According to the Alliance Against Workplace Violence, April 2015 is the third year for a national observance of Workplace Violence Awareness Month. And April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, in remembrance of workers who have died at work.
Workplace violence can result from actions of strangers, customers, employees, and relatives of employees. The best defense against workplace violence is awareness of the possible sources of conflict. Any strong workplace violence avoidance program should consider all these sources of violence.
1. Recognizing Employees Who Might Become Violent
Obviously, businesses have the most familiarity with their employees. According to Exigo Business Solutions, here are seven behaviors to watch for in employees that can be potential warning signs of workplace violence.
- A history of violence
- Negative reactions to poor performance reviews
- Drug or alcohol dependencies, which can lead to paranoia or aggressive behavior
- Romantic obsessions which may lead to inappropriate behavior such as harassment or stalking
- Requiring repeated instruction, repetition of errors and other concentration problems, which can indicate a troubled employee
- Depression, which may lead to emotional or aggressive outbursts. Signs of depression can include a slowed work pace, blank facial expressions, inappropriate guilt/shame, etc.
- Any verbal threats or other activity that is seen as ‘out of character’ for a co-worker
Note that some of these indicators are vague or difficult to determine. The best managers are familiar with their employees and notice when an employee’s behavior changes. They have a good relationship with their staffs, and employees in their organizations seek them out when there are conflicts or problems in the workplace.
2. Developing an Effective Workplace Violence Prevention Program
An effective workplace violence prevention program should include
- An assessment of the specific risks of violence at your particular workplace and an evaluation of the controls and policies already in place
- Measures to ensure the physical security of offices and facilities, such as installing alarm systems, protective barriers, and routes for escape if danger occurs
- Personal protective equipment, if needed, including personal-alarm systems and mechanisms for contacting security or law enforcement
- A plan of action for responding to acts of workplace violence
- Services to treat traumatized employees involved in an incident of workplace violence
- Workplace-violence awareness training for employees.
Training should cover the warning signs of a potential violent act, how to report any concerns and what to do if violence does occur. Training should cover employee’s responsibility not only for their own safety, but also for that of their coworkers, customers, and any members of the public who enter the workplace.
Workplace violence prevention is a crucial part of any crisis management program. Involve your HR and your risk management personnel in advance.
Don’t wait for the crisis to occur.
For more information on avoiding workplace violence, see:
If you have experienced a threat of workplace violence, what was the most important lesson you learned?