Workplace Security is a Holistic Approach. Letter & Parcel Bombs Pose a Significant Risk to The Workforce. In this CNN report Felix P. Nater, CSC President of Nater Associate’s, Ltd. and former Postal Inspector addresses the protective measures Postal Inspectors deploy in protect the Postal Service & Public at large.
Letter & Parcel Bombs Pose a Significant Risk to The Workforce
Archive for the ‘Risk Management’ Category
When I speak with people about the topic of workplace violence prevention, their responses indicate their understanding of what constitutes workplace violence prevention.
“Our Zero Tolerance Policy addresses our workplace violence prevention efforts”.
“Management deals with such problems with discipline and if necessary we terminate the problem employees.”
“We call the police when we have a situation we can’t handle.”
“Security problems that our employees have in the community are referred to the police.”
What I hear are cookie-cutter responses because workplace violence consist of physical violence and non-violence related behaviors like harassment, bullying, name calling, verbal abuse, intimidation, threatening conduct, stalking, sabotage and cyber security threats. It is not waiting for the homicidal incident! OSHA documents about 2 million such incidents annually. We believe that number is much higher simply because it is underreported as workplace violence.
In short, what I hear is a rational that seems devoid of an articulated top down organizational workplace or school prevention and violence response strategy. It appears that prevention is based on assumptions, convenient decisions and expedient actions.
They seem not to know what they don’t know and convinced themselves they know – “Doing the same thing over & over, expecting different results.”
Here are the 3 of the most common myths most often applied over the years:
MYTH #1: Workplace violence will not happen here.
“Too many workplace cultures subscribe” to the theory that Zero Tolerance puts employees on notice that such behavior will not be tolerated. Experience has shown that employees are reluctant to report their co-workers if it means disciplinary action. Others believe that their background screening will help them hire the right person. Truth is that background screening cannot predict what an employee with diminished coping skills will do in the future in managing conflict. So applying the “walk like a duck it is a duck” euphemism may not apply in addressing workplace violence. Best Practices have a place so long as they are not applied as a blanket solution without adaptability and flexibility.
Some organizations believe that employing armed guards will discourage the homicidal threat of violence. The question I always pose is who protects the workplace against the lone armed guard. The solution is not the lone armed guard but the prevention strategy.
With the emphasis on the homicidal threat of violence the nonfatal acts of violence are treated as employee misconduct and improperly addressed. Contributing factors are rarely identified because the focus is on the employee misconduct and not “why” the employee became aggressive, confrontational or threatening. So while the focus may be on the active shooter threat, we forget to focus on prevention to identify the contributing factors that might very well lead to such aggression and a civil liability suit for failing to foresee a recognizable hazard.
Assumptions about workplace violence and the value of prevention nullify the thinking required in the development of a comprehensive holistic workplace violence prevention program intended to be proactive.
MYTH #2: Workplace violence is not preventable.
This myth more or so applies to the threat posed by the non-employee opportunistic criminal, armed robber or domestic violence/intimate partner violence threat but should not apply to the employee threat. The employee threat is PREVENTABLE. There are workplaces that subscribe to the common belief, at least in part to the notion that the disgruntled employee is hard to detect and therefore hard to deal with. As such, workplaces do not invest in developing adequate prevention strategies, measures and procedures to proactively engage prevention measures. The reasoning may defer to this belief due to expediency in their efforts because it may lack senior management commitment and investment in proper training and alignment of resources.
Creating a culture of organizational responsibility, accountability and leadership can go a long way towards building employee trust and confidence in reporting their observations. Key is to create employee engagement based on credibility in reporting, accountability and supervision so that witnesses and victims can believe proper action will be taken. .
MYTH #3: We have workplace violence under control.
We have things under control is the typical response I’ve heard from larger organizations that believe they have matters under control and they very well may have. In speaking with some of their representatives, I am impressed by the level of commitment and investment. While they rely on their Zero Tolerance Policy there appears to be a coordinated effort between Human Resources, Security and other departments. However, I wonder how many of such organizations have actually surveyed their workforce in receiving actual feedback? In order to tap into their workplace realities, management must ask the workforce about their experiences and actual impressions in evaluating the organization’s workplace violence prevention posture. Transparency in responding to employee reports and complaints will give the prevention effort credibility.
Maximize the Prevention Value through Multiple Intervention Strategies
Prevention is directly linked to how organizations intentionally manage the workplace violence prevention policy/plan/program. Workplaces and educational institutions that make a management commitment and deliberate investment in applying Multiple Intervention Strategies will have a clear advantage over those that live in a world of ‘MYTHs”. Deferring issues and situations to their local law enforcement rather than investing in a proactive workplace violence prevention initiative may expose their liability.
Supervision, coaching, counseling, EAP, training, and performance improvement plans are examples of Multiple Intervention Strategies that may avert disaster. I find “Employee Engagement” as a new component of a Multiple Intervention Strategy from the standpoint of an engaged workforce built on employee trust and confidence. “Employee Engagement” is measurable. For example, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion dollars each year.
According to Accenture, less than 50% of CFO appear to understand the ROI (Return on Investment) in human capital. Could this perception play a role in supporting a strong argument for why the above myths exist today? After all, by understanding and measuring the threat of workplace violence against poor productivity and performance, medical and injury compensation and time and attendance, impact on the organization’s bottom-line can be measured along with identifying ROI.
I think correlation is significant in helping to understand impact. The World Health Organization reports that stress cost American Business an estimated $300 billion annually. On the other hand, workplace violence is estimated to cost $121 billion annually. One can safely conclude that stress is a by-product of harassment, bullying and other related behaviors. Time away from work results in an average of 3.5 lost days per workplace violence incident recorded. Out of court civil law suit settlements average $500,000 Nonfatal assaults results in 876,000 lost work days annually. How do these areas help your organization develop your own metrics?
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Would you agree that by understanding the “WHAT, HOW and WHY” of workplace violence prevention and understanding and measuring employee satisfaction, productivity and impact on the bottom-line, effective programs can be developed and managed? Drawing a correlation between workplace violence prevention and employee engagement can help enhance the organizational response and begin to appreciate the value of proactive intervention. Hasty intervention and speedy response to employee complaints and observations will help organizations avoid being surprised by the active shooter. Remember that a workplace or school active shooter is a failed workplace or school violence prevention policy.
Intro by Felix Nater…
In this article my Special Guest Blogger, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood, author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, and I collaborate to draw correlations between the threat of workplace homicides and the societal impact the active shooter and mass shooter has on everyone no matter where we might find ourselves.
Since we spend as much time at work as we do away from home, we believe whatever violence response training workplaces can provide must be as comprehensive and realistic as possible.
When workplaces make decisions to train on “Run, Hide and Fight” employers must understand that policies plans and procedures must be aligned. Can you tell an employee to fight as a measure of last resort when your workplace violence prevention policy says fighting or acts of aggression are against the policy? This contradiction might freeze decisions and appropriate responses. Just saying!
When we tell the employee to run without proper training the employee might run into the shooter or while running away might be shot. Is there the possibility of creating unintentional civil liability consequences, which a skillful attorney might exploit during a civil lawsuit emanating from a serious injury or wrongful death allegation? I don’t know! What do you think?
It’s like “Zero Tolerance”–a well-intended policy but maybe too rigid and too structured. The employee who notices a co-worker exhibiting warning signs rationalizes his observations before reporting a co-worker knowing that his co-worker can be disciplined and even fired.
I do not encourage that workplaces undertake a frequency of an impractical training schedule on active shooter drills just because it is the right way to train. My point is that current training may not be addressing the workplace responsibilities or properly addressing the tactical common sense decisions needed to be taken.
What I do encourage is thoughtful training that realistically connects employee and management responsibilities and expectations. Training which fails to articulate what occurs in a real world shooting incident, and which only pushes out information, will assuredly produce more conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding, and increase risk for those involved.
Mike and I served in the military, where vital survival skills were reinforced through intensive, repetitive training in order to make them more reflexive. We understand that employers lack the time and resources to train to this standard, and it’s not realistic to expect that a workplace training program will build ” muscle memory” that makes responses automatic.
My law enforcement career as a United States Postal Inspector / Firearms Instructor and Threat Management Coordinator exposed me to realities typically encountered in the law enforcement community associated with serving search warrants, making arrests, car stops and training law enforcement personnel in scenarios they are most likely to encounter. Inherent in these scenarios are behaviors that must be understood and multiple simultaneous actions that must take place.
Well the same thing happens to employees or shoppers during a shooting incident. The “brain freezes” not intentionally but because there’s no stored information that the reflexes can draw upon. Fear overcomes the moment. There are tactics one can take to manage the moment that are not difficult to train to but can help the recovery process during the initial sounds of hysteria. When I audit this training I cringe at the lack of substance and correlation.
Suffice to say that we have expertise and specialized skills unlikely to be found in most workplaces. As such, training “employees” needs to create a training objective that allows employees to understand their actions, how to act out independently or in concert during the escape, evasion, evacuation procedures.
Because time, money and resources are limitations, training must bring clarity to what it is participants are most likely to encounter, what they need to “Know, Do and Why”. Absent clarity in the content presented will not improve survival and only add to the confusion. There are tactics employees can take before encountering the shooter and encountering the police.
I am saying that training in active shooter / hostile intruder should be informative, enlightening, educational and realistic. To have real world value such training must empower the employee to know what to do and why, no matter where they may find themselves during an active shooting or mass shooting incident. If you are in a movie theater you know how to minimize risk. When caught in a mall or department store or open area know how to make better decisions.
* * * * *
Thoughts by Mike Wood…
The New Year had hardly begun when a terrorist killed scores in a shooting attack on an Istanbul nightclub, and we hadn’t even completed the first full month of 2017 when another shooter killed five and wounded more here in our own country, at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
While both of these attacks were horrific, neither was completely unexpected by those who were paying attention to the world around them. We didn’t know the specifics of when and where the next “active shooter” attacks would take place, but we could be confident that they were on the way, in the same manner that we can predict there will be more to come.
We live in a world where the threats of attacks like these are ever-present. Here in America, we have an increasingly violent criminal class which has become emboldened by failed public policies and the virulent anti-law enforcement culture which has taken hold in some communities. Our mental healthcare system is broken, leaving untold numbers of emotionally disturbed persons, including many with violent tendencies, without access to proper care and supervision. Additionally, there are a burgeoning number of foreign and domestic terrorists who would use violence to advance their political and cultural aims. In fact, our intelligence agencies have warned us that small-scale, asymmetric attacks like the Istanbul or Fort Lauderdale ones, are a preferred method of our enemy because they have a large impact while demanding very little in the way of resources or planning.
With all of these potential actors in play, it takes no imagination whatsoever to forecast that more attacks are coming.
So, what should you do about it?
The most important thing is to get your mind right. Accept the fact that it can happen to you. Doing so will help you to avoid the paralyzing effects of denial, and free your mind to solve important problems, should you find yourself subject to attack. Would you rather stand frozen in shock in the wake of an attack, or take immediate action to save yourself and others? The choice is yours to make, and it begins now with an acceptance of reality, and the appropriate programming of the mind.
Accepting that you could be the target of attack will allow you to change your behaviors in a positive and proactive way. If you’re conscious of risk, then you’ll become more aware of your environment, and will do a better job of detecting and avoiding potential trouble. You’ll see the threats and indicators that people who walk around with their noses stuck to smart phone screens won’t, and you’ll have the time to avoid them. You’ll also do a better job of weighing costs and benefits, allowing you to avoid some unnecessary risks entirely, by opting out of the activities that would needlessly subject you to them.
Despite our best efforts to detect and avoid problems, trouble still has a way of finding us at times. In those cases, the more prepared we are to deal with trouble, the better off we will be.
From the perspective of mindset, we need to train ourselves that in an emergency (whether it’s a fire, a medical situation, or an attack), we will be active participants in our own rescue. If we are in danger, we must immediately take action to either remove ourselves from the threat, or terminate the threat, as conditions warrant. It would be nice to have help with this, but we cannot count on it, and we cannot delay our response until we receive it. There is nobody who is more responsible for your personal safety than you, so you must take the lead role in rescuing yourself from danger.
Make that commitment now. Train yourself to look for avenues of escape when you enter a room. Refresh yourself with the locations of alarms or emergency equipment in your workplace. Make mental notes of the things in your environment that could serve as cover, concealment, or makeshift weapons. Give yourself the permission to use righteous force in the defense of yourself or others. Mentally rehearse your response to an active threat. Take classes to educate yourself in first aid and self-defense, and ensure you have access to lifesaving equipment.
Do these things now, while you have the time and resources. We know that more trouble is on the way, so the only question is whether or not you’ll be a victor or a victim when it comes.
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/
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:
- Review and reissue your Workplace Violence Prevention and/or Harassment Policy Statement annually if needed.
- Instruct and remind supervisors of their responsibility to report, document, assess and evaluate every complaint as part of the hasty complaint resolution effort.
- 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.
- Instruct and remind employees that reporting at risk situations and employees is their responsibility in preventing escalation and at risk situations.
- Instruct and remind employees of the organization’s workplace violence prevention policy reporting protocols and procedures as necessary.
- Review your visitor protocol policy to include visitor management and access control for all visitors especially former employees, spouses and families.
- Review your domestic violence/intimate partner/personal relationship policy to ensure employees know what services are offered and what their responsibilities are.
- Train supervisors & managers in how best to hastily manage at risk situations in providing needed intervention.
- Test your emergency evacuation plan to respond to a hostile intruder/active shooter threat procedures.
- 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?
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 was of looking at WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION.
I am not discarding the helpful OSHA definition, tools and support but rather, asking you to create an organizational culture that reinforces 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 worried about statistics and what others were doing instead of worrying about what we should have been doing at our own workplaces.
“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. The plan must begin with an understanding of what WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION IS. 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? Do you understand what prevention means? A proactive WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION policy is an investment in training your workforce in ways that help them respond to non-violent at risk situations and the violent threat posed by 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 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.
This is a bad attitude that will not only place the workforce at risk but place your unprepared approach in a collision course with a civil liability law suit, bad press or bad publicity.
This wait and see attitude is exactly what you do not want to be associated with. This attitude increases personnel risk and organizational risk as victims and witnesses will assuredly tell it like it is on the witness stand of truth. We know where to find the skeletons and in which closets they are hiding in. I don’t know of any hard-working, trusting employee who when confronted with answering questions about a workplace injury or fatality will graciously protect their employer in the face of a charge of willful negligence. Don’t be fooled that loyalty is your payoff. When co-workers are seriously injured by a workplace offender or killed incident to an active shooter or armed robbery encounter your trusted workforce will come out of the woodwork or be found by a sharp reporter working the crowd.
Such a trusted employee witness will reluctantly tell his or her side of the story because they’ve known you’ve never taken WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION seriously.
Being compliant is a good thing but, it is NOT PREVENTION. CRISIS MANAGEMENT IS NOT PREVENTION. Think of WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION as your workplace security insurance policy. In remembering the old Lee Myles Transmission advertisement, “Pay me now or pay me later” can easily apply in workplaces that were too smart for their bridges, too cost conscientious or who decided that workplace violence prevention could wait until next year’s budget. Don’t even think that way today.
Workplace Violence Prevention Starts with The Recognition of the Aggression Behaviors and Managing The Outcome…
In this Blog I ask John Byrnes, CEO of Aggression Management to draw an important correlation between management commitment in understanding the need to invest in an appropriate prevention strategy and training tactics that deliver results. Such prevention strategy must include quality training for supervisors and employees on recognizing at risk employees and situations.
“It is irrational to believe that employee engagement campaigns can effectively be administered from the bottom up. Yet, workplace violence prevention tends to be a bottom up effort that eventually loses momentum because it lacks senior management commitment.”
True workplace violence prevention takes place when senior management understands the commitment and needed investment in quality training and procedures that give employees skills.
“Workplace Violence Prevention is not the publication of policies that are managed in silos but a collaborative effort that promotes quality prevention strategy and training that helps identifies aggression before it escalates to physical violence.”
For years employers and their management have assumed there was some connection between Nonfatal Acts of violence and violence itself. As the highly respected security professional, Felix Nater, CSC has pointed out in his article, “New OSHA Directive Tackles Workplace Violence Concerns…What Are You Doing About It?”
“The unknown impact of nonfatal, non-violent incidents committed by nonviolent employees are cause for concern among supervisors, managers and human resources professionals who contend with them on a daily basis. Harassment, bullying, sabotage to systems and operations, product contamination, theft of sensitive information, compromise of proprietary information, theft of services, identity theft, work slowdown etc., etc., contribute to diminished productivity and performance and increased stress.” Felix continues with, “Acts of defiance by non-violent people are as disruptive as the more serious “assaultive” conduct that leads to injury and even death. Such behavior gives rise for concern in our workplaces from groups who might resort to non-violent act of retaliation as described above. Do not make the assumptions in dealing with the threat of workplace violence. Defiance is a safe way for this type of offender to exact his or her vengeance without causing physical harm to people and yet get even. Disgruntled employees in particular take out their frustration in very unique ways simply because they have access to workplaces and vulnerable areas. When it comes to justification and rationale, imagination runs the gamut in terms of creative misconduct and reasoning.”
What is the connection between “Acts of defiance by disgruntled employees,” customers and visitors and the threat of violence that these employees, customers and visitors to often exact on our workplaces? We are told by professionals that we must “connect the dots!” But this is too often a question asked in retrospect; this is an after effect accounting, not prevention! If we are to prevent violent and non-violent activities, we must foresee the precursors (get out in front of violence and non-violent acts,) if we actually want to prevent violent or non-violent behavior. Let me show you how!
Twenty-one years ago, we developed our now scientifically validated Aggression Continuum, a progressive scale which chronicles aggressive behavior from its outset/beginnings through to include the most lethal of all aggressors, the perpetrator of murder/suicide. We also discovered two types of aggressive behavior, Primal and Cognitive. Primal is adrenaline-driven aggression and Cognitive is intent-driven aggression. We combined these two types of aggression and created the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua; once done, all of the body language, behavior and communication indicators that have been known since the beginning of human interaction, all became objective and empirical, leading to scientific-validation. The Primal (adrenaline-driven) Aggression Continuum represents an individual “losing control” due to the effects of adrenaline. What about conscious deliberate aggression, it doesn’t fit in the Primal Aggression Continuum? This is why we developed the Cognitive (intent-driven) Aggression Continuum.
Can we actually predict who is escalating toward violence, and if so, how? Predicated upon the acclaimed and seminal Safe School Initiative Study, a collaborative effort conducted by US Secret Service, the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Justice; which states, “An inquiry should focus … on the student’s behaviors and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.”
“The ultimate question to answer …. is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack …” Finally, on December 16, 2013, this is further confirmed by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center’s Chief, Andre Simmons, who states their ability to prevent violence is predicated on identifying a person who is “on a pathway to violence.”
What we discovered 21 years ago, the FBI is now affirming. We prefer the phrase “emerging aggression” over identifying someone “on the path to violence” because the latter only identifies someone when you can reliably see the potential of violence, whereas, “emerging aggression” identifies someone at the very outset/beginnings of “aggressive behavior.” This gives us the ability to prevent lower levels (stages) of aggression, like “bullying,” “sabotage,” “conflict” and “discrimination.” It also offers us a better method of truly getting out in front of violence well before the aggressors’ intentions become violence. Not only can we identify someone on the path to violence but to Felix Nater’s point, we can identify “aggressive behavior” well before most even realize that behavior is “aggressive.”
Let me offer an example of what is “aggressive behavior” but too often is not seen as such! There are Nine Stages of Cognitive Aggression, at Fourth Stage, an aggressor is not yet prepared to go face-to-face with their victim, they work behind the scenes to undermine the relationship the victim has with their own community (those people the victim likes, loves and respects and with whom they wish to be liked, loved and respected in return).
“We observe what we call, “Planting the seed of distrust;” this is a behavior that permeates all organizations.”
This aggressor turns to the victim’s community and says, “I don’t know about Jane anymore, I just don’t know if I can trust her anymore!” This insidious seed (malicious intent) will grow like weeds in a garden; because partial truth can be far more detrimental than complete truth! This aggressive behavior also undermines “trust,” a key ingredient in Teamwork, Leadership and Loyalty. The revelations made by Felix are emphasized here. Lower levels of aggressive behavior are not only reflective of the potential of violence to come, but also undermine productivity and profitability. Employers who actively identify emerging aggression, will not only make their workplaces reliably “as safe as possible,” the highest form of Evidence-based Best Practices, but will enhance productivity, profitability, teamwork, leadership and loyalty.
“After 21 years of implementation, we have come to realize that as more employees understand that they are being overtly or covertly aggressive, they will typically move away from their aggressive behavior.”
We have seen employee cultures become far more productive as employees learn how to identify, engage and prevent, not only violence but aggressive behavior that precede violence.
As Felix Nater points out in his article, if you believe you have a Workplace Violence “Prevention” program, think again. You must start identifying aggressive behavior (Harassment, bullying, sabotage and, yes, even planting the seed of distrust) prior to violence and non-violent behavior, so as to prevent them. The only way to achieve reliable Workplace Violence “Prevention,” as well as harassment, bullying and sabotage behavior is to implement our scientifically validated Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS)!
If you would like to know more about CAPS, go to http://www.aggressionmanagement.com/CAPSMovie.html.
OSHA’s new enforcement Initiative against Workplace Violence is designed to examine how employers respond, monitor and resolve at risk situation in preventing violence. Could your company withstand the impact of an OSHA inquiry? How prepared are you in coping with the threat of employee and non-employee violence?
According to the latest statistics, an astounding two million workers in America are victims of some form of violence at work each year, and violence at work now ranks among the top four causes of worker deaths. As reported in 2010, 18% of U.S. workplace fatalities were the result of violence related to the workplace. Compare that to 14% of U.S. fatalities caused by falls. Of alarm is that the number of incidents involving multiple fatalities by the lone gunman has increased. This is a concern associated with School Violence, Domestic and Partner Violence and Armed Robbery that should be addressed in your violence response plans and training. The Department of Homeland Security has recently issued some instructions on preparing for and responding to the threat of violence by a hostile intruder.
The first six months of 2012 has already shown us that the threat of homicidal violence has no boundaries; a family dispute in a family owned SPA in Georgia, a domestic violence matter in a Beauty Salon in California, a disgruntled current employee in a Lumber Company in North Carolina, a disgruntled person in a Office Building in Ohio, a disciplinary issue in a Rehab Hospital in CT, a severance pay issue in VT and a performance evaluation involving federal agents at a federal office building. This June a young Soldier killed his Commander at Fort Bragg, North Carolina proving that false assumptions contribute to poor prevention and response plans. No employer is immune from the threat of violence.
What are your capabilities? What is your violence response plan? Are your efforts a joint human resource – security collaboration or believe your culture more than adequately averts such potential disaster?
In an effort to address the increasing number of workplace related deaths due to incidence of violence in general, and to protect workers from preventable incidents of violence at work, OSHA has identified several industries and businesses with a high potential for people violence. Such businesses include those where workers exchange money with the public, workers who work at night, and health care and social workers who deliver services to the public. These categories are pretty self-explanatory.
What does your workplace violence prevention efforts look like?
Are you coordinating your effort or leaving it to chance that it won’t ever happen at your workplace?
In accordance with the new directive, OSHA plans to conduct inspections of these businesses to determine whether employers are taking sufficient preventive steps to reduce the risk of worker violence in minimizing risk. Under the new ruling, OSHA will entertain anonymous file complaints against employers who fail to provide for safe and secure workplaces. To address and prevent potential incidents of workplace violence, OSHA recommends that employers that the following actions:
- regularly conduct hazard analyses,
- implement engineering controls (e.g., alarm systems, metal detectors, closed -circuit video recording, lighting, etc.),
- enforce policies that require employees to use proper personal protective equipment in appropriate circumstances, and;·
- establish written programs to protect employees from workplace violence.
Under the new OSHA Directive on Workplace Violence employers will be cited if they do not take precautionary steps to protect their employees from the potential harm of workplace violence or when known correctable hazards have not been resolved. As such, all employers should evaluate their own potential for workplace violence and consider the feasibility of the following preventive steps:
- create and communicate a written policy on workplace violence and procedures to be followed in response to a violence incident,
- complete a workplace hazard assessment and security analysis,
- create a complaint mechanism for reporting threats or concerns of violence, and,
- develop a response team for immediate care of victims of workplace violence.
- develop appropriate training, and;
- develop new employee orientations on workplace violence prevention.
To insure your organization can pass any OSHA Inspection and to resolve any doubts of your current posture and capabilities, I recommend you begin an internal review process your workplace settings. Conduct a security assessment and seek input from employees in your various settings. Having the value of a critical review of your internal capabilities allows you to form your workplace violence prevention implementation plan around known hazards, security gaps, prevention measures and training. Do it NOW when you are in control.
Minor incidents of workplace violence occur daily in every type of business whether you know it or not or care to know about it. Workplaces experience varying levels of verbal abuse, name calling, harassment and intimidating behavior by employees on employees, non-employees and others. The concern is whether the workplace has policies and procedures in place to handle such incidents and reports. When organizations fail to implement proactive workplace violence prevention policies and response plans or adopt changes in their approach to worker security or workplace security posture will ultimately invite other relative inhibitors.
When these incidents occur, they usually go unreported. Whether reported or not, they affect employee morale, production, performance, attendance, labor and legal cost and even medical cost.
Surely you are aware that TODAY, violence can affect any workplace. No workplace setting or situation is immune. On February 16, , 2012 a Long Beach, CA federal immigration agent was shot and killed by a coworker at the workplace, after shooting and wounding his supervisor. On February 22, 2012 a New Britton, CT hospital maintenance employee shot and wounded two co-workers. On February 20, 2012, Norcross, GA a family owned SPA erupted into gun violence leaving 5 dead at the Sunjung Beauty and Health Sauna.
A recent survey by Allied Barton Security Services entitled “Violence in the American Workplace” revealed that 52% of Americans working outside their home have “witnessed, heard about, or experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace.” The survey also linked the likelihood of workplace violence to low employee morale. Low morale is the outgrowth of perceived or real outcomes. Swift intervention can identify contributing factors and risk indicators.
Is there an organizational workplace violence prevention plan and violence response plan for when violence happens where you work? Does your Workplace Violence Prevention Policy include plans and procedures for reporting and handling minor incidents of harassment, intimidation, verbal abuse, name calling, bumping and shoving that frequently escalates to physical altercations and ultimately threats of bodily harm? Are supervisors aware, connected? Are they listening and observing and taking corrective actions? Are supervisors trained in inspecting the employee’s work environment to make note of potential at risk situations requiring additional care and attention?
Is there a Workplace Violence Prevention Reporting System for employees to report incidents of workplace violence? Or, are you a victim of the myths of workplace violence that it won’t happen here or workplace violence is not preventable? Is your investment in workplace violence prevention based on the above myths?
Just having a written document is not enough. Is your organizations engaged in addressing reported incidents of workplace violence to avoid conflict and correct known hazards? Is the effort coordinated between Security and HR and other departments?
Are there procedures in place for the sharing of information to insure risk minimization efforts are effective? Are the results of assessments and investigations filed away in “a blackhole” without the benefit of sharing lessons learned or informing victims of the outcome?
Does your company offer Workplace Violence Prevention Training? How frequently? On a 1 -10 point scale, how effective do you believe that training is? If you want to know how immaterial training really is, ask the employee six months later what he or she learned and has it made a difference in their outlook?
Does your organization include immediate protective measures? Things like movement to safe harbor rooms, movement to escape and evade the threat or your first encounter with police searching for the shooter? Your initial exposure to the police in an active shooter incident could be traumatic. Is the workplace violence response plan considered a part of your organization’s emergency preparedness posture? How is the threat of violence in the workplace communicated? How is information conveyed during an incident? How would you know the threat has been cleared. How is that communicated?
My experiences is in alignment with the Allied Barton survey. Low morale is a risk indicator that contributes to employee disputes, argumentative and confrontational employees, disruptive behavior and disgruntled relationships. These indicators become apparent during an incident assessment. Often, participants and witnesses disclose the cause of violence is a part of management’s failure to identify, address or correct on-going issues. Some examples of management’s contributory factors include favoritism by supervisors, failure to recognize the impact of workplace policies on organizational effectiveness, unfairness in the disposition of grievances and untimely resolution of employee conflicts.
The transition from the Disgruntled Employee to Hostile Intruder (Active Shooter) isn’t an apparition, it occurs over time right under your eyes. And, most likely you were surprised at the outcome. Don’t BE surprised! BE prepared. Proactive Workplace Violence Prevention is a workplace force multiplier.
Considering the severity of the risk, don’t you agree that employers should focus their energies on taking proactive measures to aggressively address risk factors, and warning signs. This effort must be a part of an ongoing process. Climate assessments should focus on factors that impact low morale to identify the root cause. Annual Workplace Violence Prevention Assessments should be designed to take advantage of employee concerns and the workplace’s capability to address the threat of the hostile intruder. Assumptions lead to the perception of insensitivity leading to additional assumptions that when left uncorrected fester and escalate into irreconcilable differences.
To mitigate the risk, employers should conduct annual assessments to evaluate their capability to respond to a hostile threat but also take aggressive intervention action before an incident becomes an unmanageable one. This is precisely why I offer “Tiered Segmented Training.” Supervisors and employees must become cognizant of responsibilities at each level. Remember, just having a zero-tolerance isn’t enough. Using the zero tolerance policy as a threat to disciplinary action is an irresponsible tactic when not incorporated as part of a larger workplace violence intervention strategy. Discipline without corrective action is shortsighted.
Maintaining and enforcing tough anti-violence policies that places employees on notice that violent behavior will not be tolerated alone, doesn’t improve morale NOT without correcting the contributing factors or risk factors.
Employers should avoid the temptation of relying on termination as the solution to the problem. Improperly resolved issues are exacerbated during the terminations process. Organizations must strive to identify contributing factors, risk factors and root causes if they are to provide for a safe / non violent workplace. Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence should be integrated under the workplace violence prevention umbrella for maximized and effective communication and coordination.
Organizations that implement proactive workplace violence prevention programs tend to have credible reporting measures in place, have some form of access controls, employees are aware of their mutual responsibilities, training is relevant and appropriate, there’s accountable and responsible supervision manage the potentially hostile workplace. For greater value, assign workplace violence prevention to a program manager.
Risk Management has to be a higher calling because those who are involved are truly blessed with insight and the patience of Job. I would imagine their mantra being a persistent one that’s based on saving an organization mandated impositions and wasteful costs associated with civil liability and negligent management. Yet failure to anticipate or plan continues to be the C-Suite’s greatest shortcoming when it comes to understanding that the operative word in workplace violence is PREVENTION. Often time employers are victims of the two greatest myths; Workplace Violence is not preventable and it won’t happen here. Well, let me help you see the other side of the coin.
A homicidal event being the driving motivator. My question is – when will they learn that on ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure or pay me now or pay someone later much more? Though FEAR should not be the motivation in considering investments in Workplace Violence Prevention it often is. The reality is that such investments typically occur on the incident side of the equation where the investment is much more expensive, less customizable and hastily delivered. Decisions to invest in workplace safety and security measures and practices should be predicated on the notion of practicality, researched best practices and making the solution relevant and appropriate to your workplace setting. Such investments should be considered in preparation for an event but certainly as part of proactive risk mitigation FIRST and not as a cost avoidance effort. Though researched best practices are recommended as a cost effective model in avoiding unnecessary costly re-inventions, the decision should not interfere with the need to address the unique aspects of your workplace specific environments. The decision to invest in workplace safety and security is one that should be weighed against your unique organizational risk assessment and not a cookie-cutter reactionary response in the aftermath or to a news event. We are now seeing an increase in workplace shooting incidents involving multiple victims by a lone shooter. FEAR as the motivating emotional contagion results in hasty decisions with adverse outcomes. My question is WHY make any move without a thoughtful security assessment and/or risk assessment?
Consider risk mitigation in helping you manage and reduce at risk situations by allowing you the flexibility now to apply appropriate measures to minimize risk before escalation and controlling response measures. Providing for a safe and secure workplace in preventing workplace violence should consider a prepared response to possible situations or events that can be addressed in situational exercises. While it is virtually impossible to defend against every scenario, training can help in preparing a response that’s directed at a particular problem, anticipates the need, change or improvement and not a reaction. I refrain from using REACTIONARY as it relates to emergency response situations, simply because employees will REACT out of fear and not out of training. I prefer training that helps employees see a RESPONSIVE approach they control under general situations. That’s why when we address risk mitigation as it relates to workplace violence prevention, the need for training should derive from a known possibility that it could happen and what are the Immediate Protective Measures to be taken. Or to avoid minimize risk even before they occur recognize existing hazards by conducting security assessments and/or risk assessments at least annually or as circumstances dictate. An example of risk mitigation is training in response to the disgruntled person with a gun in the workplace. The response should be a trained one rather than a haphazard reaction to danger and fear alone.
Proper training that focuses on reducing and managing risks can help organizations better prepare to respond to unexpected situations when they occur. Organizations should not be afraid of conducting annual or as frequently needed internal ” workplace violence prevention security vulnerability assessments” as part of a risk management process and they should make the training as realistic as possible. Use experts who specialize in workplace violence prevention and who can share analysis of recent and past events as lessons learned. Design training centered on multiple learning modalities such as scenarios and small group discussions.
Remember as we’ve all seen and hear in recent public events that those who engage in acts of violence reflect a microcosm of our societies and as quietly as it may be kept, generally emanate as a result of a workplace event, situation or circumstance. As such, these individuals their issues and concerns are our employees whose complaints fall on deaf ears. Investing in Workplace Violence Prevention is GOOD Risk Mitigation and is a litigiously sounder strategy to preventing, managing and reducing incidents than Cost Avoidance, which equates to being a penny wise and a pound foolish on the wrong side of the ledger. Don’t take my word; ask the Risk Management Professionals, they are more equipped than I.