Three stages encapsulate the violent act in the workplace: before the incident, during the incident, and after the incident. In order to address workplace violence, then, it is necessary to devise and implement policies and measures that attempt to reduce its occurrence as well as deal with its aftermath.
A large portion of this pamphlet is afforded to taking preventive steps in combating workplace violence because it is far better and far easier to intercede before an incident occurs. There are six distinct proactive measures that an organization can apply in addressing workplace violence.
- Establish a Crisis Management Team
The purpose of the CMT is to devise, implement, and oversee a violence prevention program that touches on virtually every level of its organization. The members that typically comprise the CMT are: Executive office representative, human resources manager, security personnel, legal advisor, psychologist/Employment Assistance Professionals (EAP), and a public relations consultant.
- Pre-Employment Screening
A pre-employment screening program typically consists of two stages: behavior-0based interviewing and background, criminal, and reference checks. Any information that is used from the background, criminal and reference checks must be evaluated with respect to job relevance. Otherwise, it is illegal for an employer to deny an applicant employment based on information obtained from background information that is not relevant to the prospective job.
A policy should consist of rules and procedures pertaining to workplace violence that are available to all employees in written form.
- Security Measures
These measures typically address external threats of violence, and are focused on the physical structure of the building(s) where an organization reside(s). Several examples are: sign-in sheet for guests, improving quantity and quality of lighting, bulletproof glass, security guards, locks or security codes on main entrances or all entrances, and in an electronic security system.
- Threat Assessment
When threats of violence are internal, its necessary to have a system that is able to recognize and respond to those threats.
Recognizing Threats of Potential Violence
Among many acts of workplace violence there have been warning signs that are indicative of an impending violent episode. Some of the red flags for potential violence are: externalizes blame for personal mistakes and difficulties, uses physical/verbal intimidation and/or threats, drug and/or alcohol abuse often accompanied by excessive absenteeism, entitlement mentality, socially isolated, romantic obsession/stalking of a former or current worker, fascination with previous incidents of workplace violence, verbal expression or paranoid/suspicious thought, brandishing a weapo0n, or weapons,, at the workplace, and religious or political belief concerning ideologies often of a generally perceived extremist nature.
Handling Threats of Potential Violence
An easily accessible, highly centralized system for handling reports of threats and/or harassment is necessary to address violence in its early stages. Some effective means in which organizations may receive reports of threats and/or harassment are: a 24-hour hotline or the receipt of reports by security, human resources, or supervisors.
When threats and/or harassment occur, it is critical that organizations promptly and throughly investigate the situation. A protocol outline the steps an organization may take if the threatening and/or harassing behavior persists:
- A verbal warning delivered by the supervisor.
- A written reprimand, which reiterates the dissatisfaction expressed by the verbal warning.
- Termination. The employer should give the employee specific reasons for his or her dismissal, while remaining factual and objective. Employees should be treated whit respect, dignity, and given ample prior notice when being terminated.
It is important that an organization document all three disciplinary stages. Also, it is imperative that an organization attempt to evaluate an employee’s social, emotional, and financial situation prior to termination, on the basis of the warning signs given earlier, in order to be prepared for any retaliation by the soon-to-be former employee.
Fostering a Supportive Work Environment
This involves the strengthening of interpersonal communication between management and employees, as well as between departments. Several ways in which an organization may do this is: encourage and open-door policy among co-workers, a suggestion box to solicit employee input, and recognize and reward employees for their accomplishments and contributions.