#Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities

Archive for the ‘Workplace Communication’ Category

#Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities

Posted on: May 13th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workplace Violence Prevention: When Is The Time To Improve Your Prevention Posture

Posted on: February 6th, 2020

Now is the time for all organizations to seize the moment to improve their workplace violence prevention security posture. Why wait until you are surprised by the former disgruntled employee or angry spouse; both preventable situations. MYTH…workplace violence is not preventable. TRUTH…there is no management commitment.

How? By conducting a critical assessments of your workplace violence prevention policies and workplace violence prevention programs to insure alignment with other existing policies, plans and procedures and identifying gaps in physical security and security management. Evaluate the training ROI (Return on Investment) to insure it’s meeting the intended objectives. Is the training addressing a particular concern? Is it customized to specifically address worksite specific risks? Is the training audience and content specific?

Most employees I speak with do not like computer based training that is not Branded or interactive. In fact, many do not like compliance training because they believe it’s designed to address workplace requirements and not their personnel safety and security concerns and needs.

Why a comprehensive assessment in the first place? It’s my experiences that the assessment results could very well give those involved the evidence needed to present it to the C-suite, the Executive Director, Superintendent and/or the Board of Directors.

A comprehensive assessment could very well uncover gaps in the existing prevention initiative that could help thwart the next homicidal threat, workplace suicide or intimate partner spillover into the workplace violence. Gaps may include access control, visitor management, and/or physical security and contracting policy.

Workplace violence prevention policies that do not address objectives, provide explanations of the prohibited behavior and organizational responsibilities to include workforce responsibilities, contribute more to ambiguity than prevention. Most policies tend to focus on the employee on employee and former employee threat and not the 4 Categories of Workplace Violence Prevention provided by OSHA.

Type #1: Criminal Intent This is when violence occurs and the perpetrator has no connection to the business or its employees, seeking merely to perform a crime that will likely involve physically harming someone. Most workplace homicides, as well as incidents of robbery, shoplifting, terrorism and even criminal trespass qualify.

Type #2: Customer/Client This happens when the perpetrator has an acceptable relationship with the business and becomes hostile while being served. While this can be perpetrated by any group being serviced by a business, the bulk of occurrence of this form of workplace violence tend to happen within the healthcare sector, in places like nursing homes and mental health facilities-the most common victim of this sort of harassment tend to be the caregivers of patients.

There is also a fair number of incidents of workplace violence being committed against police, flight attendants and educators. These three professions account for 3 percent of all workplace homicides.

Type #3: Worker vs. Worker This form of workplace violence arises when a current or former employee commits violence against another current or former employee. This category is responsible for 7 percent of workplace homicides.

Type #4: Personal Relationships In this type of workplace violence, the perpetrator is unconnected to the business but is connected to one of the victims. This is the sort of situation that arises when the victims of domestic violence have their violator show up to continue the unwanted attention at the job site. 5 percent of all work-related homicides would be considered this type.

To be comprehensive in approach and design, employer and educational institutions should strive to develop policies, plans, procedures and training that take into account worksite specific risks in addressing their  responsibilities to provide for a safe workplace not just the current employee or student threat.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSH Act) General Duty Clause essentially states that employers are required to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers covered by the OSH Act.

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3828.pdf

Employers who do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate a recognized violence hazard in the workplace can be cited. Any hazard can be a person such as a current employee, former employee, disgruntled spouse, vendor, client, customer or non-employee posing a threat to workforce safety while in the performance of their jobs.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/generalsearch.citation_detail?id=314179649&cit_id=01001

Sometimes organizations overlook valuable internal data and/or other external data to support program objectives and initiatives.  For example, reviewing such data and considering its potential impact, proactive organizations can benefit by the analysis of pertinent information in helping organizations how best to prevent or minimize the threat of violence, understand circumstances, or even identify the next active shooter.

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

So Why wait for the next workplace or school place shooting? Prevention can take on a meaningful productive role when organizations take employee observations and reports seriously, do not overlook potential warning signs and roll out a credible reporting system.  Therfore, it’s important to promote and encourage the workforce to report their victimization and observations.

Preventing the homicidal threat of workplace violence begins by first addressing the nonfatal conduct that when left unabated leads to conflict and escalation. Or when the unintentional consequence of policies, assignments, personnel decisions, reorganizations, mandates or even mergers and acquisitions contribute to unhappy and disgruntled employee behaviors who make their displeasure known. Early intervention is key in avoiding escalation or being caught by surprise.

When the disgruntled employee transitions to the thoughts of homicidal violence, he has crossed the line of rational thinking, justifying their intended actions. As preventing workplace violence is an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies, organizations must design policies/plans that are flexible to engender empathy, and compassion in treating victims and witnesses with dignity and respect.

Why Wait? Why not strengthen your existing workplace violence prevention and security posture NOW? Appoint a program manager to be the “Go To Person” who helps the organization stay ahead of any surprises by working with the workforce to review existing conditions, confirm that training supports policies, plans and procedures and that creative training opportunities are exploited for maximizing the training value. You might call this person the “Threat Manager” or “Workforce Protection Manager”

To insure an organizational commitment and investment, senior managers can implement leadership and management strategies that integrate specific resources, efforts and tools in combating the threat of workplace violence. Until there is an alignment between performance, responsibility, accountability and consequences the workplace violence prevention policy will be seen as a management disciplinary tool.

Workplace Violence Prevention remains an essential workplace initiative for all organizations, no matter their size or scope, and the key to successful workplace violence prevention and incident management is thorough, thoughtful development of human resource-security metrics and ongoing analysis.

While data alone will not be successful on its own, worksite specific data can help managers point to areas of concern in addressing critical prevention through actionable information employees can consume, understand and relate to. Policy not supported by the above is wasteful use of time, resources and budgeting.

While I may suggest that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, I am a realist and recognize that the pressure to produce is always top priority in American businesses. Time away from the desk for training is viewed as time away from production and revenue generation and courses that contribute directly to regulatory compliance always have first dibs on the budget.  However, Courts want to hear about the employer’s sincere efforts not excuses around budgets, schedules and resources, In the end the juries  want to know if the serious injury or fatality was preventable by taking reasonable risk mitigation measures.

To maximize the time, resources and budgeting, plan the training to insure it is workforce and worksite specific. Workplace violence should mean different things to a mechanic working in a vehicle maintenance facility; an employee working in a retail establishment; a service provider on a customer’s property trying to locate downed power lines; a nurse in a custodial care mental health unit, an armored car driver, a social worker at a client’s home, or a medical insurance provider traveling between locations alone, employees at a plant working with temporary employees and or employees working at a headquarters office setting.

Employers and educational institutions can enjoy a credible workplace prevention initiative if the effort is comprehensive and tied to integration, collaboration, coordination, communication, technology, leadership, supervision and training.

Chances are that you do not believe workplace violence is an issue at your workplace but why take the chance?

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.

Corroborating Workplace Bullying Complaints Through Documentation

Posted on: February 21st, 2015

In this Blog, Ruth and Phil MacNeill of PRMAC Consulting and Research share their perspective on corroborating workplace bullying complaints through documentation.  While the MacNeill’s focus is on the employee rather than the employer, and workplace bullying rather than violence, we share the common goals of promoting safer, healthier and more productive work environments. Reporting and documentation are inseparable partners

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time a tremendous whack.Winston Churchill

Workplace bullying can have serious negative impacts on individuals and on companies, and is all too common. The Workplace Bullying Institute estimates that up to one-third of workers may be victims of workplace bullying, with about 20 of incidents crossing the line into harassment. If left unchecked, reduced productivity, chronic absenteeism and the possibility of expensive litigation are just a few of the costs of bullying. Therefore, rationale self-interest is a valid prompt for supporting a respectful work environment, whether your role is employer, supervisor, or employee.

But stopping workplace bullying is easier said than done as the devil is in the details. Only by  meticulously documenting bullying incidents as they occur, can there be any reasonable expectation that an ensuing investigation will lead to a successful resolution.

Consider the task of an investigator who has to establish facts in order to fairly assess the alleged bullying situation. It’s safe to assume they know nothing of your character or background, but even if they do, any fair determination must be based on an impartial rendering of facts. The same applies to a review by a judge and a court of law, should a complaint escalate to litigation. So, what do either need to establish what the facts are in order to perform their analysis?

Written and/or verbal accounts of the event(s} are an essential part of an investigation because they provide perspective and leads. However, multiple perspectives on the same incident can be contradictory and ambiguous because of personal bias and even fabrications by those involved. So, without tangible proof, a complaint often remains an “alleged incident” due to insufficient evidence.

Evidence that can stand up under scrutiny must be accurately detailed and presented in a way that supports an investigator or a judge and a court of law reaching a thorough and accurate understanding.

Documentation is composed of material that provides official information or evidence, and serves as a legal record. Ideally, every incident needs to be documented with other supporting documents, if these are available. Documentation establishes facts and may also reveal a pattern of bullying behavior. It may be noticed as you document that each incident alone may not add up to the the “bomb” but bullies are often a stone in your shoe and the documenting of many incidents will uncover their intent.

Therefore it is in your best interest to keep an organized record.

When you are designing your documentation matrix, it should contain this detailed information:

  1. The date and time of each incident.
  2. The location of each incident.
  3. Who was involved in each incident? Include the names of the bully or bullies, as well as witnesses.
    Note: Although bystanders may not feel that they are involved, they are
    automatically drawn in as a part of the scenario as witnesses.
  4. A description of each incident in detail including the exact nature of the actions. Try to include
    quotes and don’t censor profanity and expletives. Indicate how these actions made you feel and
    how it impacted your work.
  5. Supporting documentation: Be thorough, as each incident, even small ones, can map a pattern
    of repeated bullying. Attach each supporting document as an appendix to the record of the
    incident and be sure to cross-reference the appendices with the incident to ensure the accuracy
    and readability of your evidence. In addition to hard copies, keep the electronic files, as these
    provide a date signature. Some examples of supporting documentation include:
  6. Communications such as emails, notes, letters and cyber postings.
  7. A transcript of each offending voice mail.
  8. Photographs of any acts of vandalism.
  9. Try to obtain written statements from anyone who witnessed the harassment. Their written
    description of an incident will help validate your complaint.

Make two copies of all documentation and store them in secure and separate places. Don’t keep the evidence at work or you may find it missing. Similarly, if you are fired, you may not otherwise have access to it. If you keep at least one electronic copy of the documentation, this will electronically date the document(s).

While the above doesn’t guarantee an investigation will necessarily swing a decision in your favour, the stronger your evidence base, the closer you will come to aligning with Winston Churchill’s prescription for making your important point.

Workplace Violence – The Mitigation Factors

Posted on: December 14th, 2014

Contributing Factors of Workplace Violence

Contrary to all the media hysteria on the gun theory and the rush to judgment, there are many contributing factors that motivate an individual to escalate his emotional appetite to vengeance. The warning signs are always evident in the aftermath. But the problem is the lack of investment in training and awareness for all in the festering stages during pre-violence periods. You might say it is the “tipping point’ at work. Here are some contributing factors you might want to consider:

  • prone to violence or references to violence
  • poor or overly authoritative management practices
  • permissive workplace environments where toleration of name calling, abusiveness and intimidation is the norm
  • workplaces where a lack of awareness tends to dismiss or overlook the indicators
  • insensitivity to diverse workplace issues
  • acceptable workplace banter just in fun
  • spontaneous reactions to ongoing harassment and intimidation
  • revenge towards the perpetrators
  • perceptions of iniquities
  • intense media coverage and TV attention
  • getting even with the company or society

These contributing factors have environmental and societal impact and are often taken for granted. Supervisors often justify not taking any corrective action because the need to take action is unclear. In the case of Domestic Violence in the workplace, most supervisors do not get involved because they feel incompetent to deal with the situation or feel it is non of their business.

Who Cause Workplace Violence

It is important to remember that workplace violence is not only perpetrated by employees and the threat of an assault, robbery or rape can happen by non employees during their work day or related to their work. However, it is also important to know that the employee you hired years earlier is not the same person you think you know today. There are many causes of workplace violence that have nothing or very little to do with the workplace. Yet, knowing what to look for could help the employee before things got worse. Such causes that might lead to violence could include the following:

  • known history or violent past behavior
  • changes in personal situations such as confrontational divorces or caustic relationships
  • extreme financial hardships
  • health problems
  • individuals who become mentally deranged
  • bitter matrimonial disputes
  • knowing the type of community you work in
  • societal and environmental influences
  • Suggested Internal Controls

Technology and security awareness combined might help, however; technology alone is not the solution. What good is the deployment of technology without training that explains the value? The administered policy will not contain the emotions of a vengeful person, but the involved supervisor can have an interdictive value. Establishing clear reporting procedures encourage timely reporting of of potentially hostile situations from escalating. Proactive involvement helps to create a supportive environment in a workplace setting where the need to take appropriate action is supported because management is willing to commit resources. Terminating employees because that is the necessary act must be a guided process to insure a prudent approach to minimize the need to get even. Most terminations are a business decision that is handled by an insensitive manager.

Things To Do…

  • Conduct security awareness training down to the lowest level.
  • Select the optimum termination environment.
  • Include informational mailings with paychecks.
  • Designate a time of year as Workplace Violence Prevention Awareness. Key will be the workplace culture that discourages such feelings.
  • Incorporate Employee Assistance Programs as part of a workplace Wellness Program.
  • Establish clear reporting instructions that places accountability and responsibility to report and document observations.
  • Have an anonymous reporting system to protect the source.
  • Conduct background checks that offer more insight into the process to protect against the “vacationing” criminal or predator or falsification of applications.
  • Employees undergoing difficult marriage relationships should be encouraged to seek help.
  • Do provide training for leadership in workplace violence prevention for all levels of management.

Knowing what to do and how to react can help to mitigate the threat of workplace violence and protect as many as possible from the violent act. Remember, while bullets can wound or kill you, so can a flying object or accidental fall. *Stop practicing theory and deal with situational awareness.

And finally but not last, formulate a threat assessment team approach composed of key players to review and evaluate reports or observations of potential situations to prevent escalation. Consider situations that might escalate as justification for convening the threat assessment team. This is particularly important in workplace environments where confidentiality issues protect privacy of individuals from external disclosure of information.

“Evaluate before you have to investigate”. “Emphasize common sense before firing.” “Take favoritism out of the decision process regardless of the relationship”.

Making a Commitment to Preventing Workplace Violence

Posted on: September 28th, 2014

 

Making a Commitment to Preventing Workplace Violence

Workplace Violence Prevention continues to remain on the hot list of concerns for executives, security directors and those responsible for its prevention. A report commissioned by the Department of Justice suggest that there are about 1.7 million incidents of workplace violence in the United States each year.  Workplace assaults cause about 500,000 employees to lose 1,751.000 days of work annually. Employees who fall victim to workplace violence lose $55 million annually in wages. However workplace violence is not only costly to employees; it also adds up to a $4.2 billion annual expense for employers as well.

The other concerns are Physical Security, Business Continuity and Data and Proprietary Information Theft.  Making a commitment to preventing workplace violence is a good business-security decision that requires an understanding of the impact and organizational reach. While all areas are inseparably linked to the other, businesses do not take them into consideration in planning and defending the workplace against the potential threat posed by the violent prone offender but especially the non-violent disgruntled employee or person whose objective is retaliation without physical violence.

We know what the homicidal act of workplace violence can do to an organization’s workplace and workforce. Yet there is a tendency to dismiss employee complaints and reports or file them in a “black hole”.  I call this “black hole as the “purgatory period for justification and rationalization – festering”.  This is where other factors take form that drive the motivation for retaliation. Once a disgruntled employee or person transitions to retaliation they want to get even any way they can. If you are a control person or not paying attention the threat may escalate to physical violence. If you assume and fail to identify the threat posed by the disgruntled employee or person, they may gain unrestricted access. This knowledge is as critical and essential today as it was then in understanding the clear and present danger posed by violence and the non-violent disgruntled employee or person as well.

In the Business & Legal Report, September 21, 2005 edition, Paul Viollis, President of Risk Control Strategies made a presentation at the National Safety Council’s Congress & Expo on the topic of Workplace Violence.  He said, “With all the available data, no employer can claim credibly that it had no idea of the risk of workplace violence, including domestic violence.” Today the threat from the domestic violence and its workplace spillover is a reality.

He further said, “Employers and safety managers must mitigate the risk of violence by maintaining a “standard of care,” which includes having a comprehensive policy on workplace violence, training employees on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior at work and adhering to best practices of security and access control.”  Because of these concerns, my hair has turned gray  worrying about Mr. Viollis’ very points and the little to no attention it seems to receive in the small to midsize business community until something happens. It refuel my ambitions to share my experiences and expertise otherwise I am just keeping my information to my self. Therefore, in this Blog, I will offer suggestions on Developing Your Approach to Workplace Violence Prevention in reaching your workplace violence prevention goals and objectives.  Workplace Violence Prevention means the C-Suite and Boards of Directors  having insight and oversight in insuring program management and every knows exactly what they have to do at each level. The C-Suite and Boards of Directors should look at themselves as resources.

Why the Concern?

From a business perspective, violence is debilitating at minimum and disastrous at worst. Once the contributory factors are identified assertive action must be taken to resolve the issues and reduce the hazards. One needs to look at how the behavior adversely affects the business’s bottom line. A disruptive act of violence can literally put a business out of business. The proof of making a commitment to preventing workplace violence is in your “pudding, the metrics”.  The metrics, I consider in arriving at cost impact are based on lower productivity, reduced profitability, poor morale, reduced performance, increased absenteeism, higher sick leave costs and faster personnel turnover, increased employee grievances, investigative resources and time spent, increased compensation claims and legal fees. Of critical concern is the effect of business interruption and continuity related to the crime scene and the possibility of a civil court award for failing to provide a safe workplace. What about your image? Have you considered how your stakeholders will view the negative publicity?  Are you concerned or weighing the statistical impact before making the commitment to invest in your workplace violence prevention efforts? I would make no sense to wait for a disaster to happen when you can have your own model in place, NOW! All of these considerations have a positive image and impression on your workforce and your stakeholders.

Developing Your Approach to Workplace Violence Prevention.

When developing your workplace violence prevention program, certain steps in the suggested process are required if one is to validate the actions to be taken. Whatever effort undertaken must be work-site specific. Avoid the cookie-cutter in developing your plans. Make your effort unique to the workplace setting.

Identify a need for the workplace violence prevention policy.

Form a committee to collect all of the security related business requirements that affect the business.

Use the committee to create the written workplace violence prevention policy and plan to include components related to hiring, termination, rules for acceptable behavior, rules for progressive disciplinary action, training, violence response and the role of leaders in the process.

  • Publish the workplace violence prevention policy.
  • Conduct a Critical Vulnerability Risk Assessment of the business practices and requirements.
  • Conduct a site specific security assessment.
  • Seek feedback from employees by way of a self assessment survey.
  • Publish the observations, findings and recommendations from the security assessment, take corrective action and implement recommendations.
  • Train the workforce on workplace violence prevention, security awareness and accountability.
  • Create and training threat assessment and/or crisis management teams.
  • Test, improve and measure compliance and measure the program’s effectiveness.
  • Remember that compliance is not prevention but that a lack of consistent compliance leads to security gaps.

Workplace Violence Prevention is an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies of which leadership plays a significant  role in directing the efforts and supporting the policy.

Oh by the way, compliance and threat assessment are not prevention but they are resources.  Leaders must take proactive measures to lead with dignity and respect. Leaders should seek to understand the employee’s concerns and be sensitive to those employee reports of harassment or perception of disparity.  Don’t dismiss the employee report or complaint because it may appear petty. It may be petty to the leader but not to the victim of the verbal abuse, name calling, harassment, bullying, sexual innuendos or mistreatment. Perception leads to misunderstanding.

Recognizing the signs of impending violence is a mindset leaders must adopt in being able to take proactive engaging steps to head danger off at the pass.

Supervisors must have the appropriate attitude, be good listeners and communicators and be willing to engage employees as part of conflict resolution. The objective is to prevent the eventual act of physical violence  or identify the disgruntled non-violent employee or person inclined to get even by stealing intellectual property or sabotaging equipment and systems. So are you ready to take appropriate steps going forward or are you going to continue along unprepared?

You can invest in workplace violence prevention today with a minimal investment or in the aftermath of a homicidal act of violence with a major investment?  

The decision is yours!  Make workplace violence prevention management’s business-security responsibility and duty in providing for a safe and security workplace for all?

Workplace Violence Prevention Requires Multiple Intervention Strategies

Posted on: August 13th, 2014

Recent news reports of workplace violence related acts of homicide by disgruntled current and former employees concern me. I wonder how comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs really are. I worry that workplaces don’t prepare for the “when” but the “if”. I worry that most workplaces don’t develop their own workplace violence prevention and violence response capability relying on their local police response.  I wonder whether incidents and complaints are being properly assessed and evaluated or deferred.  I worry that workplaces acting out of fear instead of critical thinking invest in training for the wrong reasons.  I worry about the employee’s view of the organization’s workplace safety and security in general.  On a scale from 0 to 10 how would YOU rate your organization’s workplace violence prevention efforts?  Will those programs withstand or survive an OSHA Enforcement Inspection? Will the effort be defensible in a civil liability law suit?

Workplace violence prevention programs serve those organizations best when the focus is not only on the employee threat but also the threat posed by former employees, opportunistic criminals, vendors, and the intimate partner spillover into the work place. In short, if you are not viewing your approach to workplace violence from a holistic capability, you just might be operating from within a stovepipe where communications repeat the same old mistakes. It’s important that workplaces stop reacting to surprises and start engaging their workplaces proactively in staying ahead of situations and issues.  I consider a workplace active shooter a failed workplace violence prevention effort.

My memories of the Postal Service’s Edmond, Oklahoma Post Office Massacre in August of 1986 as the public information officer and since have helped shape appreciation for the value of multiple intervention strategies.  Learning that workplaces are unique settings with their cultures, mindsets and circumstances allows me to engage each with an open mind.  It helped that the Postal Service sought corrective measures through aggressive multiple intervention strategies.  Back in those days, postal employees most feared the threat from armed postal robbers than the new threat posed by the employees going postal.  However, Congress mandated action and we did.  Many of the incidents investigated then or now had anything to do with an employee’s predisposition to violence and more about their emotional response to confrontation, misunderstandings or unresolved complaints.  Interestingly enough it was not uncommon for victims to eventually became the aggressor in a permissive workplace setting where managers failed to intervene swiftly in establishing boundaries and consequences.  Nothing has changed between those years and employees of today’s public and private workforce. Today’s workforce reflects a microcosm of a more complicated situation where a variety of societal, environmental, family and medical factors affecting coping capability and perception are their realities.

Today, though organizations mean well most are ill prepared in their approaches to workplace violence prevention focusing on expediency such as the “going postal threat” rather than investing in employee engagement.   Training is conducted prior to conducting a critical assessment of the workplace setting. Many organizations are even afraid to ask employees for feedback out of fear of creating “problems” and “unwanted work”.  Return on the investment is missed by not conducting a critical assessment and analysis of workplace settings; areas that would yield gaps in existing violence prevention planning and violence response and situation awareness and deployment of technology.  Today’s workplaces are more volatile than years ago. The underlying reasons for misunderstanding: unresolved disputes, conflict and confrontations emanate from “stress” associated with corporate policies, autocratic leadership, insensitive management, permissive environments, perceptions of unfairness and disparate treatment, harassment, verbal abuse and name calling and bullying to mention a few examples. Workplaces will never be devoid of disagreement, conflict, arguments and fights. However, how employee issues are handled and resolved go to the heart of credibility and management commitment and in engendering employee trust and confidence in management’s ability to provide for their safety.

Organizations that react to training as the solution must do by studying the circumstances and identifying the proper training solution in achieving the desired outcome.  Consistent with past observations and findings, today there remains employee distrust and lack of credibility in management’s will to resolve employee complaints without discipline, unfairness and disparity.  It is not unusual for reporting employees and/or victims to be labeled “trouble makers”.  Soon enough these “complainers” were isolated and made to feel like they were the problem causing co-workers to turn against them.

A responsible and accountable workplace culture is a huge step towards building employee credibility, trust and regard for the workplace violence prevention initiative. What we agree on today is that prior violence is not a constant indicator of a predisposed potential threat by a current or former employee.  Today we have sufficient examples of incidents where the shooter did not have a prior criminal history of violence or a violent prone past.  Employers would enhance their workplace violence prevention initiatives by focusing in on contributing factors, conditions and situations that create workplace stress and lead to potential retaliatory reaction. Supervisors properly trained in how to manage the potential hostile workplace will instill a sense of trust and confidence in management’s commitment. Taking aggressive proactive prevention measures creates a culture of ownership through responsible, accountable supervision and management. Though the focus has been on the employee on employee threat, a comprehensive workplace violence prevention initiative seeks to address the threat of violence under any circumstance. It doesn’t have to be complex just relative.

Even if you are in a state of denial and “believe that a serious homicidal act of workplace violence can’t happen here or that workplace violence isn’t preventable”, please think twice about not doing anything.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Plan for the “when” and not the “if” it happens.