#Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities

Archive for the ‘Change Management’ Category

#Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities

Posted on: May 13th, 2020

Management must not begin to view the “Covid19 Return to Work” as a “new normal” yet but, rather a “transition interim” to a stabilized period where Employers and the Workforce can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In as much as Employers have a duty and responsibility to provide for a safe and secure workplace (OSHA Duty to Warn Clause) how it is achieved is not a mandate but also a moral, ethical and legal obligation. Providing for a safe and secure workplace can be effectively implemented through organizational engagement.

Whether your business or an organization is a small, midsize or large size Employers having a workplace violence prevention mindset will aid the thinking approaches to managing #Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities during this “emergence phase”.

Because you may have a different emphasis and approach to workplace violence prevention you may  not understand risk factors as important and may not find contributing factors as relevant as I may. However, both are important in prevention and mitigation. Managing risk during this “emergence phase” will be full of challenges and opportunities.

You are apt to find more frequent outbursts, verbal altercations and acts of defiance in preventing the feared surprise attacker (active shooter). Be prepared for the angry workforce.

Depending on what side of the issues you are on Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation may or may not present challenges or opportunities.  Consider it a “neutral zone” full of opportunity to assess and evaluate what the “new normal” might look like. A time where rules are not clear and new approaches are required.

Will you anticipate the challenge in taking proactive measures in looking for a proper solution or will you have a reactive, dam the torpedoes, full steam ahead attitude and miss potential risk mitigation opportunities?

Is there room for changing old paradigms of thinking and operating while still providing for a safe and secure workplace and contending with other business-security expectations?

How the Covid19 Return Return to Work Risk Mitigation challenges are handled and how opportunities are strategized will depend entirely on empathy, thoughtfulness and effective leadership.  Building new approaches might dictate new ways of encountering business-security decisions, managing risks and preventing escalation of violence to physical acts of violence.

Supervisors may be called upon to lead and give employees the benefit of the doubt. During this “emergence phase” “new normal” will task the Employer’s management and leadership responsibilities:

  • They will need to be responsible and accountable for their actions in not allowing situations to escalate.
  • Engaged supervision involved in anticipating problems, recognizing and responding to warning signs and understanding the impact of business issues on the workforce’s perception of the issues.
  • An organizational mindset may require understanding the significance of owning outcomes in minimizing risks by acknowledging unintentional consequences.

What if scenarios may become more prevalent and relevant in forecasting impact on business decisions and actions.  If you are in Human Resources you might see convenient opportunities in addressing adverse personnel decisions and personnel reduction actions not possible before Covid19 but imaginable  now.  You may find expedient solutions more practical today by the government mandated workplace closings that may include assumptions on downsizings, reorganization or not rehiring employees.

Employee perception of disparate treatment will drive the thinking and the behavior that fuels the emotional contagion, rationale and justification to exact their vengeance.

Supervisors and managers will need to be centers of influence and lead by example in being able to recognize the potentially volatile workplace environments and have the backing and ability to mitigate risks on the spot.

Success will be predicated on management’s commitment to empathetic leadership while providing for a safe workplace in addressing inappropriate conduct through root cause analysis.  Treating employees with dignity and respect will take on a different meaning that shows sincerity, care and concern for their well-being.

If you are the safety or security manager you may find yourselves as “Ambassadors of Change and Influence”.  You might view challenges as new duties and responsibilities in addressing social distancing relating to workforce, customer and vendor interactions; support management decisions in the removal of employee(s) who indicated positive during the infectious decease screening process; and enforcing violations of the workplace violence policy in response to nonviolent volatile acts of violence (verbal outburst, yelling, screaming)  to name a few.

Until such time when “new normal” stability is gained, Covid19 Return to Work may very well be the “new emerging threat”.

Workplace Violence Prevention will require a different mindset that engages with the workforce in finding amicable solutions rather than hasty swift actions to discipline and removal. Containment of emotional reactions will drive the need for management and workforce civility.

Enforcing the Workplace Violence Prevention Policy may take on a more compassionate approach in some incidents by addressing root causes and contributing factors before disciplinary action. In other words management may need to become more transparent in adjudicating workforce discipline.

The “new normal” may require understanding of the unintentional consequences of new policy changes and personnel decisions affecting business and organization reorganizations, consolidation and required learning of new functions. The transition from disgruntled to aggression may become more apparent and a frequent occurrences during these turbulent periods and VUCA concepts (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) may prevail.

Whereas prior to Covid19,  Employers might have been more inclined to act swiftly on the disciplinary and separation process in addressing misconduct and acts of violence, during the “emergence phase”,  prevention and de-escalation may necessitate an empathetic response where appropriate before eventual administrative action is taken.

Because of the workplace turbulence and employee perception of unfair labor disparate treatment there will be a tendency for more frequent emotional outbursts. As such, there will be a need for supervisory training in aspects of workplace violence prevention training that includes defusing conflict, de-escalation,, warning signs, risk factors, contributing factors and issues around managing the potentially volatile workplace environment.

The real challenge awaiting Employers in this “new normal’ will be the employee perception of disparate unfair management decisions masked as Covid19 Pandemic Return to Work Labor Management Employment actions. 

The manifestation of frequent nonviolent acts of defiance and episodes of anger by employees will be a more frequent in response to workforce reactions to disagreeable news. In short, increased tensions will become more apparent as management and workforce resolve perception issues during this “emergence period”.

How will you respond to the Covid19 Return to Work ‘new normal”? Will you be proactive or reactive?

Felix P. Nater, CSC is a security management consultant who helps Employers implement and manage workplace security strategy and policy with an emphasis on workplace violence prevention. He believes that workplace violence prevention is an ongoing process involving  multiple intervention strategies. He derived his experiences and consulting model while working as a Postal Inspector on U.S. Postal Inspection Services’ New York Division Violence Interdiction Team.

Contact Felix P. Nater at 1-877-valu101 or 1-877-825-8101. Visit his website www.naterassociates.com

Cyber-Culture: An Organization Imperative

Posted on: April 7th, 2020

This Guest Blogger edition of the News & Tips to Combat Workplace Violence featuring Dr. Ken Ferguson will focus on the Cyber Security Threat from a Cyber Intrusion Management perspective. The purpose of my Blogs is to introduce correlations between gaps and vulnerabilities in workplace security and the potential threats posed by the disgruntled current worker or former worker whose intent is to get revenge without crossing the line of physical violence. Usually, workplace culture has some role in creating the vulnerability or gap that permits the disgruntled current or former employee and criminal intruder access to sensitive information and systems. While Ken’s initiative is aimed at more than malicious intent, he is certainly concerned with a conversion of the workforce from an intrusion threat to an effective barrier for successful intrusion.

Ken Ferguson and I will agree that no amount of technology, policies or procedures can prevent the malicious intruders from gaining access to sensitive systems and information. A process is mandatory. So, while technology is an important part of information and data protection, “Over-reliance on security technology can actually put an organization at risk because a large percentage of information security breaches are actually the result of faulty human behaviors, rather than hardware or software vulnerabilities” Robert Guba, (Engineering human security), 2008.

So what can organizations do to minimize the Cyber Security threat? Ken Ferguson is going to layout a perspective focused on culture and the human factor in aggressively protecting data and information from unwitting compromise by human errors of omission in creating a process that minimize gaps and reduce vulnerabilities and/or compromises. Sometimes the organization by its very desire to protect sensitive information and systems create voluminous procedures employees do not read and/or are not properly trained. The assumption is that the policy and the procedures are the solution.

In the following overview Ken Ferguson will share his experiences and expertise in articulating how an improved attention to a structured attention and management of cyber intrusion is the next major step in protecting organizations from the intentional threat and the unwitting human error.

“Currently, “people” can be characterized as a potential source of intrusion problem rather than a successful defense element. Successful phishing by hackers for example is one of the more common success channels for cyber intrusion.”

Improved cyber security is the next organization wide advancement needed by many business sectors of society as well as public sector agencies. This attention is comparable to other defining compelling attributes such as safety, reliability, quality, economics, and environmental management. As we know, Cyber-attacks are malicious threats by highly motivated individuals or organizations intent on disruption or criminal actions. The attack mode can be commonplace or extremely sophisticated.

Unlike many problems solvable by coordinated actions, cyber attackers will reconvene and develop new challenges. The implication of this ever present type of threat is that organizations need a constant vigilance against such cyber-attacks….never abandoning cyber attention just because.

The conclusion of Global Nuclear Associates (GNA) is that this vigilance is a “Technology and More” situation needing to involve an organization’s entire workforce trained, motivated, and accountable to be involved in cyber security attention.

This value added end state becomes a defining culture. The integrated attention leading to this end state is summarized as a Functional Cyber Culture (FCC). Cyber intrusion can be a threat to safety, business continuity, and other existential impacts. Transformation into an FCC outcome is described as follows:

Key Attentions of a Cyber-Culture transition. Systematic activity and inclusion of cyber security as an overarching attention and culture of an organization involves attention to a variety of involvements and attributes each of which needs to be addressed rigorously. The following are familiar considerations needing unique attention in cyber space:

PEOPLE. Cyber-Culture involves a new attention by the entire workforce and also assurance that its supply chain shares such a vital attention to cyber security matters. The new involvements and commitments will vary depending on organizational function and individual responsibilities and job descriptions, which may be changed in accordance with cyber attentions and responsibilities. Effective accommodation of a new culture attention involves the persuasion and involvement of individuals to add to and/or change daily work attentions. Any change is difficult for most individuals…transformation into a new culture can be especially difficult since the change is a “quantum leap” in nature involving motivated accountability coupled with the proper skillsets.

Currently, “people” can be characterized as a potential source of intrusion problem rather than a successful defense element. Successful phishing by hackers for example is one of the more common success channels for cyber intrusion.

TECHNOLOGY. Cyber threats are also a matter of technological warfare calling for a defense that also is technological in nature. Related attentions can include vulnerability assessments for a threat spectrum regarding key assets, monitoring of threats, intrusion diagnostics, as well as information management and sharing determinations and technologies.

Organizations need to have the internal capability or vendor arrangements to assure timely and accurate detection of cyber intrusions attempts which can be as frequent as daily. Proper staffing and training that enables timely and accurate analysis and responsive measures needs to be a defining characteristic of critical asset cyber protection.

WORK MANAGEMENT. The leveraging of responsive technologies and an effectively trained and motivated work force achieves successful results only if deployed in comprehensive work management details. This element of cyber attention success is the ultimate manner in which workforce attention is accomplished. Each work process needs to be comprehensive in itself and the collective set of work processes needs to be responding to a spectrum of cyber implications. Work management that procedurally invokes cyber security attentions, content, and related communications will result in doing business that incorporates this concern into an “everyday” attention of the workforce.

Work management and its associated work process need to have the ownership of implementers, clear, concise, comprehensive and commonly understood. Implications involve, for example, job responsibilities that include, planning, and daily operations. decision making, administrative support. Example: a design decision that traditionally included cost, reliability, and safety now needs to be assessed for cyber security implications.

Success in Instilling a Cyber Culture: Attention to Detail. As with most major organizational endeavors, recognition of all that is needed to be done is a first step requirement:

Cyber Infrastructure Implications. The successful approach to an effective cyber-culture involves a confirmation and/or enhancement of features already existent in an organization. These are attributes and functions necessary for carrying forward the three major attentions mentioned above. We refer to these relevant functions as cyber infrastructure. The evaluations involve (1) general effectiveness of each of these ongoing practices and (2) the extent to which these practices properly reflect cyber content.

Some examples of what constitute this infrastructure include:
– Training                                                                                  – Information Sharing
– Policies                                                                                    – Organization Structure, Hiring Practices
– Procedures                                                                             – Enterprise Asset Management
– Communications                                                                  – Procurement
– IT, Risk and Vulnerability Tools                                       – Quality Assurance
– Regulatory Interfacing                                                        – Program Management

Phasing for Success. As with many transition/enhancement actions, a phased approach is proper. Three basic phases will involve: (1) a gap analysis/current condition assessment, resulting in recommendations supportive of people, technology, and work management elements and infrastructure reviews results and then (2) an implementation phase involving prioritized inclusion of phase (1) recommendations.

For cyber culture considerations, a phase three attention is uniquely vital for success. This attention involves assessing and committing to and assuring long term effectiveness of a successful cyber culture. Examples of vigilance of this particular long term vigilance include (1) cognizance of emerging new threats (2) relevant emerging defensive technologies, and (3) awareness of relevant emerging regulations and industry standards.

Teaming for Success. Based on the above systematic approach and proper attention to detail, the following collaboration of skill sets /specialties are needed for effective cyber culture-transformation:

(a) Cognizance of the current organization’s relevant functions and effective cyber treatment
(b) Cyber security assessment tasks and technology
(c) Organization transitioning
(d) Infrastructure specialists
(e) Program management and Integration

Conclusions/Summary. Cyber intrusion is a permanent threat to a wide range of organizations. The challenge is unique but effective approaches can be planned and executed involving a range of attentions. A “Technology and More” approach is needed for effective defense of critical assets. Success is contingent on persistent commitment for the entire workforce, achieved by embedding a cyber culture and assuring its long term sustainability.

Ken Ferguson (ferg2@att.net) is available to discuss in more detail the challenges and successful attention to functional cyber culture readiness of an organization.

 

 

 

What Does Workplace Violence Prevention Mean to You?

Posted on: September 9th, 2015

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

I am emphasizing the reliance on the helpful OSHA definitions, tools and support. I am asking you to create a proactive organizational response that reinforces their effort with the OSHA Workplace Violence Prevention guidance in developing your own prevention response. I think OSHA has been ahead of the game for years, it’s just that some of us worry about other people’s statistics and what others were doing instead of worrying about what your organization (workplace / educational institution) should have been doing at your own workplace setting.   

It doesn’t matter whether you are a school, college, university, processing or production plant, warehouse, government organization, office building, hospital, movie theater, mall or news station, you should consider a plan to prevent the threat of violence and minimize the risk of violence from a disgruntled coworker, intimate partner spillover into the workplace or the opportunistic criminal during an armed robbery or physical attack.  The plan must begin with an understanding of what WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION IS. While the belief is that larger organizations are adequately prepared, startups, small and midsize businesses are not immune from addressing workplace violence prevention. Their risk are higher when it comes to recovery and business continuity.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proper WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is comprehensive but should not be complicated even though we know that workplace violence is a complex societal and environment reality. Nevertheless, WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is a proactive process that focuses on the “when” and not the “if”.  Preparing for the “if” makes an assumption that the likelihood of any violence occurring is a small risk not worth spending our money on waiting for something to happen.  The thought seems to be that   “if” an act of violence or serious threat should happen we can call in the police to handle the threat. Whether your organization designs a methodological approach or defers capabilities to external consultants and the local police, the workforce must understand relevant terms in avoiding assumptions. Connecting the dots does not happen in a vacuum. It emanates from training content that supports the policy, plans and procedures in helping the workforce relate to warning signs, aggression, predisposition and opportunity. Leaving clarity to the workforce will not result in early warning or a proactive response. It becomes a wait and see attitude.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: July 11th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: March 8th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Threat of Workplace Violence Looms Mightily

Posted on: January 25th, 2015

Recent workplace and school shooting incidents underscore the importance of having current comprehensive workplace violence prevention and violence response policy and plans in place.  The unfortunate news coverage might have sensationalized the stories motivating workplace managers to deal with their workplace security realities prematurely or inappropriately.

We are finally coming to grips with the reality that workplaces are veritable lighting rods for violence.

If workplace senior leaders care and are concerned about providing for a safe and secure workplace, it requires their leadership,  and that they  understand the risk and respond appropriately in deploying supportive policies, plans and resources. Our response must not be reactionary incident to an active shooter to surface but measured against potential realities and organizational capabilities. Avoid a knee-jerk reaction to news media reports that really scare management to make  knee-jerk decisions that result in short-lived training that exposes the organization to other issues.

Dr. Robert F. Hester, Ph.D FBINA, Hester and Associates, Inc. on June 20, 2005 wrote an article entitled: Business Continuity for Small Businesses said, Safety, security and preparedness aren’t routinely a focus in our lives. Being on guard is not something Americans are used to or like doing. Still danger and the threat never goes away; only fades in memory.”

Is Dr. Hester in fact saying that our workplace security policies are like what we see in the African Plains where the Antelopes and the hungry Lions play this cat and mouse game? The Antelope senses, hears and sees the Lions attacking, they run for their lives only to return to grazing after the hungry Lions are feasting? Is that the mentality that drives the workplace security decision process? I do not think so but it makes me wonder what does.

Workplaces must not be quick to judge the misfortunes of others or what happens to other organizations in making hasty decisions without properly assessing and evaluating one’s unique workplace risks. Media interests in making news unintentionally directs the workplace security outcome through sensationalized reporting.  It can cause decision makers to under-value the real threat and the inherent risks. The threat of workplace violence looms mightily as a workplace security concern when poor communications, coordination and collaboration results in a shooting or suicide incident.  Waiting for an incident to occur before taking needed prevention measures contributes to poor morale, lowered production, performance and increased cost associated to victims and co-workers traumatized by the exposure and its memories and other related cost.

If the rationale is to let the media drive the urgency and discussion then the leadership is not being considerate of their realities and the potential for any employee to become a victim or predator. Workplace violence reflects a microcosm of our society tied directly to employee perceptions of their workplaces and their personal issues. Shortsighted initiatives that are more like window dressings lack substantive prevention effectiveness. The reality is that workplaces are veritable lightning rods for violence hence the position that  workplace violence looms mightily in every type of organization and educational setting. Our job is to minimize the risk through proactive prevention strategies and preparation of the workplace.

Minimizing risks requires taking proactive intervention strategies that includes a critical vulnerability assessment of your workplace security, violence prevention  & violence response procedures, physical security measures and workplace administrative and operation’s policies.

While reported shooting rampages have served to raise moral and ethical consciousness and concern, critical thinking and leadership are best desired in rolling out thoughtful workplace violence prevention initiatives. Workplaces must appreciate that unhappy employees don’t wake up one morning consumed with retaliation or getting even. NO, they don’t!!!  The escalation and movement towards homicidal retaliation probably started months earlier if not years earlier and the clues were missed or misunderstood, giving the appearance of negligent supervision and security.  Supervisors who do not examine their employee’s unique permanent and temporary work-sites cannot assess and evaluate the potential risk to their employees who might be exposed to autocratic supervision, toxic employees, and criminal elements.  

Sometimes workplace policies create misunderstandings when the workforce is taken for granted.  Don’t dismiss the possibility of the unintentional consequences of workplace policies contributing to conflict as a result of  employee interpretation and perceptions of the policies.  Supervisors and managers can play a leadership role by being proactive in “prevention” through swift intervention, communication and monitoring. Workplaces can show sensitivity to the fact that employees and non-employees are victims of changes in their family, medical, personal, financial and workplace relationships that are often exacerbated by workplace relationships. Disciplinary Action to include suspensions and terminations are not always the best solution but sometimes necessary. How they  are carried out will have inevitably have bearing on the employees or former employee’s psychology. 

Workplace violence prevention really requires a comprehensive view of workplaces and how best to integrate resources, collaborate strategies and coordinate efforts effectively in managing the potentially hostile workplace settings. (Developing Your Comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Policy/Plan http://klou.tt/nqurh3tsge5b )

Not wishing to rush to conclusions by questioning how effective or ineffective workplace violence prevention efforts might be, workplaces must review their policies and plans annually and take proactive measures to design an atmosphere where employees see the value of “prevention” through management’s commitment as an investment in their safety and security.  In arriving at a proactive methodology the objective is to integrate workplace violence prevention as a seamless “Human Resource Security Initiative”.  Workplaces must be critical of their capabilities and limitations by asking tough questions. We must not allow assumptions, convenience, expediency and expectations to dictate management’s decisions, attitudes and disposition. Inappropriate employee conduct (supervisors and managers alike) must be held accountable as part of building credibility and integrity in workplace violence prevention. To do so, we must ask the following questions:

  • Do we understand the risks?
  • Are we responding properly?
  • Do we monitor and track incidents, situations and people?
  • How could the incident happen?
  • What did we miss that could have prevented the outcome through care, consideration and attentiveness?
  • What did we take for granted and why?
  • How do we interact or fail to intervene?

As passionate workplace leadership, I know how devoted you are so, I do not presume or pretend I have the right answers but, would ask that senior leaders begin a process TODAY to critically assess and evaluate your respective workplace settings and situations to uncover unknown hazards and resolve known hazards and security gaps. Why wait to answer such questions tomorrow when posed by the media, OSHA or a jury?

Through proactive intervention policies and plans the workforce plays a role to enhance their “prevention capability”.  In other words the prevention effort acts as a force multiplier when the workforce understand the responsibilities, duties and the impact. Supervision, leadership, policy design and program development and documentation helps to substantiate and validate management’s commitment and fortifies employee trust and credibility in management’s ability to provide for a safe and secure workplace. Remember, having a physical security presence is part of the strategy but not the solution. But, conducting the critical vulnerability assessment can yield gaps that will allow workplaces to efficiently and effectively deploy security forces.

Putting the threat of workplace violence prevention in perspective at your workplace is important. That the number of horrific workplace related events occur infrequently, should not persuade senior leaders, risk managers or human resources to avoid having the discussion and applying appropriate protective measures.  There is a need to be prepared for the “WHEN” it happens rather than “IF”  it happens.  The phrase threat of workplace violence looms mightily means the threat can come from a variety of different threats that include; current employee, former employee, disgruntled customer, client, patient or student, opportunity criminal or the domestic/intimate partner violence spillover into the workplace. I will not scare readers with immaterial statistics not specific to your respective workplaces at this point but, I will implore you to take immediate action to improve your workplace security and workplace violence prevention posture TODAY.  It is my experience that workplace violence prevention has to become a human resources security mission.  Research shows that employer’s limited resources, misunderstanding of workplace violence prevention and a lack of technical competency may be the challenges encountered rather than a lack of will.  This list of reasons may suggest why?

  1. Denial in terms of we do not have a problem;
  2. It is resource intensive;
  3. Why invest in prevention when we can terminate;
  4. Time is of the essence;
  5. We lack the staff and support;
  6. Cost of training and NO ROI;
  7. The cost of hiring the consultant does not justify the expense.

These reasons however real, imagined or unrealistic to your situation have been chronicled in various surveys conducted by the Department of Labor, American Society of Safety Engineers, ASIS International, Pinkerton and a host of other lesser-known organizations since 1989.  Surveys point to a sense of urgency but a confusing investment and response that illustrates a misunderstanding of the potential threat and how best to deploy the resources.  Contrary to the commonly held beliefs by most that the topic of workplace violence does not affect my business and as such, it is not my problem can not be further from the truth. It affects people, property, premises and the bottom-line. (The Cost of Workplace Violence Prevention and Awareness http://klou.tt/uykyq1t6b8ji ).

As we close this topic, workplace violence continues to be a serious business security threat today facing the workplace ranking right along with Business Continuity/Business Interruption, Terrorism and Cyber and Computer Crimes.

 

Personnel Access Poses a Continued Risk

Posted on: August 10th, 2014

The Security Consultant’s Perspective…

Implementing Personnel Security Initiatives should be the objective of every change agent, security director, human resource director, facility manager and safety manager. Key to the assurance of who gained access to your facilities is the knowledge of having a centralized identification system that allows for verification and retrieval of historical data through collaboration by the team mentioned above. I believe a solid ID Badge System is your first line of defense against fraud, theft, espionage, violence, sabotage and other identity-related threats. Such systems are specifically designed to reduce one’s security vulnerabilities and increase your control over visitors, vendors, contractors, delivery personnel and employees and are not difficult or expensive to implement.

Violators Seeking Access Are Creative…

Individuals wanting access will stop at nothing and stoop to anything including compromise of your identification systems. If your lack luster identification system provides an opportunity for the average thief, imagine what a professional can do with a sophisticated approach. In an April 22 bulletin, the Department of Homeland Security warned hospitals that a string of people posing as inspectors for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations had visited hospitals across the country at odd hours, demanding information about the inner workings of their facilities. Such intrusions are not limited to hospitals only. Any organization, business, or system is the target of calculating individuals focused on probing existing security measures and evaluating protective measures. Their goal is to plan for the future.

“Hospitals are particularly attractive because a terrorist could use radiological material to create dirty bombs, or steal, an ambulance to create a well-disguised explosive”, said, Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Frank Taormina a Hospital Security Director and current president of the Metropolitan Healthcare Security Directors Association and chair of the New York City Chapter of the International Association of Healthcare, Security and Safety Professionals said, “He takes warnings like these very seriously…it is something I am concerned about. It makes you wonder what the underlying reasons are for all this…we have been assuming the worst in New York since September 11. We’ve been checking IDs all along.” Mr. Taormina and other professionals are quite concerned because one breach is all that is needed to afford the perpetrator his base of operations.

How Effective Is Your Security Identification System…?

Given the fact that we cannot guarantee access denial to a well prepared professional, security professionals can implement preventive and proactive counter-measures to distract, deter and defend one’s facility against compromise through faulty access controls. If you are relying on a simple sign-in system, you are setting yourself up for a problem. Whatever system is used must allow for as much verification as possible, a photograph of the individual and some type of system that allows the capturing of data in order to track movement and verify departure. In sensitive environments, identification issued must endeavor to limit access to the specified floor or department. While sophistication is my objective in protecting against intrusion, most security experts would be happy with a verification system the employs a photo identification. Them more sophisticated systems go beyond traditional identification systems and might suit your particular operation.

Intruders Are In Your Facilities Daily…

Your Risk Assessment should endeavor to ask, “What measures can I take to reduce or eliminate the threat and/or conditions posing the potential threat”? This is a vitally important beginning point because every facility and type of business is potentially compromised every day. What do you do when the regular truck driver of a service provider, messenger or delivery person suddenly appears at your door or loading platform? What system do you have in place to verify the identity of this person? Do you check at all? Do you believe the employee is authentic or do you verify? What if you are the victim of a robbery that goes bad and several employees are seriously wounded and killed because due diligence was shortchanged? A simple preventive and proactive procedure is having the employer notify you when they change employees. After all, you are paying for a service and therefore have the right to instill a heightened sense of security to your operations. Lawsuits emanating from due diligence issues are real. While this scenario seems far-fetched, it is not.

Your Identification System…

Your Identification System should at a minimum contain the following elements:

  • Trained personnel
  • Limited & restricted access
  • Suitable form of identification with a photograph
  • Tracking and monitoring capability

Notice how I did not mention sophistication while I know the technology exists. And depending on the type of establishment, the imagination runs the gamut. The objective is to prevent a compromise by being proactive.

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!