Workplace Violence Prevention:
This is a rough topic; it just seems like we shouldn’t even have to talk about workplace violence…. but we do. These days, rarely a month goes by where we don’t see some horrific event being broadcast on the web or evening news. The fact is, there are a lot of people out there under extreme levels of stress. A lot of hopeless, frustrated, angry people at the end of their ropes, and a good number of them report to work in that dangerous state of mind. We don’t even hear about the thousands upon thousands of incidents each day, where workers are threatened, harassed, or assaulted at work. It happens. So while it’s all very sad to talk about, it important to do so.
At all levels of an organization, from the CEO’s office to the broom closet, every employee should be able to spend their working hours free from harassment, threats, intimidation, and violence, and it’s management’s job to make that happen.
Workplace violence defined:
“Any threat or act of physical violence, intimidation, harassment, or other disruptive threatening behavior that occurs in the workplace.”
Violence can range from threats to verbal abuse, to physical violence and worse. It can involve and affect not only employees but clients, visitors, and customers. It’s vital for companies to have firm policies and clear expectations in place to prevent it and resolve conflicts. Potential problems should be addressed, and eliminated, long before any violence occurs. It does take effort and diligence, but it’s time well spent.
Codes of Conduct
It all starts with a clearly defined code of conduct for employees; this means a clearly declared zero tolerance approach. When dealt with effectively, and assertively, problems rarely arise.
Every employee should know that any kind of workplace harassment ends in termination. No excuses. Harassment policies should be distributed and regularly promoted so employees are reminded. I’ll say it again, “Every employee should know, and be regularly reminded that any form of harassment is unacceptable.” Employees should know how to file complaints, how the company will respond, how they will be protected from retaliation, and that aggressors will be terminated.
Keep Conflicts from Escalating
Not everyone is going to “get along”, but it’s important that all know there’s a clear line that ends in termination. That prevents minor conflicts from escalating into acts of violence or harassment. Minor conflicts should not be ignored, but dealt with quickly and effectively. That way, things don’t get worse. It’s a fact that most workplace violence occurs after a long. well know, stream of unchecked hostility and conflict were present. (and not addressed) .
Ongoing Training and Awareness
Business owners and managers should take the time to implement ongoing awareness training to consistently reinforce that which is written into company policy. Signs, meetings, memos; zero tolerance, it’s never okay. Simply promoting awareness can go a long way in helping employees identify issues that may need resolved, and help them to know there’s and outlet for communication.
Have an open door policy. Employees need to know there’s a clear channel to effectively communicate any workplace issues that arise. Oftentimes, aggressors thrive on a victim’s silence, or their inability to quickly inform management of what’s going on. Such communication lines are a savior to all, and communication should be promoted and encouraged. Doing so will will help defuse conflict, and shake out any bad apples.
The above items are simple and few, but if practiced, they will dramatically reduce the chance of workplace violence. Certainly, issues can still arise, but the chances of it happening are dramatically reduced. While we can’t predict when someone might snap, we can take steps to create and environment where it’s unlikely.
Employees, managers, and owners alike should feel safe at work and with measures in place, the chances of workplace violence can be decreased.
Rest assured this isn’t just a moral topic of concern either. It’s a financial concern. Workplace dysfunction, at the interpersonal level, results in millions of dollars of lost productivity. Absenteeism, worker disengagement, reduced quality, turnover they’re all impacted by hostile work environments. Make you business safer, make it more enjoyable for employees, and make it more profitable at the same time. It’s a no-brainer.
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