Workforce patience is already stretched enough. It might be time for Human Resources to step up as leaders in a unique way if not in this way. If supervisors are called upon to discipline those who cross the line of civility, why can’t they be called upon to serve as day-to-day mediators and observers. Workplace Violence Is Unfortunately On The Rise Felix Nater Discusses Best Practices Regarding Recent Office Shooting – EIN Presswire (einnews.com)
Supervisors can be trained to recognize dramatic changes in employees such as mood swings, changes in appearance, time and attendance problems, co-worker interactions, and work performance.
Felix P. Nater, CSC is a retired Postal Inspector and security management consultant who partners with organizations to help implement and manage workplace security with an emphasis on workplace violence prevention and active shooter and the workplace mindset. He has spent the last 20 years working with organizations interested in improving, changing or enhancing their internal capabilities. www.naterassociates.com