In this week’s episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & CEO Bryan Strawser takes a look at how companies can prevent violence in the workplace. Using highlights from a recent article in Marketwatch about preventing workplace violence, Bryan talks through several steps that organizations can take to deter, prevent, and mitigate acts of violence in the workplace.
This is a topic we’ve touched on a number of times – including how to overcome hurdles in workplace violence prevention programs, determining the effectiveness of a workplace violence prevention program, and the top 5 reasons your company needs a workplace violence prevention program.
it’s important in any organization for workplace violence prevention to be an important part of the culture and security programs in the workplace. This episode uses recent examples of incidents to help drive that point home.
Hello and welcome back to the Managing Uncertainty podcast. I’m Bryan Strawser, principal and CEO at Bryghtpath.
This week I want to talk about active shooter situations and violent incidents that occur in the workplace. Specifically, I want to highlight some recommendations from an article that was in Market Watch on May 28th of this year, because I thought that it included a really succinct and valuable set of recommendations. It really highlights how employers, managers, workers, and human resources professionals can help prevent violent incidents at work. I would add, because it leaves this out, the role of the security professional and the crisis management team in such things as well.
So, let’s take a look. They have 11 recommendations and I want to just talk through these briefly and highlight, you know, some of my own personal experiences with these. The first is a recommendation that companies have more than a zero tolerance policy. We heard a lot, 10 or 15 years ago, about having zero tolerance workplace violence policies. Zero tolerance weapons in schools policies. Zero tolerance violence policies. There’s certainly value in that, but workplace violence prevention shouldn’t be limited just to traditional zero tolerance policies around threats, fights, and sexual harassment.
These are still important, and I don’t want to diminish the importance of taking these kinds of incidents seriously, but we should also have policies and programs that educate employees on warning signs of leading folks to a workplace violence incidence. That can be changes in behavior and sudden withdraw, depression, disgruntlement, and none of these really fall under the traditional zero tolerance policies. We should have, maybe, described a zero tolerance based policies, but we need these other elements to be in a part of that.
The second recommendation is to create a relaxed, open, and transparent work culture. Really what they’re getting at here, in the article, is that hostile, fearful environments don’t help. You want a workplace that is comfortable in communication warning signs and red flags, rather than this more fearful culture that erodes trust and creates a chilling atmosphere for your employees. The best way to describe this, when it comes to this issue, is that we want employees who are willing to speak up if they see behavior that makes them worry about their safety or the safety of someone else in the workplace.
The next recommendation is to not respond to reports in a punitive nature. Certainly, there are times when you may need to look at terminating, or suspending, or involving law enforcement after learning about an incident that probably shouldn’t be the default reaction. The default reaction should be to look into the situation and understand what’s going on before actions are taken. Punitive actions that are purely punitive probably will not have much impact.
The next recommendation is to establish mental health support in policies and be open about them with the team, with employees. What we should be looking for here is a beneficent response that helps the person that’s in need. That could be referring them to an employee assistance program, arranging for them to receive mental health care, transitioning them to a role that might better suit them. Even if that employee needs to be terminated, then consider severance or out-placement assistance. This is something that comes up a lot when we’re helping a company with a particular workplace violence situation, as a part of our threat management services.
There are behaviors and actions that should result in someone’s termination, and I don’t want it to stand in the way of that, but sometimes letting people down easy diminishes the threat. That might be, you know, some severance pay. It could be out-placement assistance. It could be a continuation of their mental health care benefits, but just up and up firing someone because they’ve made a threat, without considering what other actions might be required in order to maintain safety in the workplace, isn’t something that you want to do.
The next recommendation is to show passion rather than fear or recrimination. Again, one that I think is valuable to consider, when you’re interacting with the individual who perhaps has made threats or engaged in other inappropriate behavior, is they’re still a person. They’re still an individual and we want to avoid disrespecting them or trying to humiliate them because that’s not going to help the threat situation or the disgruntled-ness this individual might have that you’re dealing with. This really will help the organization in a lot of ways. I think that most times, in these difficult situations, showing compassion rather than fear or recrimination is always a better approach.
The next recommendation is to make people comfortable with reporting concerns. Again, this goes back a little bit to the, you know, not responding to reports in a punitive nature. When folks come forward with concerns, we want to make sure they don’t get thrown under the bus, so to speak, for reporting misbehavior. We want to ensure confidentiality and we want to encourage them to be as accurate and as detailed as possible in their reporting. You know we shouldn’t position this as a way to get people in trouble. They’re taking this action in order to ensure the safety of everyone that’s involved.
The next recommendation is to make it easy for people who are lower on the totem pole to make reports. Their position in the company should not matter. They are often going to be as a frontline worker, going to be the first to know about troubling behavior and you can make a difference, they can make a difference by speaking up. We want to give them multiple avenues to report things. They could approach their boss, but maybe it’s their bosses behavior that’s in question. So we want them to feel comfortable approaching security or human resources, an employee relations representative, local law enforcement, or even some type of confidential reporting hotline in order to report this behavior that they see.
The next recommendation, which one that we’ve echoed here many times, is to assemble a threat management team or you can outsource one through a firm such as ours, or many others that are out there today. This is a multidisciplinary, collaborative effort amongst the company security team, human resources, legal department, local law enforcement, perhaps labor unions senior leaders, and other experts. The point is that as things are reported, as inappropriate behavior or threats or domestic violence concerns are reported, this threat management team reviews them in a systematic way. They are able to make decisions about the severity of this particular situation and then be able to guide the right mitigation strategies and planning, both for the organization and for the employee, or employees, that are at risk or that are engaged in this behavior.
There’s great data around how this works and the value that it can provide. Certainly, it’s something that we believe in very much. We believe threat assessment teams can help figure out whether or not someone is on the path to violence and helping to uncover the problems or the desperation they might be facing. This is a very valuable tool for an organization to use and something that we can help with here at Bryghtpath.
The next recommendation is to be aware of domestic violence issues. About one in three homicides in the workplace are among U.S. women that have been perpetrated by somebody that has a personal relationship with that employee. These are almost always intimate partners or some other type of domestic or personal violence. We should encourage our employees to bring their protective orders to the attention of the company, and refer them to domestic violence advocacy resources where that’s possible.
The next recommendation is to take a climate survey, or an opinion survey, with the employees on a regular basis to gauge how they feel about questions like workplace safety, workplace security, and fairness, and we want to be transparent about those results, even if they’re poor.
Last recommendation, from the article, is that, if you work in human resources, try to have a stronger presence with the staff, with the workers at your place of business. HR has a tendency, because of their role, to see employees on both their best and worst day, which is when they’re hired and when they’re fired and, in a lot of companies, don’t have a lot of interaction in between. I think there’s great value in having HR as a very integral part of your leadership team and very visible part of interacting with your workforce.
The goal, out of all of these recommendations, is to have a company with a good culture, that’s open and transparent. A place where employees can bring and escalate their concerns about the workplace and about, you know, the behavior, or threatening behavior, of others and to have a safe and secure environment for all of the employees at your company.
That’s it for this weeks episode of the Managing Uncertainty podcast. Be sure to join us for our weekly Facebook Live every Thursday at 12 o’clock central time on our Facebook page at facebook.com/bryghtpath.
We’ll see you next week.