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

Archive for the ‘workplace violence prevention’ Category

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

Posted on: June 22nd, 2022

Human Behavior is a critical component of preventing workplace violence.  So how can employers improve their capability to reduce the threat of violence before it escalates to the homicidal acts we have seen recently. ASK ALAN: How To STOP Workplace Violence? – (alan-adler.com)

May and June were a period of horrific workplace and public shootings. On May 14, 2022, there was the TOPS Market Mass Shooting in Buffalo, New York. Then at the start of the Memorial Day weekend there was the Robb Elementary School Shooting at Uvalde, Texas raising questions about the school’s lock down response plans and the police department’s violence response. On June 1st, there was a shooting at an Oklahoma Hospital involving a distraught patient complaining of back pain following the surgery a week earlier who killed the surgeon, and three others. Can poor communications a contributing factor?

Organizations may be waiting too long before intervening in preventing the escalation of potential problems because of confusion in not understanding the meaning of workplace violence and workplace violence prevention.

Workplace violence is not just the homicidal act of violence by the disgruntled current or former employee or the intimate partner violence spillover into the workplace. But it is the everyday variety of harassment, verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, pushing, shoving, kicking, and fighting, which OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) defines as nonfatal acts of workplace violence.

Does Human Resources (HR) have a role in training supervisors as a workplace violence prevention strategy?

If you view workplace violence prevention as an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies, then you agree employers must maximize their internal capabilities early on.  It does not require a complex process, but it does require senior management commitment and investment that allows for training in the recognition of warning signs, risk factors and swift intervention.

So, can Human Resources play a role in making supervisors a workplace violence prevention strategy?

I think so! Supervisors can be an effective part of the workplace violence prevention strategy if HR can play a role in providing them training in how to manage the potentially hostile workplace on aspects of workplace violence, workplace violence prevention, technical expertise and consultation that helps them determine what course of administrative action is most appropriate in specific situations.

My position is that there is NEVER an excuse for a supervisor not knowing their workforce, or for failing to recognize their responsibility in providing a work environment that is RESPECTFUL, SAFE AND CONSISTENT in its handling of both good and poor performers as well as in managing and maintaining appropriate employee behaviors. Could this be asking too much when one considers whether the workforce trust supervisors and even considers them part of the problem?

It is my belief that HR can play an initiative-taking, constructive role in building trust and confidence in the workforce? They can improve the perception that HR overlooks the minor incidents that contribute to the daily victimization of employees reluctant to report in avoiding having a bullseye painted on their chest. Employees believe that HR waits for the escalation as proof of the premediated behavior and overlooks the psychological damage the day-to-day exposure has. Training supervisors in the role they can take to address such behaviors a strategy worth pursuing before it is too late.

Can supervisors be effective in creating positive communications between management and workforce by developing an empathetic leadership style that promotes trust and confidence in the hearts and minds of employees? Employees want to be a part of the solution but view supervisors as part of the problem.

While the questions are many does it make sense for HR to play a role in training supervisors to understand their resources in assessing, evaluating, and addressing the threat of workplace violence, including use of Alternatives to Discipline and use of Alternative Dispute Resolution process, and receiving advice, and counsel regarding personnel and labor law regulations? What do we have to lose now? Despair is not a solution.

The overriding goal of supervisor involvement is to make civility and decency in the workplace as critical as the paycheck. Shouldn’t the objective at this stage be the need to upgrade and humanize the way in which employers deal with all employees every day rather than just to focus narrowly on how to respond to the one who has made threats; is confrontational, disruptive or a disciplinary problem?  So why cannot HR enhance supervisor prevention capability through their visibility by training supervisors to be the solution.

 Long-term planning to improve employee morale pays in human terms.  Studies have shown that companies with effective grievance redress, harassment procedures also reported lower rates of workplace violence and workplace conflict.

While the intention of the Zero Tolerance Policy is well known, how effective is it really when discipline is the perceived outcome. How does an employer motivate an employee to report observations of a co-worker who might be his friend or Godparent to their child if the outcome is discipline and/or separation?

Despite the perception problems, employers must pursue alternative prevention strategies if they are to stem the alarming rise of the homicidal act of workplace violence in recognizing the employer’s duty and responsibility to provide for a safe and secure workplace. A workforce that is convinced that working from home is not as risky as working from the office, plant, warehouse or being shot in the parking lot.

Are there any undocumented obstacles and hurdles? HR needs to be viewed as the Champion of workforce safety and security if they are to dismantle negative perceptions when it comes to workplace violence prevention and zero tolerance.

As an ongoing workplace violence prevention strategy HR can play a role by assisting, assessing, and investigating allegations of workplace violence in the initial stages to address root causes and contributing factors?  Do you have an answer?

Workforce patience is already stretched enough. It might be time for Human Resources to step up as leaders in a unique way if not in this way.  If supervisors are called upon to discipline those who cross the line of civility, why can’t they be called upon to serve as day-to-day mediators and observers. Workplace Violence Is Unfortunately On The Rise Felix Nater Discusses Best Practices Regarding Recent Office Shooting – EIN Presswire (einnews.com)

Supervisors can be trained to recognize dramatic changes in employees such as mood swings, changes in appearance, time and attendance problems, co-worker interactions, and work performance.

Felix P. Nater, CSC is a retired Postal Inspector and security management consultant who partners with organizations to help implement and manage workplace security with an emphasis on workplace violence prevention and active shooter and the workplace mindset. He has spent the last 20 years working with organizations interested in improving, changing or enhancing their internal capabilities.  www.naterassociates.com  

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

Posted on: January 2nd, 2022

Happy 2022! May it be your best year ever.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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