What If Your CEO Put You in Charge of Workplace Violence Prevention?

Archive for the ‘crisis management’ Category

What If Your CEO Put You in Charge of Workplace Violence Prevention?

Posted on: March 1st, 2021

From all the literature and surveys on the topic of workplace violence, it’s clear that CEOs are truly worried about their organization’s workplace violence prevention capabilities in heading off a potential disgruntled employee active shooter threat or intimate partner violence/domestic violence workplace spillover that results in subsequent negative news coverage.

I bet they worry about whether their capabilities are designed to identify gaps in their efforts, the ability to recognize limitations in their resources, enjoy the ability to anticipate problems, understand how to take corrective measures and whether their policies are proactive or reactive. I bet CEOs worry about whether their own commitment is reflected in their budgets, their resources, their awareness, and their support for training.

So, you are the new Human Resource Professional at your company and your CEO calls you into his office to talk about the workplace violence prevention posture. The CEO is concerned about what’s in the news of late, wants to get a baseline of information to help him understand what his posture actually is. What is your baseline of knowledge? What is your reference point of understanding when the CEO ask you?

  • where are we with respect to our workplace violence prevention posture?
  • do we have a policy that adequately addresses the prohibited conduct and the OSHA 4 Categories of violence?
  • do we have a historical record of the type of incidents and can we track such incidents?
  • what are we doing to assess and evaluate potential at-risk situations and worksites?
  • what topics does the training address and is it providing a noticeable improvement and awareness?
  • are we capable of managing at risk situations?
  • what are the supervisor’s roles in intervention and prevention?

While you might have had some exposure to workplace violence prevention in the past, nothing has prepared you to the scope of this conversation with your CEO. And while the focus is on the HR Professional within your organization, the CEO could be having the same conversation with the plant manager, safety manager, risk manager or shift managers. He will not want to hear only that workplace violence related misconduct were resolved under Zero Tolerance where disciplinary action and ultimately “termination” were the solutions. He wanted to know what strategic role Human Resource was playing. https://www.naterassociates.com/human-resources-huge-role-to-fill/

As the HR Professional you might be familiar with the workplace violence prevention tools, support and guidance provided by the SHRM organization and you want to lead the way in your organization. Admittedly observe that you do not really have the experience or working knowledge to integrate, collaborate, coordinate, and communicate such resources and tools into an organizational response. https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/Pages/Workplace-Violence.aspx

You have mixed emotions, but you take on the initiative by reviewing the SHRM’s Member workplace violence prevention resources and tools on their website. You find it a plethora of valued information and your confidence is emboldened.  

You see the meeting with the CEO as productive and an opportunity to seize the moment to establish a workplace violence prevention program no matter how limited. You are happy to have the CEO’s support. You proceed to acquire the resources needed and acquire the understanding of what workplace prevention entails. You discover  that workplace violence was a lot more than I had thought. It’s feels like a paradigm shift at a needed time in workplace and workforce safety and security. What better time than now to start applying risk mitigation, recognizing potential threats, discovering challenges, and dealing with the opportunities while the interest is high.

                                    You recall an old saying – “strike while the iron is hot”.

Your company is planning to return to work during the Covid-19 transitional period, but you will be operating at reduced workforce levels at your worksites while a major portion of the workforce will continue to work remotely or from their homes until further notice. It is an opportunity to get a lot done.  But a lot is going through your mind knowing that you are in different times calling for different tactics.

This gradual return to the workplace and the definite need to manage work from home and other remote venues mandates proactive thinking in how workplace violence prevention will be managed going forward. While it may not be a major restructuring or design, a diagnosis or assessment will be needed to assess the posture and show how workplace violence prevention gets implemented. It will be important to have a process as the workplace will be facing new threats from the disgruntled workforce returning to the workplace with a variety of emotional and psychological issues.

There will be conflict and opinions directly related to shelter at home, perceptions, restricted movement, post-election emotional fallout and CDC workplace related risk mitigation restrictions and mandates imposing their freedom. It will be a defiant workforce. The difference is with the CEO’s support, you no longer need to worry about resources at your disposal. https://www.naterassociates.com/covid19-return-to-work-risk-mitigation-challenges-and-opportunities/

You see it the time as NOW for your organization to strike while the iron is hot. You want to seize the opportunity to improve your current workplace violence prevention-security posture or may be even roll out something different that will obviously have the CEO’s attention if not support. You recall that OSHA is the authority on the subject from the SHRM website and decide to check it out. https://www.osha.gov/workplace-violence

To help you implement your plans you search for a likely workplace violence prevention consultant, a partner. You figure that it might be a good idea to begin getting the right answers to your many questions. Why wait? Why not begin assessing the situation, addressing the approach? Why not use the time to meet with staff and supervisors to alert them of your organizational intentions with the consultant  present.

When discussing the initiative with staff and managers, you emphasize the importance of being proactive, the need to be empathetic and vigilant in resolving all issues now instead of waiting until there’s a situation that escalates or a surprise active shooter. The ingredients for the prospect of volatility are quite apparent.  You quickly learn that workplaces are in fact veritable lightning rods.

The threats come from a disgruntled current and former employee active shooter and the intimate partner and domestic violence workplace spillover are real and present threats.  You are convinced that both topics are preventable situations with an organizational response. You discover a plethora of resources limiting your excuses. You realize the significant role HR can play in implementing, coordinating and managing the effort.  https://www.osha.gov/workplace-violence

You are interested in addressing both the current and future threats affecting your worksites and day to day threats posed by a disgruntled workforce subjected to CDC (Center for Decease Control) risk mitigation strategies and the OSHA 3900 Document. You anticipate conflict emanating from the CDC risk mitigation strategies that will strain workforce patience and coping skills.  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/workplaces-businesses/index.html

You sense a melting pot of personalities, emotions, anxiety, anger, fear, confusion, and politics coming together in a post covid-19 and post-election work environment, issues you will have to deal with. It starts to become clear that there is a paradigm shift the HR professional may have to be prepared to deal with and represent as the organization’s focal point in managing the threat of workplace violence. The approach called for a thoughtful and considerate one. Discipline and “terminations” must not be the immediate or necessary solutions in every case unless you want to increase the unemployment rolls. Mental health will be dominant factor employer consideration

https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/92727-post-covid-19-and-mental-health

As the HR Professional, there are perceptions, impressions, opinions, false flags, misunderstanding and confusion about workplace violence and (school violence) prevention that will need to be rectified. You will need CEO and senior management support in getting their commitment and investment. You must understand the need and importance for applying warning signs, risk factors and contributing factors are prerequisites in any effective workplace violence prevention initiative.

You’ve read enough about potential myths like workplace violence is not preventable, workplace violence won’t happen here or even that background screening will help in identifying the potential insider threat. You want to add perspective.

You diagnose the significant challenge as one of understanding how best to approach workplace violence prevention in this new era. You confirm that not assuming, avoiding convenience and never being expedient (ARC Factor) are key in minimizing risk and managing threats. You caution your CEO and senior managers to avoid common phrases and vernacular. You discourage the CEO against viewing the “Covid-19 Return to Work” as a “new normal” yet, but encourage rather a “transitional interim” towards a stabilized period where Employers and the Workforce can see the light at the end of the tunnel in working together for the future. https://www.naterassociates.com/osha-general-duty-clause-workplace-violence-prevention/

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 only a mandate but also a moral, ethical, and legal obligation. Providing for a safe and secure workplace can be effectively implemented through organizational engagement. You want to be logical, thoughtful, and as comprehensive as possible.

The paradigm shift being considered in this blog will have long-lasting positive benefit to the organization in creating trust, confidence, and respect in the employer’s intentional commitment. Employee perception of disparate treatment will drive the thinking and the behavior that fuels the emotional contagion, rationale, and justification to exact their vengeance.

It will be the role of the Human Resources Professional in alignment with others organizational leaders to create new skillsets in helping the Employer anticipate the challenges by being in position to intervene early. Emphasizing the importance of giving employee reports and complaints credibility that will aid in proper solutions early on and dispelling the notion that management’s only interest is discipline and “termination”.

So where would I suggest you begin as the HR Professional?  Since you probably know enough to get rolling, I would ask you to take a program manager view of how to go about establishing your approach.  One example of “HOW” in creating an effective workplace violence prevention posture is by building management credibility, confidence, and trust through the role of engaged supervisors.  Supervisors will need to become centers of influence that lead by example in being able to recognize the potentially volatile workplace environments, respond to issues and situations and make appropriate decisions. Having the HR Professional’s backing, the ability to manage threats and mitigate risks on the spot will be essential in containing escalation and managing risks.

How?

  • recognizing warning signs, risk factors and contributing situations
  • learning how to manage situations
  • managing one’s behavior in managing the potential hostile workplace
  • discovering what being proactive really means
  • using and relying on organizational resources
  • leading with purpose
  • seizing the moment
  • assessing and evaluating situations on the spot
  • conducting comprehensive worksite specific assessments
  • reporting, advising, and informing all involved

Why a comprehensive worksite assessment in the first place? A comprehensive assessment could very well uncover gaps in the existing violence prevention initiative that could help thwart the next homicidal threat, workplace suicide or intimate partner workplace spillover violence. Gaps may include unintentional consequences of policies, procedures, protocols, access control, visitor management, separations and discipline and new employee screening. Comprehensive takes into consideration the worksite specific nature, policies, plans and procedures, technology, supervision, and training.

During this transitional interim period engaged and involved supervision will be key. 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.

Author: Felix P. Nater, CSC Chief Security Consultant, Nater Associates, Ltd. is a retired U.S. Postal Inspector and current security management consultant with over 30 years of experience and expertise. Office: 704-784-0260 / Toll Free: 877-825-8101  https://www.naterassociates.com.

Are Your Perceptions of Workplace Violence Accurate? – Guest Blog by Michael Dorn, December 2, 2020

Posted on: December 2nd, 2020

Introduction: In this Guest Blog by Michael Dorn, we introduce the role of workplace violence from the standpoint of the workforce threat. YES, the workforce threat. While media attention focuses on the student “active shooter” the workforce threat make up a significant percentage of the school homicidal violence.  Our common interest centers on the importance of preventing the threat posed by the disgruntled employee. I recommend a comprehensive approach and design to workplace violence prevention that considers the type of workforce, work environment, past incidents, known risk indicators and contributing factors.

Training and proper program management philosophy and strategies are important. Decisions to conduct training should be a collaborative effort engaging the training consultant’s expertise in coordination with realistic content and delivery formats.

Principals and District Management can take reasonable proactive measures in addressing potential at risk teachers and staff by hastily addressing all reports and observations without assuming or applying shortsighted logic. Sometime educational institutions overlook valuable internal data in reviewing current reports against existing internal and external data.

For example, statistical information pertaining to the 277 FBI-designated active shooter incidents that occurred in the United States from 2000 to 2018 offer valuable insight and analysis from where the emphasis or focus can be directed in validating the potential for violence. https://www.fbi.gov/about/partnership/office-of-partner-engagement/active-shooter-incidents-graphics.

Michael Dorn’s contributions below forms the inescapable reality that educational institutions are also workplace environments for teachers, principals, administrative staff and school board members who are no different from any other employee and their environmental, societal and family risk factors.

What’s often taken for granted is the notion that the only perpetrators of school violence are the ‘mentally ill’ students.

But what about the disgruntled principal or teacher and the factors negatively impacting their mental well-being. Just like the student who has access to the school, who scrutinizes the at-risk factors and behaviors of the principal? Whether at a warehouse, manufacturing plant, office building or educational institution the workforce threat is a real and present danger.  Therefore, Workplace Violence Prevention should be an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies that includes the entire workforce and students.  It should be devoid of myths, assumptions or special treatment that limits critical assessment and application of threat assessment principles.

On May 6, 1940, the principal of South Pasadena Middle School opened fire at his school district’s office building and killed three victims.  He then drove to his school and murdered two teachers.  This tragedy is one of eleven fatal school attacks carried out by school employees in the United States to date.  In addition to fatal shootings carried out by teachers and school administrators, our nation’s second most deadly attack at a K12 school was carried out by a disgruntled and deeply troubled school board member in 1927.

After most of the 2,000 pounds of explosives detonated blowing up the Bath School, the attacker drove his vehicle to the school and carried out a suicide bombing killing 43 students and employees.

These attacks make up a significant percentage of the active assailant and targeted school attacks at U.S. K12 schools.  And while these attacks occurred many years ago, more recent attacks in the Lee County, Florida Public School System and at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville demonstrate that violent acts committed by school employees is still a concern.

Unfortunately, many K12 school systems and non-public schools have dedicated significant amounts of time, energy and budget on barricading training and devices while neglecting prevention measures for acts of violence that are far more common than an active assailant forcing entry to a locked classroom.

In reality, there has been only one fatal attack at a U.S. K12 school to date where an attacker forced entry to a locked classroom, entered the room and killed victims.  This shooting occurred at a reservation high school in Red Lake, Minnesota.  Having worked that case as an expert witness, I can state with relative certainty that neither barricading nor door blocking devices would have saved any lives in that attack.  While this attack method could certainly be used in future attacks, it has simply not been a common attack method.  In contrast, lethal attacks by school employees do represent a pattern that deserves more attention than it has received.

This is one of many examples of how easy it can be for any type of organization to fail to align prevention and preparedness measures with actual violence risk levels.  This example also demonstrates how important preemployment screening measures, training programs, assessment capabilities and other approaches to prevent acts of workplace violence can be.

Has your organization carefully evaluated how well your violence prevention and preparedness measures align with actual risks?

Thankfully, there are skilled experts with advanced knowledge in this important area that can help organizations develop approaches tailored to fit their unique needs.  I am appreciative that one of these experts has been kind enough to allow me to contribute this guest blog on this important topic.

Felix P. Nater, CSC of Nater Associates, Ltd. is a workplace violence prevention consultant who helps organizations through executive leadership how to develop and manage proper ways to handle threats of workplace violence through an educated, involved, coordinated and vigilant organizational response.

Time To Get Ducks In Row On Internal/External Communications

Posted on: June 5th, 2020

In this Guest Blog Post of News & Tips to Combat Workplace Violence, Mr. Rich Klein, President of Crisis Management with over 25 years of advising companies, law firms and organizations about crisis management and crisis communications shares some perspectives about Covid-19 Return to Work issues.

My intro: I am almost certain you will relate to the points of view Mr. Klein offers simply because many of us operate from the perspective that “It won’t happen to us” so why plan.

Failure to plan for a crisis before, during and after will catch many company leaders off guard in a crisis. You want to know why? Because businesses did not make crisis management planning part of their overall business planning. It’s much like what I have been saying about workplace violence prevention. If you don’t have a prevention plan today, you will have a crisis management issue tomorrow.

So whether your business or organization is a small, midsize or large size Employer without a crisis management mindset, you will find that prevention and preparedness will find you woefully unprepared on the day of the crisis.

The pandemic crisis we find ourselves in is being called a “new normal” of which I will call an “interim phase” and your failure to anticipate the need for a crisis management plan is probably making you feel exposed, vulnerable and unprepared.

Take Rich Klein’s perspectives to heart and then click on this link  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140613154848-6790863-5-reasons-leaders-fail-at-crisis-management to drive his point home.

Reopening your business or organization during a painful pandemic calls for the most effective messaging to all your stakeholders.

There will be new laws/regulations, new employee protocols, increased liability risks – and hopefully a different approach to branding and marketing.

Many businesses are facing backlash from earlier layoffs with more job cuts that may be unavoidable in coming weeks. Maybe you didn’t handle the communication of prior layoffs well – and that has decreased morale among existing employees. And, I’ve already heard from some businesses with executives and staff who tested positive for coronavirus and are nervous about customers/clients finding out.

Or worse, management is lying about it in public statements to customers, the press and on social media.

Other businesses, particularly in manufacturing and hospitality, have been accused of not providing personal protective equipment at a facility that required it and now are being harshly criticized by their own employee whistleblowers.

Finally, some big companies and institutions took SBA loans that didn’t need them at the expense of starving smaller businesses and are currently on the receiving end of much negative press that will harm reputation and more.

As you can see, there are many issues that you will need to communicate effectively about right now and in the near future.

I recently started offering very affordable, confidential consultations via Zoom/Skype/Google Hangouts, phone or any format that works for you.

We will talk about internal /external communications specific to your company and industry, corporate social responsibility messaging and how to respond to the media and on social media regarding coronavirus and other crisis situations.

Please get in touch by emailing rich@richkleincrisis.com and stay safe.