The physical workplace, whether it is a school, office, fire house, hospital, or other, should be a place of learning, collaboration, and productivity. It is where employees, managers, and executives come together to show their talents and achieve a common goal together each day. The physical workplace, however, is being challenged with instances of violence, both from outside and within the employees who work together.
Various shooting tragedies within physical workplaces in the U.S. have continued to dominate headlines. While workplace violence is nothing new, trends point to more frequent and dangerous workplace violence episodes.
It is crucial as a leader to be mindful of the risks that a potential tragedy in your office or place of work could present to your managers and employees. Preparation is vital to help minimize the risks of a particular event happening. There are items you can do right away to prepare your employees and managers for any potential risks.
Workplace Violence Preparation Checklist:
- Lead with empathy and care toward your employees.
- Identify an employee assistance program (EAP), which helps with mental health counseling for employees.
- Oftentimes this program is offered as a part of the ancillary benefits that you already offer to employees.
- Ask your employee benefits broker for EAP details.
- Make sure to circulate this EAP phone number for all managers and employees, in case it is needed for an employee.
- Identify the phone number of your local police department. Call the local police department to ask them to go through your physical workplace to identify ways to keep your employees safer in case of a workplace violence situation.
- Install an office lock where people are given a code, so the code can instantly be eliminated in case of a hostile situation.
- Encourage your managers to be observant of changes in employee behavior, such as the following:
- A decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
- An increase in severe mood swings and unstable, emotional responses
- An increase in paranoid behaviors
- An increase in empathy for those who commit acts of violence
- An increase in comments about firearms and other dangerous weapons
- Encourage your managers to be observant of life changes for employees, which can include the following:
- A divorce
- A death in the family
- Financial problems such as high personal debt or bankruptcy
- Substance abuse that is getting worse and signs are showing at work
- Depression or mental illness that are getting worse and signs are showing at work
There are various tipping points that can incite violence from an employee, but none is more dangerous than the termination of an employee. Be sure to educate your managers on careful, non-personal terminations that are free of humiliation for the employee. Key tips for safe terminations include:
- If an employee is being hostile, have them work from home until a termination can be given remotely through a virtual meeting.
- If a termination needs to be done in person, don’t parade the employee through the office after a termination. Be mindful of the actions after the termination conversation and ensure the employee can leave securely.
- If a termination needs to be done in person, be prepared before the termination with security coverage, if needed.
- Eliminate access to computer systems and the physical office space directly after a termination.
- Use verbiage in the termination such as ‘this is your last day at the company,’ followed with non-personal aspects of the next steps of the termination. Be straight to the point and don’t highlight items that could spur anger in the employee.
As the leader of an organization, you want to create an environment that encourages all kinds of feedback so that you hear of a problem before it gets worse. The first step to gaining this response is to ensure all communication avenues are open and supportive. This includes the following:
- Establish routine, or regular one-on-one meetings between managers and employees, with a frequency that is bi-weekly or weekly, to make sure there is continuous communication and opportunity for providing feedback.
- Ensure there are no penalties for coming forward to report suspicious activity from an employee.
- Listen to issues and do an investigation of the complaint about the employee or bring in an outside consultant to do an employee investigation.
- Ensure any issues that are brought forward are kept confidential.
Violence Prevention Plan Documentation
It is imperative that these rules to taking actions against workplace violence are composed as a part of the company handbook or as its own separate policy. Create a written prevention plan that identifies and defines workplace violence, recognizes warning signs, establishes an emergency response plan, and implements a response team. Thinking outside the box, such as putting a key code on the office doors or keeping a simple doorstop near the front door, can readily be put in place to stop intruders from entering your workplace. These acts, communication and education must start from the top down. Management should provide hands-on training and safety instruction to ensure all employees know the proper protocol given a dangerous emergency situation.
There are soft skills that can be taught and reinforced with your managers to ensure a safer workplace for your employees. Flex HR can bring a consultant to train your managers how to lead with empathy and care for employees, while also spotting any potential problems in the physical workplace. Flex HR consultants also perform employee investigations that remain confidential. Consultants are trained to listen and highlight key issues to provide solutions that help to minimize the risks of workplace violence.
The challenges of the workplace have always been varied, complex, and constantly changing. Leaders can take proactive and thoughtful actions to prevent any threats of violence to their employees and to ensure these situations never occur.