If You Have to Terminate…. Stay Safe!

Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

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?

 

What Does Workplace Violence Prevention Mean to You?

Posted on: September 9th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New OSHA Directive Tackles Workplace Violence Concerns…What Are You Doing About It?

Posted on: June 14th, 2015

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”. 

OSHA’s directive focuses on two primary questions to determine whether or not an investigation or citation is appropriate: 

(1) Did the employer recognize potential hazards in the workplace?and (2) Are there feasible means of preventing or minimizing such hazards?

While incidents of Workplace Homicides are down, according to recent workplace violence reports, threats posed by the active shooter/hostile intruder are a workplace security nightmare with capacity to immobilize unprepared workplaces. However, the threat posed by nonfatal violent acts of workplace violence are a daily occurrence. Nonfatal acts of violence like harassment, threats, intimidation have been on the increase while destruction and sabotage of systems, equipment, property and vehicles ranks high as the weapon for the non-violent offender.  Workplaces should not only look at the homicidal threat of workplace violence but for the reasons why an employee might “go postal’. I don’t use the term to denigrate any organization but to emphasize the real and present danger that exist in workplaces when they fail to take “PREVENTION” seriously.

Sometimes the workplace culture contributes to the  unintentional consequences of workplace violence through its policies, practices, procedures, management and supervision.  The unknown impact of the nonfatal, non-violent incidents committed by nonviolent employees are cause for concern among supervisors, managers and human resources professionals who contend with them on a daily basis. Harassment, bullying, sabotage to systems and operations, product contamination, theft of sensitive information, compromise of proprietary information, theft of services, identity theft, work slow down etc., etc., contribute to diminished productivity and performance and increased stress.

Acts of defiance by non-violent people are as disruptive as the more serious “assaultive” conduct that leads to injury and even death. Such behavior gives rise for concern in our workplaces from groups who might resort to non-violent act of retaliation as described above. Do not make the assumptions in dealing with the threat of workplace violence. Defiance is a safe way for this type of offender to exact his or her vengeance without causing physical harm to people and yet get even. Disgruntled employees in particular take out their frustration in very unique ways simply because they have access to workplaces and vulnerable areas. When it comes to justification and rationale, imagination runs the gamut in terms of creative misconduct and reasoning.

Workplace Violence Prevention Policies and Plans can better serve the workplace in identifying potential contributing factors and at risk situations through collaboration and integration of resources. Violent prone employees become so by their workplace exposures, environmental and societal experiences or perhaps even changes in their personal, medical and mental well-being. The lead-in to acts of homicidal vengeance is a methodical choice that, I think is based on their extreme brand of rationale and justification. Exploitation of the workplace by the non-violent employee who engages in nonfatal, non-violent acts of workplace violence serve to harass and threaten the safety and security of other employees who, can find themselves retaliating if, they feel management is insensitive or frustrations rise through perceptions. This is why it’s important to act hastily on all employee reports and complaints and protect victims, witnesses and complainants. Workplaces that are not equipped to anticipate or recognize the known hazards or take preventative, precautionary and corrective measures are likely targets of opportunity for an unannounced OSHA Inspection.

Employers can take these 5 OSHA recommended steps prior to any incidents to keep their employees safe and minimize the risk of investigations or citations by OSHA:

1.  Analyze potential workplace hazards.

2. Implement reasonable safety measures.

3. Train employees.

4. Develop record-keeping practices.

5.  Reassess hazards periodically.

Workplace can take the implementation of Workplace Violence Prevention and Security Awareness seriously. Begin the process by conducting thoughtful critical assessment of your workplace violence prevention and security policies, plans and procedures. Conduct  work-site specific risk assessments and include security and business practices alike. Include employees in the process by utilizing surveys that attempt to uncover signs of disgruntled behavior, unknown hazards and situations or conditions exacerbated by poor supervision and the unintentional consequences of management business practices. Reduce existing security gaps in your current operations identified by the assessments. Institute countermeasures that provide as early warning signals of problems on the rise.

Support employee victims and complainants who come forward. Aggressively respond to and monitor employee hotline or complaint lines. Create an impression that the leadership cares through hasty intervention and monitoring.

Don’t assume that non-violent acts of workplace violence will not rise to a level of homicidal concern because you will find yourself asking why didn’t you take preemptive measures early on. Know that this threat’s capability while immediately  unknown is devastating in terms of impact on people and the organization’s performance, production, standing and brand along the way.

Take the following 10 steps NOW to minimize your risks and identify contributory practices and procedures:

  • Be proactive.
  • Implement credible reporting systems.
  • Educate supervisors and managers on recognizing at risk situations.
  • Conduct a thorough workplace specific violence risk assessment.
  • Review existing workplace violence prevention policy and plans, security management and emergency preparedness measures.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your emergency evacuation plans as part of your violence response training.
  • Train your workforce on the impact and consequences of violent and non-violent acts.
  • Hold all employees accountable and responsible for engaging in or failing to report at risk situations & employees &  others.
  • Conduct annual facility and employee assessments and training.
  • Include workplace violence prevention in your New Employee Orientations.

You don’t want to be the employer of the employee who the media seems to always locate in the aftermath who says, “They knew he or she was nuts. We saw what he/she did”. When an incident occurs is not the time to prepare but to properly react.

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

Posted on: March 8th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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