In my career, I’ve managed through several hurdles when leading workplace violence prevention programs. As both an in-house leader and as a consultant, I’ve constantly come across the same set of hurdles.
For example, I often hear that “you are going to scare people when rolling out this program” or “threats like these are a very personal matter.” Both of these hurdles concern me when I’ve run into them in the past.
Educating employees on how to handle threats of workplace violence should be no scarier than running a fire drill. It’s an issue that we should be talking about in the workplace.
Here are three hurdles I generally see when leading workplace violence prevention programs:
Are we scaring people?
I’ve heard this question so many times.
The goal, of course, is not to scare people. Threat management is never about scaring people, but rather it is about understanding the risk factors involved in a specific situation. It’s about making sure that those that need to know are aware of those risks.
It’s, above all, about education and awareness. This means making an effort to train all employees and ensuring that they know what to do when concerning behavior or threats are made. It means training those that receive reports of threats on what to do – and how to get information into the hands of trained professionals.
This should include evaluating risks and creating mitigation plans to address those identified risk factors.
The more that we train and educate others, the less “scared” we should become.
For example, I live in Minnesota which is a state that lies just north of “Tornado Alley.” We can get some seriously wicked storms in the summer months.
I remember being awoken in the middle of the night by my mother when I was young. We were in a tornado warning area and the storm was basically passing right over our little farm. My mother was gathering all four of us to head down to the basement where we waited out the storm.
When the storm cleared and the sun rose I remember walking outside and seeing trees down everywhere. We had lost power when some trees had fallen on power lines.
My mother was informed of the incoming risk of the storm and we all knew what to do from there.
This situation from my youth is not that different from managing threats of workplace violence. Extreme outcomes may be very rare but it is better to educate ourselves and others so that when the time comes we know how to react.
This is a personal matter
I hear the phrase “this is a personal matter” most often when discussing threats of suicide and domestic violence. Most often, I hear it from an individual’s supervisor when they share or report a concerning story about one of their employees.
The supervisor knows they should tell someone and are not exactly sure what to do about the story that they have heard – but they are deeply concerned about confidentiality issues.
First, you should ensure that your threat assessment/management team is a trusted, professional team of individuals that are aware of all types of situations that your organization may face. The team should have clear guidelines in place on handling confidential information.
Each situation is different and should be treated differently through the assessment and active management of a threat situation, including threats of suicide and domestic violence situations.
There are ways to manage through delicate situations with your team and mitigation plans that avoid breaching the trust of your employees. Your threat management team should be properly trained and prepared to accomplish this – with clear guidelines in place in your policy or process documentation.
In their darkest hours, employees will be grateful to work for an employer that could help in these difficult, personal situations.
There shouldn’t be so many people involved
I’ve seen threat management teams set up in many different ways. One commonality that they all have, though, is that it is a team effort. I believe strongly that cross-functional teams that collaborate well together throughout the threat management process are far superior in their approach.
Each discipline in the threat management process brings it’s own specialized expertise and experience to the table. The disciplines balance each other out through collaboration and discussion – leading to a stronger end result.
For example, when accomplishing an employee termination – human resources and your general counsel or employee relations counsel are most often involved.
But what happens when it has been determined that this employee is at a high risk for violence in the termination process?
Now, security should also be involved. Perhaps law enforcement needs to be invited into the discussion.
More importantly, why are they a risk for violence when being terminated? Perhaps an outside threat management should be brought in to assess the risk.
What sort of safety planning needs to be implemented? Why will manage those plans? Where will they be documented?
Many factors should be considered when managing a threat of workplace violence – and it requires many different disciplines to assess and develop the best course of action.
Take advantage of our expertise and experience at Bryghtpath
Bryghtpath has developed the workplace violence programs, threat management teams, and crisis plans for many Fortune 500 organizations. Our firm has more than a century of experience in developing actionable plans to help prepare organizations for the unexpected. Our expertise include crisis communications and emergency procedures, and we’d love to help empower your management to handle challenging workplace violence situations safely.
We know how to work through the hurdles we’ve shared in this blog post!
Contact us today at +1.612.235.6435 or via our contact page.