Nobody wants to think of their workplace as unsafe.
As an employer, you have a vested interest in keeping your employees (not to mention yourself) as well as your company safe. Harassment and discrimination training is a great first step in preventing incidents and encouraging early reporting. However, your training likely doesn’t cover a terrifying new reality: workplace violence.
Check out these articles by Business Management Daily. The first discusses the rising number of assault cases. The line between assault and harassment is a thin one, and assault settlements have the potential to grow infinitely higher than harassment settlements.
Why Assault & Battery is a Growing HR Concern
Most experienced HR people have a fairly good grasp on the definition of unlawful harassment and discrimination. But have you ever thought about what constitutes assault, battery and “intentional inflictions of emotional distress” in the workplace? It has becoming an important concept for HR professionals to learn because employees’ attorneys these days are filing an increasing number of state-law assault claims based on conduct similar to that which gives rise to basic harassment suits.
This article (also by Business Management Daily) discusses 4 specific ways that workplace violence has increased over time, including violence against women, gun violence, cyberbullying, and inadequate use of hiring tools.
4 Ways the Workplace has Become More Dangerous
“Of course, of the millions of reported cases, there are many more that go unreported; workplace violence includes any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site,” says Timothy Dimoff. Dimoff, a former award-winning narcotics detective and SWAT team member, reviews today’s problems and offers a path for conflict resolution and prevention.
What Does My Workplace Violence Training Need to Address?
The Important Early Warning Signs and Reporting
It’s very rare that no one sees any warning signs before an act of violence occurs. Usually employees had some sense that something was “off” about the perpetrating employee, even if they couldn’t quite but a finger on what it was. Your workplace violence training should emphasize the importance of reporting these signs – while one employees “off” feeling may not be valuable information, dozens of employees reporting the same individual would be a huge red flag. Reporting is the most critical piece, so your program should also include an employee awareness component that makes it clear how to report incidents. Reporting information should remain easily accessible even after the initial awareness campaign, whether via flyers, posters, or a dedicated area on the company intranet.
Fear of Retaliation
Worse yet, employees may avoid reporting early warning signs for fear of retaliation. The workplace violence training you choose should address this fear, how to report signs of retaliation anonymously, as well as different examples of what retaliation may look like.
Workplace retaliation comes in many forms. | Wenzel Fenton Cabassa
Here are the most common forms of retaliation and what to do about it.
Threat Response Plan
Your managers will need a clear plan of action in case reports about an individual escalate. The goal is to stop the individual before a violent incident occurs. While it’s important to move quickly, your managers should be cautioned against rapid fire action. Terminating a dangerous employee brings about a set of circumstances very different from the usual termination, which is already unpleasant enough. The ideal plan involves a workplace violence professional to assess the employee’s mental state and plan where to go from there. Many acts of workplace violence occur years after the termination, but this risk can be mitigated by involving a mental health expert with workplace violence threat experience.
Remember: workplace violence training is cheaper than even one incident of violence. The financial and human costs, not to mention the damage to your reputation, aren’t worth it. How is your company mitigating the risk of workplace violence? Tell us in the comments!
PS: Generally I don’t include articles that aren’t specific to corporate working environments, but the author here makes a great point – military personnel are always at work, which makes this topic particularly relevant to them. So while it’s not business specific, you might still find this to be a very interesting read.
Workplace Behavior: The Ethics behind Sexual Assault in the Military – Ethics Sage
Sexual Assault in the Military and the Military Justice System: The US Equal Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as a violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It relates to any unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. This definition applies when such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a person’s job, pay, career, or as a basis for career or employment decisions affecting that person, or unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. For military personnel, the working environment pertains 24/7, on or off post, and on or off duty.