Can Human Resources Play an Enhanced Role in Managing the Threat of Workplace Violence Through Supervisor Intervention?

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Can Human Resources Play an Enhanced Role in Managing the Threat of Workplace Violence Through Supervisor Intervention?

Posted on: June 22nd, 2022

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  

How to Improve the Strategic Value of Workplace Violence Prevention – December 31, 2021

Posted on: January 2nd, 2022

Happy 2022! May it be your best year ever.

In the late winter of 2020, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner asked me to join her on her podcast, Business Confidential Now.  A lot has happened over 2021 that has raised the level of concern, so we decided to reissue the interview in this format to get attention and implementation of some practical solutions.  We had a great conversation then if you’d like to listen to the entire episode. We’ve decided to include short snippets of each subtopic for your listening convenience as I expand upon each subtopic to make the case for proactive engagement, awareness, preparedness, and proactivity as well as training in violence response (active shooter and police response). Listen to the full episode here. https://bit.ly/3f6QhUN

 

There were three topics of particular interest that Hanna focused on that really emphasized the interview and aligned closely with the main theme and what we talked about during the show. Here they are:

 

You could be the subject of workplace violence and not know it.  OSHA has definitions of workplace violence to help employers formulate policies and captures the incidents under 4 specific Categories of Workplace Violence.  Let’s address what workplace violence covers. There are a lot of employees out there who do not know they are victims of workplace violence and who might assume because they do not know and not to report it.

 

Most workplaces to include school places do not truly understand the integration of workplace violence prevention as an organizational function. Workplaces operate believing that it can’t happen to them. They really should not think like that simply because workplaces and their workforce are a microcosm of our society. No business whether a small, medium, or large employer is immune from the reality of workplace violence.

 

Whatever the size or status of your workplace, each workplace should have a workplace violence prevention policy supported by a workplace violence prevention program. It doesn’t have to be complicated or complex, but it should cover specific aspects of the threats and risks your workplace might be exposed to or experiences. The threats and risks run the gamut from physical violence to emotional and traumatic violence otherwise known as psychological violence.

 

Because under the OSHA Duty to Warn Clause, employers are required to provide for a safe workplace violence free of any hazard that might lead to violence, they are expected to introduce workplace violence prevention policies and risk mitigation measures that include training and security measures.

 

The threat of workplace violence is a real and present danger that does not always have to include physical violence. The most frequent incidents are nonfatal such as verbal abuse such as verbal abuse which include name calling, insults, racial and ethnic slurs, taunting, harassment, bullying, sexual harassment, intimidation, threats, and nuisance behavior.

 

The idea is to address these so-called minor or nonfatal incidents as quickly as possible to avoid escalation. Stop the banter and drop the excuses.  OSHA annually documents approximately 2,000 reported incidents of what is commonly referred to as nonfatal and nonfatal incidents like an active shooter or homicide during a physical assault.  The objective is to establish a proactive workplace violence prevention mindset designed to inform the workforce through a policy that clarified what constitutes workplace violence, addresses mutual responsibilities, and speaks to the consequences for breaching the policy. Ultimately the objective is to avoid is the disgruntled employee whom you walk out the front door from returning through the unsecured back door.  https://youtu.be/eA79GElBktg

 

9 Potential workplace violence warning signs you need to know. While there are a host of red flags and warning signs that may apply to any type of workplace, my recommendation is to keep this subject as simple and practical as possible to encourage to overcome the fear of reporting his or her observation. Reporting of the coworker of misconduct is a difficult decision for the employee who relates to the problem and may be empathetic. It doesn’t mean they tolerate what they see, hear, or assume but that they do not want to be wrongly accused or might be concerned about their personal safety.

 

The purpose of workplace violence prevention training is to create a compelling training experience that encourages reporting based on red flags or warning signs and impact to workplace safety and security. The goal is early reporting and swift intervention whether it applies to an employee observation or suspicious non-employee report. Helping the workforce to appreciate the value of reporting is essential in gaining their cooperation.

 

Reporting can be anonymous or for attribution – just report it. One doesn’t have to be perfect or accurate only that it gets reported. Go with gut feelings supported by your training, suspicions, observations, and the recognized behaviors. Don’t put off the observation by rationalizing and justifying what was heard or seen. Waiting is not an option in addressing suspicious behavior.  We want to prevent escalation, prevent an assault, prevent problems by calling management’s attention appropriately and swiftly. https://youtu.be/zzajBm9w6qE

 

Why workplace violence prevention doesn’t need to be expensive. Small and midsize organizations lament over the thought because it will cost too much money and time for something that has never happened before. There is an old Lee Myles Transmission commercial – “pay me now or pay me later”.  Mandated court spending is a lot more than voluntary investment in prevention. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

 

Human Resources and Security Directors have a corporate responsibility that in many instances hampers their ability to stay on top of workplace violence prevention. Larger organizations can have a workforce spread about in multiple locations over many states and countries. Expense is a legitimate pushback on whether to hire or train their workforce onsite but not an area where the courts have been sympathetic to. Being resourceful means doing more within your budgets. Conducting employee surveys can yield incredible results. Don’t worry that will create more work. The worst witness in a civil liability lawsuit is the employee who knew but was never asked. responsibility.

 

I say if you have knowledgeable resources, and your confidence level is high, relying on your internal expertise to develop basic content and present appropriate training content with credibility will go a long way. That person could be a supervisor, the HR Professional. security manager or the safety manager. The truth is that overcoming the arguments of limited resources and time, creativity and imagination can make the workplace violence prevention initiative a cost-effective workforce safety and security investment. Doing it yourself does not have to be sophisticated – just do it and you’d be surprised at the results.  Keep it simple.

 

Resourcefulness is the tip of creativity and innovation.  Organizations that do not employee security managers can be creative in training supervisors. As leaders within organizations supervisors by virtue of their reach and accessibility by the workforce can make the difference. Used as trainers, supervisors can highlight areas of specific concern among their teams daily or as situations dictate. As leaders, supervisors can be the first line of defense in responding to employee reports and complaints, assessing incidents and conduct workplace specific assessments. They are in a strategic position to act swiftly and proactively to observations and employee reports.

 

Speaking of cost effective, the greatest tool that gets the most for the investment is the new employee orientation. It can be a time where the security and human resources can maximize this tool to engage the new employee in articulating the workplace violence prevention policy, explaining prohibited behavior, discussing situations, and emphasizing the value of responsibilities in reporting. This is an opportunity where company and the new employee establish a positive connection. Assumptions are dismantled through clarity. Remember, workplace violence is a microcosm of our society. Referring the new employee to the Employee Handbook will not clarify their assumptions of what is and isn’t.

 

As organizations grow in capacity or operate as larger organizations resourcefulness empowers innovation and creativity in the use of personnel. With a lot of employees, a lot of teams, and a lot of people and departments they can allocate, commit, and invest internal use of their workforce to conduct assessments, evaluate risks, respond to incidents more proactively and assertively.

 

Larger organizations and maybe midsize ones might have the flexibility to roll out dedicated workplace violence prevention personnel to ensure that things are moving along the right direction in support of the policy. They may even consider workplace violence prevention as a project, assigning a ‘project manager” assigned who makes sure needed follow up gets done effectively in alignment with the policy, guidelines, procedures, and timeliness.

 

“Terminations” are a necessary business function, but a difficult management decision that organizations must make. How they are conducted determines the outcome.  Having a separation or termination protocol in place gives aid and comfort to all involved that equity and justice are the objective of ensuring the employee is treated with dignity and respect as part of a professional process.

 

Workplace Violence Prevention is really a leadership function that facilitate activities in setting direction, aligning the effort, and coordinating teams and people to ensure they’re moving in that direction, motivating, and inspiring people at their core. Avoiding escalation and reducing negative emotions by containing problems and minimizing conflict is a leadership responsibility juries in civil cases like to see are in place. Leadership is the function that empowers any organization to maximize the moral and ethical responsibility to provide for a safe and secure workplace. Prevention is really an engaged workforce in organizations that integrates the effort, coordinates the process of prevention into a daily seamless effort through quality training assumed within the company culture. https://youtu.be/tNaQRAW0f0w

 

Listen to the full episode here. https://bit.ly/3f6QhUN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Marie Westmoreland Celebrates Her One Year Anniversary of Her Syndicated Radio Show “The Empowered Whistleblower”

Posted on: August 11th, 2021

This edition of News & Tips to Combat Workplace Violence – the Blog highlights Dawn Marie Westmoreland as the Guest Blogger discussing the “WHY”, “WHAT” and “HOW” of workplace violence and workplace violence prevention with Felix P. Nater, CSC, Nater Associates, Ltd.  Dawn celebrates her one-year anniversary of her syndicated radio show, “The Empowered Whistleblower”.  Dawn has featured yours truly on the “The Empowered Whistleblower” Show.

The interview focused on tragic workplace homicides specifically the April 15, 2021, shooting incident at the FedEx plant, Indianapolis, Indiana. This senseless incident resulted in the deaths of 8 coworkers and 5 injured totaling 13 victims who were innocently doing their respective jobs. Though this shooting incident was reported by the media and local police as an active shooter, this shooting was actually classified as a mass shooting.

What’s sad is that by April 2021, April was a deadly month of workplace homicides.  There were about 26 victims of workplace shootings. Unfortunately, that’s not all.  As of July 31, 411 mass shootings fitting the Mass Shooting Tracker project criterion, leaving 437 people dead and 1,688 injured, for a total of 2,125 total victims, some including the shooter(s). Though not all workplace related asking the question, why the penchant for violence?

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States_in_2021)

WHY? Most businesses do not report workplace violence that does not result in deaths or serious injuries. That’s due to lack of communication, fear of taking action, and of course, lack of awareness. But the numbers are hard to ignore regardless.

Dawn thought the message was appropriate and applicable today in reminding our audience that as employees we all deserve to work in safe and respectful work environments and that proactive measures can be taken to reduce the threat and minimize the risks.

Dawn Marie Westmoreland, who has 30 years’ experience working in HR, is not new to workplace conflict and personnel security threats. So, this edition is ripe in presenting an important opportunity to bring up that while it was Fedex then, it could be any workplace or educational institution that could be victimized in similar fashion tomorrow.

No workplace or educational institution is immune from the threat of workplace violence. How prepared are you really? Is the workplace active shooter an organizational prevention response or an unfortunate reaction to an unforeseen event?

WHAT? OSHA reports that there are about 2 million reported incidents of workplace violence annually. By workplace violence we mean nonviolent acts (verbal abuse, name calling, harassment, bullying, intimidation, and threats) and violent acts (throwing objects with intent to injure, fist fights, sexual assault, lethal force such as armed robbery and active shooter, bomb threats, and terrorist acts).

Dawn’s objective during the radio show, which was also videotaped, was to bring out the value of workplace violence prevention in taking proactive measures that help an organization understand prevention as a philosophy, forging a mindset that understand the approach to take to resolve issues, reduce conflict, deescalate incidents, minimize risk and roll out hasty intervention measures.

We can reduce active shooting incidents and mass shooting fatalities and keep employees safe by taking workplace violence head on. HOW?

By assessing their worksites, employers can identify methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring. OSHA believes that a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls, and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector and federal workplaces.

OSHA encourages employers to develop additional methods as necessary to protect employees in high-risk industries.” Source:  https://lnkd.in/d9mWD38

Click the link to see and listen to Dawn Marie Westmoreland interview Felix P. Nater, CSC, Security Management Consultant.   https://lnkd.in/dh4wr2q

If You Have to Terminate…. Stay Safe!

Posted on: July 10th, 2020

As I am about to publish my next Guest Blog by Mike Perkins, President of Frontline HR Solutions a 25 year Legal and HR Professional Consulting Practice, I would like to introduce a recent workplace homicide – suicide at a Walmart Distribution Center, Red Bluff, California by Louis Lesley Land a former worker who had been fired in 2019 after failing to show up for work.

On Saturday, June 27, 2020, Louis Lesley had apparently crashed his car into the center shooting his  semiautomatic rifle. Inside, he shot & killed one co-worker, injured 4 others, before being shot and killed by Red Bluff Police in Parking Lot. 

This particular story is a timely one as it relates to terminations and the potential risks, giving interest to this informative Guest Blog by Mike Perkins on the topic of “terminations”.  We both agree that while the process is the official termination of employment, we believe that the word has a negative connotation and the process needs to be considered a potential business-security threat.

I commend the Walmart Leadership and Security Teams for taking the appropriate workplace security and workplace violence prevention violence response risk mitigation measures, to prepare the workplace and protect the workforce against the potential threat posed by an armed intruder.

Here’s Mike Perkin’s information packed Guest Blog.

In this time of furloughs, layoffs, high unemployment, financial tension and uncertainty about the continued viability of many organizations, emotions are fragile and, sometimes, quite volatile.  Many companies are having to make difficult decisions about reducing their workforce for the unpredictable times that lie ahead.  Some companies are deferring employment decisions as long as possible while others are fighting for survival and having to make immediate cuts.  Essential workers who are still actively employed are worried about exposure to illness at work, while commuting on public transit, and during breaks.

Others who have been considered non-essential workers are often sitting at home wondering if they will still have a job, when they can return, and which creditors should be paid over others.  As the tension increases, substance abuse, domestic abuse and suicide rates are rising.

Terminating employees is always fraught with risk.  All these additional factors combine to exponentially increase the stakes. When it becomes necessary to discharge an employee, employers should do everything possible to reduce the tension and the risk for everyone involved.  Even before the Coronavirus-related growth of phone and video conferencing, I have been encouraging employers to consider utilizing alternatives to personal meetings and the use of “Administrative Leave” as practical strategies for risk mitigation.

Last year’s tragic workplace shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Joliet, Illinois, is a grave reminder of the danger that surrounds the discipline and termination process.  In that situation, an employee who knew he was likely going to be terminated that day, brought a gun to work and shot his plant manager, HR manager, an HR intern (on his first day at work), his union chairman and union steward, a co-worker, and several police first-responders.  The shooting began in an isolated meeting room where the employee was told he was being terminated and continued after he fled from the room and moved throughout the facility.

Sometimes you have no choice but to end the employment relationship.  Sometimes the decision is purely economic and relatively straightforward.  Other times, the decision is more complicated.

Most challenging is when, despite your best efforts to salvage the relationship, one of your employees is just not working out.  She may not be showing up for work on time despite repeated warnings.  Sometimes he may not show up at all and doesn’t call to let you know.  He or she may have taken advantage of the company by falsifying hours while working remotely.  Co-workers and customers are left hanging.  Maybe she continuously ignores safety rules and is endangering herself and others.  Or, maybe he has been engaging in serious misconduct that is detrimental to your organization.  You’re convinced—this employee has to go.

As an employment attorney and HR professional, I have always advised clients “There is no such thing as a routine termination” and “There is no such thing as an emergency termination.”  Does that sound confusing and, possibly, inconsistent?  Let me explain.

“There are no routine terminations.” Terminating a person’s employment can be nerve-wracking and, sometimes, dangerous.  The first few times a manager or an HR professional communicates a termination decision can be especially unsettling and they may spend hours fretting over the decision and planning their approach. But, after a while, managers who have handled several terminations sometimes have the tendency to treat them routinely and may spend very little time reviewing the background and contemplating the best approach to take with an employee.

They become “cut and dried” decisions and the termination message is often handled with clinical detachment.  The process becomes routine.

Conversely, losing a job is never routine for an employee.  Everything is thrown into turmoil—housing, transportation, utilities, healthcare, financial stability, and relationships at work and at home.  Often, a person’s most significant feeling of self-worth comes from his or her position at work.  Sometimes, their work is their entire world. Even when a struggling employee has been coached, disciplined and given warnings, the employee may not accept that he or she has failed at the job.  For many, being terminated is earth-shattering.  Some rebound, recover and move on.  Some do not.

Some turn to alcohol or drugs. Some lash out on social media.  Some turn to violence. Truly, there are no routine terminations.  Every termination should be treated as a significant event with extensive review of the background circumstances and documentation, an analysis of the legal and security risks, and consideration and planning for the safety and well-being of those delivering the message and those on the receiving end.

“There are no emergency terminations.”  The risk of an employment lawsuit arising from a termination is higher than all other types of employment-related actions combined.  Over the last twenty-five years, I have counseled with clients and managers concerning hundreds of terminations.

Despite “Let’s do it now” pressures from irate managers, I cannot think of one situation where it was absolutely necessary to discharge the employee immediately.

But wait.  If the employee is engaged in significant misconduct or posing safety risks, shouldn’t he or she be removed quickly?  Yes, but it does not mean the employee needs to be terminated quickly.  Hasty, spur-of- the-moment terminations often lead to questionable decisions, sloppy execution and elevated emotions.  Even economic terminations should be carefully planned.

Administrative Leave.  For the last several years, I have advocated the use of “Administrative Leave pending review” in lieu of a rushed termination.  Placing an employee on Administrative Leave accomplishes several things:

  1. Removes the employee from the workplace and from official interaction with co-employees and customers;
  2. Allows a “cooling off” period for emotions (employee, managers, co-workers);
  3. Allows time for gathering facts, documentation and witness information;
  4. Reduces the “intimidation factor” for witnesses when the subject employee is absent from the workplace;
  5. Lets the employee know the company is carefully reviewing his/her employment status or incidents affecting that status;
  6. Allows time to obtain the employee’s response to the alleged conduct;
  7. Allows time for HR and/or legal review; and
  8. Allows time to review safety concerns and put appropriate security measures into effect.

There is also a psychological influence.  Removing the employee from the workplace tends to create a calming effect for all involved. It gives everyone a chance to breathe.  I have found that employees generally respond calmly to being placed on Administrative Leave; especially when the leave is communicated as an opportunity for the company to carefully review employment status and any information pertaining to specific incidents that may have occurred.

Employees like to be told that they will have an opportunity to tell their side of the story.  They expect, and should receive, a thorough and fair review of the circumstances before a termination decision is made.

To Pay or Not to Pay?  Administrative Leave may be paid or unpaid.  Some factors in that decision may include: applicable state and local law, past practice, company policies, company economics, terms of a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, perceived volatility of the employee, nature of the offense, whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt, length of employment, legal risk, security considerations and the likelihood that the employee will actually be terminated.

In most cases, I recommend that the employee be paid while on administrative leave.

It helps take the immediate financial pressure off the employee and conveys a sense of fairness– that the company has not reached a final decision without doing its due diligence.  Sometimes, anticipating the inevitable, employees use this time for job hunting.  If the employee has another job lined up, the stakes are reduced for all involved.

Advising an employee that he or she is being placed on Administrative Leave can be done in person while the employee is at work or by telephone before or after work.  If the employee works remotely, it can be done by phone or video conference during work hours.  As usual, a witness should be present or conferenced in and announced as being present on the call or video conference.

The employee should be advised that he or she is being placed on “Administrative Leave Pending Investigation” or “Administrative Leave Pending Review of Circumstances” pertaining to employment.

The employee should be instructed not to return to the workplace until notified otherwise and avoid communicating with other employees about the issues being reviewed.  The employee should be advised whether the leave is “with pay” or “without pay” and that someone will contact the employee very soon to hear his or her side of the story.  The employee should be advised and steps should be taken to temporarily suspend access to company computers, systems, email, memory storage and facilities.

Be sure to follow through with the commitment to contact and interview the employee and witnesses identified by the employee before making a final employment decision.

Communicating the Decision.  At the conclusion of the investigation and review, the employee should be notified of the final decision and given instructions for returning to work or for ending employment.  If the decision is made to return the employee to work, the employee should be advised of this by telephone or email and then invited back to discuss (with a witness present) expectations for the future,  and conditions for continuing employment. This discussion can also be held by phone or video conference.

If in person, appropriate security measures should be followed for the employee’s return to the facility and for the return-to-work-meeting.

During this meeting, it is important to warn the employee to avoid any type of actual or perceived retaliation against other employees who may have been involved in the issue and investigation.

If the final decision is to terminate the employee, I advocate communicating the decision by telephone or video conference.  The Joliet shooting is reason enough to consider this option.  The employee is aware of the strong potential for termination and, absent special circumstances, it is not necessary to increase the security risk by inviting the employee back to the facility to be told he or she is being fired.

When there is a union contract that requires personal meetings, union officials may be willing to waive the personal appearance and allow all interviews, hearings and discussions to be conducted by phone or video conference.  If your collective bargaining agreement does not allow for this, consider proposing telephone or video conferencing as an option when you negotiate your renewal contract.

If the decision is made to ask the employee to return to the facility for a termination meeting, situationally-appropriate security steps should be taken.

As with the initial Administrative Leave communication, I have found that employees are generally more accepting of a termination decision when it follows Administrative Leave review.  My clients and I have not experienced any negative repercussions from communicating the final decision by phone.  A witness should be present and introduced so the employee will know there are others listening to the call or participating in a video conference.  I recommend being very careful with the words used to communicate the message.

Avoid using words like “terminating” or “fired.”  They are volatile on their face and have the potential to inflame emotions.

Instead, consider using words like “we are ending your employment,” “we will be proceeding with separation of employment” or “the circumstances leave us no choice but to discontinue your employment.”  Of course, all the normal termination, final pay and benefits continuation information should also be communicated during this conference.

If your company follows a neutral reference policy, it is usually advisable to remind the employee of that policy.  Terminated employees are often concerned with “what are they going to tell people about me?”

Where appropriate, be sure to include a clear instruction that the employee is not authorized to return to any of the company’s facilities.  Arrangements should be made for exchange of employee property and company property via courier or other means. When available, remind the employee of the organization’s employee assistance program resources and any appropriate outplacement assistance.

If the employee has engaged in serious misconduct such as harassment, theft, or acts/threats of violence, it is recommended that you consult with legal counsel for advice about outplacement assistance and your response to reference requests.

There is a fine line between your confidentiality responsibilities to the former employee and your duty to others to avoid promulgating a known risk.

The somber story of the Joliet tragedy should prompt HR and operational leaders to thoroughly evaluate their approach to employee discipline and discharge.  While the use of Administrative Leave is an effective strategy for reducing the risk surrounding employee discipline, it does not eliminate all risk.

Employers should always exercise due diligence and implement adequate security measures to protect themselves and their employees throughout the disciplinary and post-disciplinary process.

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

Lockdown Drills & Kids: Teaching Lifesaving Skills to Children of All Abilities…

Posted on: April 19th, 2019

As a workplace security consultant specializing in workplace violence prevention, what I do with the Client must create sustainability long after I am gone. Organizational resources must be considered when developing training content. The need to be as realistic must not outweigh the organization’s capabilities to sustain the effort.

School and workplace violence response strategies and tactics are important but at what expense? Should the “training approach” to active shooter be one designed around the means justifies the end or around creating the best retentive value around the execution of thoughtful programming that encourages and promotes quality training objectives?

Should those involved be traumatizing students, staff and workers for the purpose of making training as realistic as possible? According to the research the facts are not clear. In the 25 plus years I have been exposed to workplace violence and workplace violence prevention, it’s been my intentional desire to create training that stimulated learning and motivated retention of the content based on mutually collaborative experiences. The idea is to design training with organizational effectiveness in mind.

A recent “active shooter” drill in Indiana made my skin crawl. As someone who came from a military and law enforcement background, I was horrified to discover that local law enforcement officers told teachers to kneel along a wall while they were shot execution style with plastic bullets trying to demonstrate reality.

This is exactly what happens when corporate leaders and school superintendents fail to involve themselves in the decision-making process while leaving it up to others to decide what’s good for your school or workplace environments. Any role I may play as a security consultant must be predicated on organizational input and desired outcomes.

For example, how may reading this blog have been instructed on management responsibilities, prolonged lockdown issues, special needs and family support preparation considerations and planning related to an active shooter? Probably a few, maybe! You know why? Simply because there is a lack of experience based and knowledge centered training and consulting taking place today more than ever without specific facts.

In my interest to give the active shooter training challenge credibility and perspective, I am always seeking to find professionals with a unique and  thoughtful education and learning methodology that serves to create understanding and responsible actions.

In some instances schools are already described as prison comps by students, teachers and parents as environments that expose students to other risks, say parents who speak under anonymity. I don’t say eliminate the training but rather suggest that such training be thoughtful and deliberate.

This issue of my blog highlights the efforts of Guest Blogger Rachel Tepfer Copeland and her child’s experience during a preschool lock down exercise. You must know that my blogs often attracts direct phone calls from interested readers and concerned victims, witnesses and observers who have value to add, offer support and their services.

Rachel Tepher Copeland a Certified Child Life Specialist struck me as the type of guest blog contributor I desire to collaborate with because of the value and lessons that can be learned from such experiences, if we are to be a part of the solution in supporting the need for quality active shooter and lock down training moving forward.

Such training should not exploit the school or the workplace’s fears. It’s my opinion that active shooter drills marginally, if at all improve safety of teachers, students and workers, while exposing them to mental trauma and physical injury. The decision to bring in local police trainers or to hire the expert consultant should be predicated on past performance, knowledge of content, delivery capability and desired outcomes. There are states like Iowa, Florida and South Carolina and others interested in passing laws requiring these drills in public schools. I agree with the training need but disagree with the mandate for a variety of reasons implied and addressed in this blog.

Here’s Rachel Tepher Copeland and her preshooler’s experience for your information.

Rachel:

One afternoon I went to pick up my son from preschool and he was very obviously shaken and upset. A generally chatty guy, I was concerned when he had a difficult time telling me what had happened.

The most I could gather was that the class had played a strange game where the children had hidden in the dark behind backpacks. Then it dawned on me, it was a lock-down drill. The more questions I asked my son, the more concerned I became. We quickly turned the car around and headed back to speak with the preschool director of the highly vetted private preschool he attended.

After further conversation, I found that my son had become scared, overwhelmed and upset during the drill because he did not know or understand what was happening. He did not feel comfortable hiding with the class in the tight quarters and became upset. In an effort to make him more comfortable, the teachers removed him from the bathroom and placed him, alone, in the darkened classroom.

He was told to hide behind a backpack located right next to the large window and to stay there until someone came back for him. Then the teachers went back inside the bathroom with the other children and locked the door. I was furious. I was heartbroken. But more than anything, I was scared.

As a Certified Child Life Specialist since 2004, my job has always been to talk to children about scary and overwhelming situations and make them easier to understand. Reading books to children is an amazing way to take something terrifying and make it relatable, especially for the very young. Social stories are one of my favorite means of preparing children for difficult situations. I love social stories because they are perfect for children of any ability, as they are a positive, empowering story written in first person language, which encourages and empowers children to learn new difficult skills.

After my son’s horrific experience, I searched everywhere for a book with easy to understand directions that would be appropriate for my son to learn about lock-downs and how to keep himself safe. However, no matter where I looked, I could only find books for much older children.

There was nothing age appropriate or all-encompassing in a social story format. Additionally, all of the resources I found discussed option-based teaching (i.e. run, hide, fight).

While these are sometimes successful options for adults, options-based teaching is neither developmentally appropriate nor feasible for young children or children with special needs.

After searching the market and finding it bare, I decided to write my own book for my son. Originally, I created a single copy of the book I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown just for him, however, after another major school shooting occurred only miles from our home, I decided to self-publish it and make it available to anyone who might also find it helpful.

I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown is now an Amazon best seller and has been endorsed by several safety organizations, including Safe and Sound Schools and Safe Havens Interventional.

I am proud to have created a resource that helps to decrease anxiety while also teaching children of all developmental abilities how to remain safe. My website, RachelTepferCopeland.com , also provides tips and information for parents and educators about lockdowns.

My son is very proud of the book we have created- in fact the main character is a cartoon replica of him. He no longer has issues during lockdowns and was able to complete a drill successfully without any problems.

Many children, however, are not as lucky. While necessary, lockdown drills themselves cause trauma to young children—the recent viral picture of a child with a goodbye note written on her arm to her parents only one example.

As educators, parents, safety professionals, and professionals that work with children, we need to remember that providing age appropriate and child-friendly information to children about what to expect and how to respond is respectful of children, their feelings and needs.

To ignore the situation, to assume that it is just like other drills that children complete regularly or to compare it to duck and cover drills of more seasoned parents’ youth is not the same.

A recent Washington Post report revealed that during the 2017-2018 school year alone, over 4.1 million children enduring a lock-down drill. Over 220,000 of those children were in pre-school and kindergarten. We have the choice of either preparing our children in advance or dealing with the after affects of the trauma they suffer.

I’ve chosen to preemptively prepare my child and to teach him what to do if he was to ever face a true active situation. We all have a choice to make. We can either sit around and read about the horrific things that are happening in our company and wonder “when are things going to change? When is somebody going to do something about that?!”

Or we can each realize that we ARE somebody. Teaching young children how to keep themselves safe while decreasing anxiety is something that you can do right now. And there’s no day better than the present to make a difference, and maybe even save some lives.

Felix:

It’s my opinion as a workplace security management consultant specializing in workplace violence prevention that students and employees should not be exposed to physical or traumatic injury just to create a training reality. Such training should be tied to the organizational prevention strategy that takes all of the related issues into consideration as life survival immediate protective measures.

They should be designed to educate and prepare those involved to respond appropriately in a way that empowers them to react with a measured sense of command and control of their situation. A dad of a middle schooler told me that his son told him that it made no sense to run back to his classroom when it made more sense to exit through the nearby doors.

 

Workplace Violence Prevention – Proactive or Reactive

Posted on: November 16th, 2016

So what does workplace violence prevention mean to you?  https://www.naterassociates.com/what-does-workplace-violence-prevention-mean-to-you/

Is your Workplace Violence Prevention Policy a living document? A policy that is part of a process that began with senior management understanding, commitment and investment, supported by plans, procedures and training?  Can it withstand an unannounced OSHA Inspection because the OSHA 4 categories of workplace violence prevention and guiding principles are the foundation of your policy? Your Workplace Violence Prevention Initiative should have the appreciation of the workforce in understanding your concerns about their safety and security. The policy does not belong on the SHELF.

The intent of this Blog is to encourage organizations to create an organizational culture that reinforces the OSHA Workplace Violence Prevention guidance in developing your own prevention and violence response philosophy. I think OSHA has been ahead of the game for years, it’s just that some of us worried about “other people’s statistics”and what others were doing instead of worrying about your own data and what you should have been doing at our own workplaces.

Management commitment & investment. One approach is a model that focuses on the value of integration & collaboration of resources as a work in progress. Accepting that violence in workplaces is preventable & manageable when leaders employ a multi-dimensional & multi-disciplinary approach that holds itself accountable. Be Proactive!

  • Prepare  for the “WHEN,” not the “IF”
  • Recognize the realities and take appropriate measures
  • Maximize the value of shared resources
  • Enforce & support existing plans
  • Adopt innovative proactive strategies
  • Conduct internal and external ongoing self-assessments & validations

Workplace Violence Prevention Starts with The Recognition of the Aggression Behaviors and Managing The Outcome… https://www.naterassociates.com/workplace-violence-prevention-starts-with-the-recognition-of-the-aggression-behaviors-and-managing-the-outcome/

Proactive workplace violence prevention takes place when senior management understands the commitment and the needed investment in supporting quality training, policy, plans and procedures that prepare employees to be a part of the prevention methodology and security technology in the protection of the workforce and stakeholders.

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

So what if anything are you doing to protect your organizations against their new enforcement directive? https://www.naterassociates.com/new-osha-directive-tackles-workplace-violence-concerns/

In the last 15 years, deaths resulting from workplace violence have ranked among the top four causes of occupational fatalities in American workplaces and remains in the top 5 areas of workplace security concerns.  In response to this serious threat to worker safety, OSHA released a new compliance and enforcement directives on Sept of 2011 that offers procedures for agency staff who respond to workplace violence cases or complaints. Caution is always recommended in assuming that compliance is prevention but it at least takes a leap forward in being proactive as a regulatory body.  If you don’t educate on the value of prevention, compliance merely becomes another checklist protecting the organization but doing very little for education and increased awareness.

“The Directive identifies several broad categories of workplaces that OSHA says are prone to workplace violence, including sites where employees work with the public or volatile, unstable people, sites where employees work alone or in isolated areas, sites where employees handle money or valuables, and sites at which employees provide services and care. The Directive goes on to describe other factors that can create the likelihood of workplace violence, such as working late at night or working in areas with high crime rates”.

Don’t wait or hesitate! Are you open to a different approach to workplace violence prevention? If you interested you may want to contact me. https://www.naterassociates.com/start-workplace-violence-training/

10 Practical Workplace Violence Prevention Tips to Energize Your Honorable Intentions

Posted on: February 15th, 2016

Workplaces tend to avoid developing comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs probably because they associate comprehensive with complicated. Comprehensive merely means taking a broad view of what workplace violence means and how it affects your workplace and workforce and applying appropriate strategies and measures. To me comprehensive can mean practical. Practical can apply to complex situations in breaking down assignments and responsibilities in coordinating the effort.

In this Blog, practical workplace violence prevention tips are just that, common sense, cost effective tactics that workplaces can implement and manage without investing a whole lot of money, time and energy spent arguing for or against logical implementation of prevention measures. Practical simply means KISS (Keep It Simple Silly). I would like workplace leadership to think in terms of small nuggets as in an ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure. In short, it is hopeful that these 10 practical tips can dismantle the notion of being complicated in favor of developing an approach supervisors and security personnel can adopt. The intent of this discussion is to start a robust discussion that considers workplace violence prevention well within your own capability and ability to implement and manage interdependent, with minimal outside intervention.

Why is implementing and managing a workplace violence prevention initiative important to your pocketbook and brand?  According to the requirements established by OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Administration) employers are obligated to provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm…to employees.” 

Creating an agile and proactive workplace violence prevention program insulates the workplace against possible charges of dereliction and negligence in civil liability law suits or by employee organizations. In addition, it sends a message that Zero Tolerance is not the definition of termination but of a proactive intervention strategy that looks at every reported incident for possible root causes and contributing factors. Creating credible complaint reporting system and hasty resolution process can benefit an organization when supervisors are actively engaged, as part of a culture of zero tolerance. Without a credible complaint reporting system employees lose trust and confidence in the workplace violence prevention policy. Credible reporting can be anonymous as well.

These suggested practical workplace violence prevention tips will not only energize workplaces or an educational institution’s prevention efforts, but “incentivize” the performance and initiative by avoiding OSHA citations. While these OSHA citations are not necessarily financially debilitating, they are a negative impact on the internal and external public image, adversely affecting the Brand, employee morale, performance and production.

Here are 10 Practical Workplace Violence Prevention Tips to help identify the potentially at risk workplace in preventing escalation, managing aggression and protecting the workforce. These tips are not intended to be the end all but a part of an ongoing integrated and coordinated seamless process:

  1. Review and reissue your Workplace Violence Prevention and/or Harassment Policy Statement annually if needed.
  2. Instruct and remind supervisors of their responsibility to report, document, assess and evaluate every complaint as part of the hasty complaint resolution effort.
  3. Take the time to review incidents in a timely manner to identify repeat offenders, repeat incidents, patterns, gaps in security and identifying situations requiring immediate attention.
  4. Instruct and remind employees that reporting at risk situations and employees is their responsibility in preventing escalation and at risk situations.
  5. Instruct and remind employees of the organization’s workplace violence prevention policy reporting protocols and procedures as necessary.
  6. Review your visitor protocol policy to include visitor management and access control for all visitors especially former employees, spouses and families.
  7. Review your domestic violence/intimate partner/personal relationship policy to ensure employees know what services are offered and what their responsibilities are.
  8. Train supervisors & managers in how best to hastily manage at risk situations in providing needed intervention.
  9. Test your emergency evacuation plan to respond to a hostile intruder/active shooter threat procedures.
  10. Managers should conduct frequent on site work-site specific assessments of employee work settings and operations.

“Because workplace violence prevention should be an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies, these tips can make the process cost-effective, proactive and seamless.”

Seamless can mean many things to different people, for the benefit of this Blog, seamless means the ability to integrate, collaborate and coordinate resources with little disruption, cost effectively, efficiently and routinely. In other words, you will not need to have a large human resource department fixated on prevention or an armed security force as an employee confidence builder or even a large budget.

Armed personnel are not immune from the societal, environmental or family risk factors. Investing a lot of money does not mean effective either.  The focus must be on “prevention.” What we really need is an organizational culture that understands leadership’s role in workplace violence prevention, preventing escalation, resolving conflict and managing aggression.

Experience teaches workplace violence prevention consultants that having a well-trained supervisory workforce in aspects of workplace violence prevention can be effective in managing the potentially hostile workplace and at risk work settings. Workplaces that recognize the value of prevention realize that having robust, agile and proactive (RAP) interdiction strategies really contributes to the cost-effective, seamless coordination and results.

For those of us who do not subscribe to the myths of workplace violence we’re ahead of the problem because proactive workplace violence prevention interdiction strategies are key in effectively reducing risks by managing potentially hostile situations and employees. We know that a proactive workplace violence prevention program creates a trusting workforce that believes that management’s effort are not just lip services, but a commitment and investment in workforce safety and security. This investment must start at the top with clear expectations and go to the bottom of the workforce and meet at the center in achieving understanding. I have seen this play out in several organizations with positive results.

Preventing workplace violence is a duty, legal and moral responsibility CEOs, Executive Directors and Agency Administrators have as part of their fiduciary roles. Those of us responsible for workplace violence prevention can benefit from having a robust, agile, and proactive approach in managing aggression, at risk situations and taking immediate corrective measures. If interested in moving in this direction the approach is not difficult?

The San Bernardino Shootings: Was it Workplace Violence or Domestic Terrorism?

Posted on: December 6th, 2015

I am not trying to take on the those bigger than me but, I see many lessons learned from this San Bernardino tragedy that has increased my passion to do the right thing for the right reasons. Whatever the media, law enforcement, politicians or the employer finally decide to call the San Bernardino Shootings is their prerogative based on their investigations. The law enforcement the effort is commendable leaving no stone unturned, I understand their concern and due diligence .  I have a saying, “I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” (I don’t know who said it, I just live by it.) In the meantime, we must collaborate to insure we do not misidentify this incident.  I prefer under speculation and over delivering. A security management consultant with a specialty in workplace violence prevention never limits the options in arriving at the most holistic assessment.

Judging from all the varying raw news reports, it is difficult to dismiss the workplace connection.  After all, there were employee observations and witness accounts pertaining to a possible workplace dispute at the party. 

We know something occurred at the San Bernardino County Health Department holiday party at the Inland Regional Center between employee(s) and Syed Rizwan Farook.  Whatever transpired, it triggered an angry reaction causing the employee to leave the party.  Coincidentally, witness accounts have since described the shooter who had left the party earlier as possibly being Farook.  We will never know what actually escalated to such retaliatory anger unless those involved come forward to disclose their knowledge.

The holistic workplace violence prevention assessment views the workplace incident from a variety of angles in arriving at conclusions and recommendations. Even while law enforcement appropriately pursues the shooting as an act of terrorism, there is some grounded speculation that this incident may relate to employees and a workplace related unresolved dispute. For most of us who view holiday parties as an opportunity to relax and let our hair down, holiday parties and other settings where employees mix joviality with disgruntled attitudes there exist a mixture for fueled hostilities.  Who knows what might have been said at the holiday party or whether there was ill will over a prolonged period of time.  Only an independent critical assessment of the facts, circumstances and observations will help lead to what might have actually triggered the shooting.

What has been reported is that San Bernardino County employees Syed Rizwan Farook and others were engaged in some verbal altercation at the holiday party.  Media reports have also developed varying witness accounts of their observations who said that shortly before Farook stormed out of the party he appeared upset about something.

Others have said that one of the shooters who had his face covered sounded and appeared like the employee in question, saying he appeared similar to the employee who left the party earlier.  What we know as fact is that Farook along with his wife, Tashefeen Malik are dead.

Law enforcement has an obligation to establish what happened, the motive and determine if the shootings were a Mass Shooting, Domestic Terrorism or Workplace Violence. Truthfully, violence of this type in my mind’s eye is “workplace terrorism”! I have written on the topic of workplace violence and domestic terrorism in the past. The fact remains that Mr. Farook was a San Bernardino County employee who either had an unresolved grievance or ongoing dispute with a co-worker(s).  Existing, unresolved workplace disputes and social events sponsored by the employer are nasty combinations for mismanaged grievances and ongoing conflict.  These are observations and clues that can offer perspective and shed some light. Lessons can be learned regardless of the outcome in the need to develop comprehensive workplace violence prevention and violence response policies and plans and training for all levels of the workforce.  

As we view the threat of workplace violence and the impact on the workplace and worker safety, emotions run rampant.  It is not unusual for employee perpetrators of such violence to store weapons and ammunitions prior to their deadly rampage. The Nation’s first workplace mass murder occurred at the Edmonton Post Office, Oklahoma, August 19, 1986. Robert Sherill, letter carrier at the Edmonton Post Office entered the Post Office carrying his mailbag over his shoulder. In the bag were two. 45 caliber semi-automatic pistols, property of the National Guard and his own .22 caliber handgun.  At his home law enforcement found more guns and stacks of magazines, mostly of Soldier of Fortune and Soviet Life. Draw your own conclusions! 

Person’s feelings exposed to ongoing harassment, verbal abuse and unresolved bullying creates a sense of festering and intimidation. Poor management intervention implies disparate treatment, poor supervision and poor leadership create harsh feelings in the hearts and minds of alleged victims.  These feelings in some are sufficient enough to create validation and justification for their intended retaliatory decisions and subsequent actions. We must keep in the mind that mental illness can’t be the rationale used to always describe these “perpetrators”.  

Pre-planning is essential. This particular incident isn’t only about news coverage and reporting speculation, it is about realities that regardless of the speculation, indicates little investment in workplace violence prevention and violence response policy and training. More can be done to increase situational awareness through quality workplace violence prevention training to prepare employees to respond appropriately anywhere to a homicidal threat of  homicidal violence. Such training when designed with the workplace in mind considers the unique worksites and the employee risk factors.

According to news reports there was mass confusion at the Inland Regional Center.  Responding police officers said, fire alarms were blaring and there were employees who were reluctant to comply with their request to exit the center.  Such observations indicate those employees were not aware of what to do during such an emergency.  Training has to prepare the work force to be better prepared and informed of what options and courses of action to take, the police response and police encounter and post incident notification instructions. 

Discovery by law enforcement of 12 pipe bombs, tools and components to construct IEDs or pipe bombs, weapons and ammunition are not out of the norm in describing the active shooter mindset.  Active Shooters typically progress through five stages: fantasy stage, planning stage, preparation stage, approach stage and implementation stage. Each stage has a unique set of behaviors and activities on the way to the final stage. The materials and weapons found at the Farook home appear consistent with the patterned behavior within the active shooter mindset as in the Robert Sherill Post Office Murders cited above. In other words, it would not be unusual to use IEDs to create confusion or distractions. However, there are always distinctions that can be made and applied in any unique situation such as in these shootings.  This tragedy may just as well be a shooting involving domestic terrorism, I want to seize the moment to extract valuable lessons we can learn apply.  But, on the surface it appears to be the act of a disgruntled employee whom for whatever reason(s) transitioned to become an angry killer with possible domestic terrorism implications.

Minor incidents of workplace violence occur daily in every type of business whether you know it or not or care to know about it. Victims of workplace violence often tell their doctors, families, friends, neighbors, law enforcement, and pastor of their frustrations before reporting it to their supervisors out of fear of reprisals.  Lately I can include myself on this list.  

That’s why it’s important for workplace leaders to cautiously consider external statistics not reflective of their own data collection of reported incidents. Considering other national statistics in the implementation of workplace violence prevention and violence response strategy could be faulty.  Avoiding the need to prepare on the probability of occurrence in the end may not be prudent.  Such risk management practices suggest such an incident can never happen and “IF” it does happen the police can handle it. So if it’s a management’s belief that it is highly improbable a workplace shooting will ever happen, the prudent decision to invest may not happen.  Employers have an ethical, moral and legal duty to provide the workforce a safe workplace. Courts do not weigh lack of budgets and corporate culture in considering responsibility. 

Workplaces experience varying levels of verbal abuse, name calling, harassment and intimidating behavior by employees on employees, non-employees and opportunistic criminals.  The concern is whether the workplace has policies and procedures in place to handle such incidents in managing the potentially hostile workplace. 

When organizations fail to recognize the need to take proactive workplace violence prevention measures, they contribute to unintentional consequences and are surprised by employee/former employee acts of violence. From the observations and speculation, the San Bernardino shooting appears to have a workplace relationship. One report said that  Farook and a co-worker had a heated argument over Farook’s Islam Religion several weeks earlier.  As such the consequences are huge in terms of loss of life, physical injury and psychological trauma.  The unfortunate reality is that these incidents force employers to take a closer look at their workplace security and not their workplace violence prevention strategy. And even when post shooting recommendations state specific changes be adopted, these implementations are often slow because of internal disagreements and budgets. In some cases recommendations are not yet adopted.

Surely, we must agree that preparing for the “IF” it happens instead of “WHEN” it happens is not the right business-security approach. “IF” implies denial or reluctance to implement proper procedures and protocols. Employers who dismiss the need for quality workplace violence prevention policies to include procedures, protocols and training are uninformed and unaware of the impact and are misinformed about the value of strategies tied to quality training.  Just having a written workplace violence prevention policy is not enough. the workforce must have knowledge of what to do upon witnessing an incident and when they are victims; and supervisors must know how to assess and evaluate reported incidents.

So, does your company have a workplace violence prevention and violence response policy? Have you been trained on the policy, procedures and protocols? How frequently? On a 1-10 point rating scale, how effective do you rate the training you’ve received? From your experiences, what is your gut feeling about the San Bernardino Tragedy?

Remember, once a disgruntled employee transitions to thoughts of homicidal violence, those thoughts and subsequent decisions were likely predicated on their validation and justification based on their perceptions of unfairness, disparity and exposure. In the end this may well be a case of “domestic terrorism” tied to an international group.  How prepared are you now? What protective measures are in place?