It can happen to anyone (or business), anywhere, at any time, for any reason
Before we can prevent, or lessen the risk, of any workplace violence (WPV) incidents we must understand where the threat comes from. There are four basic areas that WPV comes from;
WPV as a result of another crime
Roughly 79%-85% of all WPV falls into this category. And it really depends on where you get your statistics from as to which number is correct. With the numbers from the University of South Florida, I would tend to think it’s a lot less than those. And only the security expert within your organization can help to prevent these kinds of incidents, not nearly enough time here.
Current or ex-employees
The most hyped kind of WPV is the employee, or ex, doing harm within the business. Usually it’s because of perceived negative treatment by supervisors or co-workers. And keep in mind whatever they perceive is going to be their reality, it doesn’t matter what the real situation may be.
Two things that will help your HR department and management avoid any wrongful disciplinary action or dismissal lawsuits are training your supervisors on recognizing warning signs and the most effective and, efficient ways of confronting the employee before placing it on their (permanent) records. Experts within the community, non-profit organizations, can come in and train your supervisors on what to look for. Although the supervisor needs to follow #2 closely.
#2 is that your entire company needs to know the value and power of documentation. It is one of those vitally necessary things to prove in a court of law that you followed every possible recourse and that the employee was ‘destined’ for termination. All incidents involving employees all the fights, arguments, and so on must be documented every time.
Significant others/domestic violence
This is one that is not as well-known and carefully avoided by most. But because of the NFL’s new campaign of ‘Not One More’ it is getting more attention. Approximately 48% of WPV incidents begin as domestic violence/stalking of their significant other, be it straight or gay. Domestic violence doesn’t only relate to physical violence but can also be mental stress, and emotional abuse.
Usually the significant other becomes so enraged over their spouse having an perceived affair or them working outside the house or some other perceived problem that is magnified or has no basis in fact. They will come to the workplace to physically or verbally abuse their spouse. Even to the point of bringing a weapon and killing their spouse and anyone else they feel is involved.
The victim in this case may have been advised by friends, coworkers, or human resources that they need to get out of their abusive relationship, referred to a shelter, or employee assistance program. The abusive spouse then feels threatened that these people are trying to take their ‘property’ away from them and will come seeking revenge. It can also result from bitter divorces involving innumerable issues.
What can be done to prevent domestic violence spilling over into your workplace? A lot of this depends on ensuring your policies & procedures are regularly updated and that the employees trust their management to talk to them. If an employee confides in their supervisor that there is a problem and they are afraid of their significant other possibly coming to the job site it is their responsibility to inform their managers and security. If they do come to the worksite then call security or the police immediately. They need to be observed closely. If a weapon is seen the need to call 911 is paramount.
Yet another group that is not often found in the media. But why would a customer turn to violence against you? They become dissatisfied with something. Generally it is for some of the same reasons an employee or current employee turns to violence. They feel they receive disparate treatment and the company is treating them differently than any of their other customers.
All disgruntled individuals who come back into your business need to be treated differently, albeit fairly. The customer who comes into your business in a rage, yelling and screaming, demanding their money back or to see the manager is different than the customer who comes back politely and requests the same thing; therefore it is preferable the dissatisfied customer is dealt with away from other customers.
Are these the only tips that help you prevent or lessen the risk of an incident? Of course not. There are numerous others and your HR department or specialized training can show you the others. But no matter what you do you must TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN your employees, supervisors, managers, & C-suite on all of these. And this means ALL departments including HR & security.
Another aspect to consider is regularly updating your policies & procedures. It may be a royal pain in the derriere, but I would recommend at least once a year if not every 6 months. The world changes fast and if you don’t keep up then…
If you don’t ride the waves of change, you’ll find yourself beneath them
Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 32 years in the security field. If you have a question about security and need advice contact him through his Facebook page, one is too many (and like it while you’re there). Here you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.