Workplace violence takes on many different shapes and forms, ranging from theft or the threat of violence to full-blown shootings and murder. Increasingly we see that organizations are being called upon to assess and respond to threats of workplace violence, potential homicide situations, rapes, stalking, and other incidents where targeted violence is a possibility. Despite the amount of time spent studying these incidents, workplace violence remains extremely difficult to predict, even for the experts.
For example, earlier this year in Dallas an incident occurred in an office tower. A 60-year-old man entered his workplace, pulled out a gun, and shot his supervisor to death. The victim had just been married and was a mother to seven children. The perpetrator did not have any criminal history and there was not any indication that he was going to commit a crime or had any issues with his supervisor. This illustrates exactly how difficult it is to predict a violent workplace incident. An older man without a criminal history and no apparent issues with his supervisor does not seem likely to be a shooter.
What Can You Do?
To protect others and ourselves, we must remain aware of our environment at all times and be prepared to take action against violence whenever necessary. Listed below are steps that can be taken to prevent or mitigate the potential impact of workplace violence whether your organization is small or large.
Policies & Procedures
Develop policies and procedures that define workplace violence, outline proactive measures the Company can take to prevent it, processes that will be used in response to an incident, and identification of individuals or positions responsible for taking immediate action. When threats occurs, time is wasted when companies do not have specific steps outlined for taking action. With workplace violence policies and procedures in place, individuals can remain calm, take the threat seriously and know where to get help.
Create a response team of trained individuals who immediately go into action and can provide overall guidance on how to handle the situation.
Train leaders and employees in advance on how to deal with potentially violent situations when they suddenly are confronted with one. Through appropriate training, they may be able to de-escalate a situation until help can arrive.
Conduct a workplace assessment of the current security structure and where potential loopholes exist. Take steps to create safe and secure working conditions for people within and outside the immediate work areas. For example, make certain there are good lighting systems in building areas and the surrounding grounds.
Develop a well-publicized procedure for reporting incidents, which can be perceived as having the potential for violence. Identify a specific person, such as a key executive, a leader in human resources and/or risk management who is the primary contact where these incidents should be reported. After an incident has occurred, conduct a full investigation and take actions to prevent similar occurrences.
Start Developing A Program
A well-defined program can help reduce the potential for workplace violence whether the organization is small or large. A coordinated team approach before, during, and after a threatening incident deters potentially violent situations from escalating and maximizes the ability to provide care, welfare, safety, and security for everyone involved.