Employers understand that they have a moral and legal responsibility to protect their employees from violence in the workplace. The problem most face is how to effectively execute that obligation.
When it comes to designing a workplace anti-violence strategy, it’s best to create a two-pronged approach that consists of protection and prevention. Start by developing a written policy that clearly communicates a zero tolerance toward workplace violence of any form. The policy also needs to outline exactly what disciplinary measures will be taken against employees who threaten violence. Your Human Resources professional should write this in conjunction with your in-house counsel to be sure that the policy doesn’t infringe on any federal/state laws. If an employee violates this policy, it is imperative that you follow through with the stated consequences.
Other important steps in the fight against workplace violence include verifying application information, conducting thorough background checks and having more than one person in the room during an evaluation or termination meeting.
Employers should also train supervisors to spot potential violence in all its forms including destruction of property and implied threats of violence, and encourage them to report these incidents immediately. Studies have shown that violent workers usually don’t just snap. They exhibit an increasingly violent attitude over time. A supervisor trained to recognize an employee who is beginning to show signs of violence can prevent an assault by referring the employee for counseling. Some of the early warning signs include:
· Comments about a personal or family history of violence
· Fascination with guns or other weapons
· Direct or veiled threats
· Serious personal or family problems, such as divorce or a death in the family
· Financial troubles
· A drastic change in behavior, such as mood swings or outbursts
· Poor job performance
· Abuse of drugs or alcohol
· Lack of social interaction with other employees
· Signs of paranoia about another employee
· Repressed anger
In addition to training supervisors, employers can stop workplace assaults by ensuring there is enough physical security on-site. Another important tool is an employee reporting system, such as an anonymous hotline. Supervisors aren’t always the first to recognize growing violence in an employee. A hotline will make it easy for employees to let management know about suspicious or threatening behaviors without fear of reprisals from the violent individual.