Prevention Key to Disarming Threat of Workplace Violence

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On March 21, dozens of law enforcement officials, workplace violence experts and Human Resource professionals, gathered for the Workplace Violence 101 conference held in Springfield, MO.

From the Chief of Police who opened the event, to the keynote speaker, the leaders of the breakout sessions and the concerned participants, one theme emerged as the standard on which all corporations should focus: PREVENTION.

The first step any corporation should take is to create a Workplace Violence Policy if it does not already exist, according to the experts in attendance. In addition to creating a policy that outlines steps to take to prevent, respond to and recover from workplace violence, corporations should consider implementing the following steps:

  1. Provide a blueprint or floor plan of your facility to local emergency response authorities BEFORE an incident occurs, so it will be on file in the event violence does hit your company. This floor plan should show where doors, stairways, interior offices and telephones are located. As one law enforcement official stated: “I don't want to incur casualties trying to get to you.”
  2. Develop a training program for all managers, Human Resource professionals and front-line supervisors. The program must teach them how to recognize and respond to the early warning signs of employee frustration and anger, and place an emphasis on respecting personal dignity and the importance of treating all co-workers, regardless of rank or position, with respect. Managers and front-line supervisors are immediately positioned to monitor employee behavior and respond to concerns voiced by staff when a fellow worker shows signs of mounting rage, or engages in threatening talk or actions. They are also ideally be positioned to lead by example by showing compassion and concern for the people they work with.
  3. Adopt and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for ALL acts or threats of violence, and establish procedures to encourage timely reporting of troubling behavior.
  4. Offer educational programs and counseling services to employees and their families, to help them prevent and/or cope with professional or personal problems. There is always one significant event that pushes the perpetrator to commit a violent act, but that event combines with problems occurring elsewhere in the perpetrator's life. By offering employees training in life skills, from dealing with domestic abuse, to better personal financial management, employees are empowered and feel more in control of their lives.
  5. Integrate a character-based pre-employment screening into your hiring practice. Several model applications are available, both online and through professional employment and human resource service providers. These applications explore areas not covered in professional-experience questionnaires, and can provide valuable insight into personal decision-making habits the prospective employee may exhibit that could indicate the potential for future concerns. Experts also advised corporations to appreciate the value of thorough background checks.

The average age of a perpetrator is 35 to 45, and he has usually been on the job for 12 to 15 years. Former employees who return to the workplace to commit an act of violence often do so a year or more after they left. The tension that eventually explodes in violence builds over a long period of time, with many negative events combining to increase the pressure on the individual. Creating and maintaining a safe work environment must go beyond instructing the front-desk receptionist to call 911 if someone enters the business with a gun in his hand. Properly screening prospective employees, educating managers and staff on how to treat each other with respect, and providing employees with programs and services that help them maintain control over their lives, are some PREVENTATIVE measures that are not only important, they are imperative to the safety and wellbeing of your employees, and, therefore, the company itself.

About the author: The LFE Institute's Financial Literacy curriculum has helped reduce the financial stress and family conflicts over money. More than 300,000 employees have benefited from LFE's unique Financial Literacy workshops and online counseling.


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