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?

What are your thoughts?