What Does the Threat of Workplace Violence Mean to Your Organization?

Posted on: July 26th, 2023

Understanding the meaning of workplace violence requires one to know the differences in rolling out prevention strategies between non-violent acts of violence from the violent homicidal and physical acts of aggression of the disgruntled worker or student. Putting the threat of workplace violence, workplace violence prevention and workplace security in perspective has a broader meaning and alarming appreciation when it’s viewed from the active shooter incident. Check out this article on mass shootings. I ask you, should the focus be on preventing the active shooter or preparing for it?  https://www.cnn.com/2023/07/24/politics/us-400-mass-shootings

Workplace violence prevention should not be based on anticipating the active shooter but addressing the conditions, situations and circumstances that contribute to escalation, and disgruntled behavior.  Workplace Violence and School Violence Prevention must be the priority. It does not suggest active shooter training is not important, but it should be put in perspective in avoiding allegations of negligence in not addressing the need for an effective school or workplace violence prevention program, quality prevention training, credible reporting, monitoring and tracking systems, and sound physical security plans. https://www.naterassociates.com/now-is-a-better-time-than-ever-to-refresh-your-workplace-violence-prevention-measures-before-any-civil-liability-allegation-claim-of-negligence/

As serious a concern the active shooter threat is emphasis must be on preventing the disgruntled employee and/or student from transitioning to thoughts of homicidal retaliation as it relates to workplace violence, school violence and the domestic violence/intimate violence workplace spillover threat.

The United States reached 400 mass shootings in a record number of days in 2023, about midway through the year. 2019 was the first year to experience more than 400 mass shootings in one year since at least 2013.

The psychological and emotional impact of the active shooter is acknowledged, especially during the incident, and specifically during the aftermath when the focus turns to national statistics, sensationalizing the shooter armed with military style weapons and ammunition, and discussions around gun control designed to move the discussion away from why the tragedy happened in the first place.  As horrific as the active shooter is organizations must focus on addressing violence prevention designed around an organizational prevention program led from top down, involving multiple intervention strategies, and leadership that is empathetic and accountable. Studies have shown that most workplace violence is an outcome of workplace related relationships and issues brought to work. New Secret Service Research Examines for the First Time Five Years of Mass Violence Data | United States Secret Service

Why the concern? Media focus on gun control instead of asking WHY these incidents happen, overshadows the fact that nonviolent incidents of workplace violence are more prevalent, frequent and insidious than the active shooter. Such incidents are not only detrimental to business, workplace security, and people safety, but they leave a longer lasting psychologically harmful impact on people (victims and witnesses) exposed to insults, verbal abuse, ethnic and racial remarks, bullying, sexual harassment, intimidation and threats of violence. Bullying a form of harassment whether by co-workers or a supervisor. Vail threats of bodily harm come to mind as forms of nonviolent acts of violence.  “Workplace Violence in general continues to be a pressing all organizations across the United States. No organization is immune. Today, millions of people fall victim to workplace violence each and every year”.

The price of Workplace Violence has a physical, psychological, emotional, and financial toll on the victims, witnesses, and the businesses alike. While worst-case scenarios seem to be the attention grabber, incidents of nonviolence are real and present.  Regardless of its place of occurrence, the simple but equally annoying and escalating nonviolent acts of violence contributes to feelings of emotional contagions, and spontaneous retaliations. We are referring to situations that when left unabated leads to violence fueled by circumstances and individuals known or unknown to the organization. https://www.naterassociates.com/cost-workplace-violence-prevention-awareness/

Workplace violence prevention should focus on anticipating the active shooter, addressing the conditions, situations and circumstances that contribute to escalation, aggressive conduct, and homicidal thoughts of retaliation.  Workplace Violence and School Violence Prevention must be the priority.  I am not suggesting active shooter training is not important, but it should be put in perspective to avoid allegations of negligence in management, security and training.   https://www.naterassociates.com/now-is-a-better-time-than-ever-to-refresh-your-workplace-violence-prevention-measures-before-any-civil-liability-allegation-claim-of-negligence/

When thinking of workplace violence prevention, it is not good enough to document the incident or the complaint but that the organization follows up, brings closure to allegations and keeps all involved informed. Considering the situations and circumstances ensures employee issues are not left unresolved or uncorrected. In civil liability lawsuits the judge and the jury must be convinced all that could be done was done to manage the violence. Prudent actions taken, go a long way towards showing honorable intentions. https://www.naterassociates.com/how-to-improve-the-strategic-value-of-workplace-violence-prevention-december-31-2021/

I challenge all CEOs, School Superintendents, School Principals and Executive Directors of Public Housing to take charge of their workplace violence prevention and workplace security initiatives within their organizations. Start by giving guidance and seeking clarification. Like the U.S. Army Commander who goes through a methodical set of steps asking necessary questions, insisting on necessary answers and setting the organizational tempo, civilian organizational leaders must be in control. They must ultimately lead the way in designing strategies, ensuring effective polices, plans and measures that are worksite specific and workforce specific, and planning training that reflects organizational risks. Reactive measures are not simply enough; it is necessary to be proactive, well trained, prepared and well-equipped in addressing workplace disputes, personal conflicts and unresolved workplace disagreements.  In what appears to reflect a propensity for violence, the workforce must know how to respond and what they are responsible for today.  Waiting for tomorrow is a NO-GO. https://www.thelightningpress.com/military-decision-making-process-mdmp/

So, when organizations roll out violence prevention policy the organization must ensure that the policy is supported by a plan, training that supports the policy, and the plans, and the knowledge of potential risks the workforce is likely to encounter in their work environments are addressed.  Service employees harassed on their routes; nurses fearful of conducting home visits; understaffing, employees who work alone, plant employees taunting one another are scenarios that must be addressed, TODAY. Necessary resources must be allocated to protect threatened employees, and salespeople who threaten to resign rather than do business under certain conditions are all workplace realities management must resolve. When put in charge of workplace violence prevention, one must understand the environments and the expectations. Use templates but avoid the cookier-cutter approach, culture eats strategy. https://www.naterassociates.com/what-if-your-ceo-put-you-in-charge-of-workplace-violence-prevention/

Because workplace violence prevention is an ongoing process it involves multiple intervention strategies, knowing the playing field is relatively important.  Some Statistics About Workplace Violence that will help you frame the prevention approach and level the playing field.

30 STARTLING WORKPLACE VIOLENCE STATISTICS [2023]: STATISTICS ON WORKPLACE VIOLENCE IN THE US 30 Startling Workplace Violence Statistics [2023]: Statistics On Workplace Violence In The US – Zippia

Allow me to share this additional data to support my focus and hopefully help you put workplace violence prevention in perspective. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. ” Today, millions of people fall victim to workplace violence each and every year”.

  • In the United States, there are roughly 2 million victims of workplace violence each year.
  • The healthcare and social assistance industries have an 8.2% workplace violence incident rate.
  • Workplace violence deaths rates for men are roughly 75% higher than those for females.
  • Workplace violence causes American businesses to lose, on average, $250 to $330 billion every year.
  • 85% of workplace violence deaths are due to robbery.
  • Workplace assaults resulted in 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities in 2020 alone.

GENERAL WORKPLACE VIOLENCE STATISTICS

  • 68% of workers across the world do not feel safe at work.
  • 94% of American workers have been bullied at least once in the workplace.
  • About half of all human resources professionals say that their business has experienced at least one workplace violence incident.

Note: The link to this fascinating data is above under Statistics on Workplace Violence.

Putting workplace violence in perspectives makes the organizational strategy effective. Let me close for now with these thoughts:

1 out of 7 Americans does not feel safe at work, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, (SHRM) known as – the voice of all things “work.”

If you are a business owner, CEO, manager, or human resource professional, it is highly likely that you are concerned but ill-prepared to deal with preventing workplace violence. How could you not be with so many employees voicing their fears?

“Waiting for an event to happen, then acting while it is underway, is a troubling response. Workplace violence has multiple levels of complexity. There are several things that should take place before a violent situation occurs. When an event happens, determining what tactics should be employed and by whom must be planned for in advance. Additionally, every employee has a role to play if the company is to mitigate the threat and dangers of workplace violence.” https://www.alan-adler.com/ask-alan-how-to-stop-workplace-violence/

 

To keep it simple and for a later discussion take the week by storm. Contact me with questions and ideas.

 

About the Author:

Felix P. Nater, CSC a retired United States Postal Inspector, is  an independent security management consultant. As Postal Inspector Felix worked on the New York Division’s Workplace Violence Interdiction Team. He brings extensive expertise and experiences helping organizations avoid the mistakes that lead to workplace violence by implementing and managing  workplace security strategy with an emphasis on workplace violence prevention.

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