Threats in the workplace are something to be taken seriously. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates there are about 2 million cases of non-fatal workplace violence each year. The surprisingly high number of incidents vary from verbal and physical abuse to homicides. Department of Justice officials found that violence is a leading cause of fatal injuries at work with about 1,000 workplace homicides each year. Considering these numbers is not enough given the estimation that about 25 percent of workplace violence goes unreported.
These statistics show that violence in the workplace is more common than we might think, but when employers take threats of violence seriously, they can prevent and/or lessen the impact of violence. Below are 4 ways to be prepared and take threats in the workplace seriously.
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1. Policy for Workplace Issues
The workplace is for collaboration, efficiency, and creativity. When employees experience bullying, intimidation, harassment, and other threats in the workplace, they’re forced to endure an offensive work environment that usually affects their job performance. This behavior often serves as a warning for violence, so it’s imperative for employers to create policies and procedures that encourage open communication to address any workplace complaints efficiently and privately.
Clear & Updated Policies
Clear, firm policies show your company’s commitment to preventing violence from occurring in the workplace. Some organizations adopt zero-tolerance policies for harassment and/or violence to eliminate undesirable employee behavior and avoid favoritism (as managers must apply swift, consistent punishment no matter who violates the policy). Make all employees aware of the consequences of violating the policy, and update the employee handbook so everyone has a copy of the policy in writing.
Open Communication with Employees
Workplace policies are a good start to preventing violence, but they won’t be effective unless employees report threatening behavior. This can be enabled by establishing an open line of communication to management, human resources, and other key members of the company. Through this channel, employee grievances and other feedback will be properly heard and acknowledged.
Some organizations successfully operate an internal communication network where employees can anonymously report the early signs of potential violence. This makes employees feel respected and safe. (Note: In urgent or extreme cases where serious crimes are suspected – employees can be expected to bypass management and go directly to law enforcement.)
To establish this culture of open communication, designate specific leaders and/or teams to gather and address all threats and complaints in a consistent and confidential manner. Express the importance of addressing complaints and threats immediately, rather than passively sweeping them under the rug in favor of getting back to work.
2. Pre Employment Background Checks & Other Record Management
In addition to encouraging confidential communication, put into place specific prevention initiatives. Workplace violence prevention begins with hiring and relies on consistent record-keeping and documentation. Here are a few ways employee paperwork might help with prevention.
Conducting background checks for new hires is a smart way to keep violent people out of your workplace before they even arrive. Consider initiating a background check once an offer is accepted and before the employee’s first day. This reveals whether the individual has a violent past. It also provides an opportunity to ask clarifying questions about the report and possibly retract the offer to avoid potential issues down the road. Be sure to screen temporary employees, too (if they haven’t already been vetted through a temp agency).
Some organizations use a “three strike” rule for threatening behavior in the workplace (including comments, bullying, etc.) before dismissing an employee. This requires HR and/or management to maintain detailed personnel records, similar to work performance reviews, that follow the employee even if they get transferred to a new department or separate building.
3. Training & Seminars for Handling Threats in the Workplace
Thorough training builds confidence in the workplace. Training must include learning new technology, knowing how to communicate professionally, and understanding crisis response plans and responsibilities.
Workplace violence can be defined in many different ways, so the first training exercise is really a follow-up to the policy communication mentioned above. Educate the entire team on how your organization defines violence and what consequences result from it. Also train employees to identify warning signs of violence, and how to report these acts within the organization:
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
- Unexplained absenteeism or decline in job performance
- Depression, withdrawal or suicidal comments
- Resistance to changes at work
- Persistent complaining about unfair treatment
- Violation of company policies
- Emotional responses to criticism, mood swings
In addition to steps that prevent violence in the workplace, empower your people with a response plan. ALICE Active Shooter Response Training provides your organization knowledge and training to confidently respond, should a violent incident occur.
For employees handling money, also consider training for conflict resolution and nonviolent techniques to resolve hostage, hijacking and other crisis situations.
4. Prepare a Crisis Management Plan
Don’t wait for the unthinkable to happen. Create a crisis management plan to show that your organization prioritizes the safety of its employees. A plan, and supplemental training to explain it, gives employees confidence in knowing what to do in the event of a workplace threat or crisis situation.
Consider including the following items in the crisis management plan for your workplace:
- Identify the critical incident (individual with a weapon, physical altercation, etc.)
- Contact law enforcement
- Communicate emergency instructions throughout the building until law enforcement arrives
- Communicate with media and employee families as needed
- Initiate business contingency plans if the building needs to shut down
- Offer trauma response and recovery support
This kind of detailed plan may help minimize the number of people in harm’s way. Be sure to communicate the roles and responsibilities listed in the plan with the entire workforce so everyone knows what’s expected of them beforehand.
Navigate360 in the Workplace
When you know how to prevent workplace violence, you can be part of the solution and make your company a safer place for all employees. Nearly 6,000 workplaces have selected Navigate360 resources to assess, prevent and respond to workplace violence and emergencies.
To find out how we can help your workplace with the full spectrum of safety solutions, call our specialists at 330-661-0106 or visit us at navigate360.com.
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