Developing Your Workplace Violence Prevention Program

Updated: July 25, 2009

Developing Your Workplace Violence Prevention Security Policy:

Introduction:

Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Security Policies are a must for any organization. Trust and concern are major considerations when developing such security policies. Trust and concern are the underlining themes in many policies that play a major decision in whether a policy gets implemented or not. Some policies may not be written because of trust and concern and the perception of imposed limitations. But, then again, some policies are needed because we know people probably won't do the right thing. Concern drives the necessity to assure compliance while instilling accountability. Ideally you want to trust all resources, but that is unrealistic. Trusting employees to do the right thing will develop over time with proper attention and oversight. The establishment and implementation of guidelines helps the process along.

What Policies will do?

Policies lay the foundation for controlling behavior

Policies will dictate the resources that are required

Policies communicate management's commitment and direction

Policies provide direction to respond to abuse, intolerance and misconduct and perceptions

Policies can even assist with legal action when the need arises

Policies protect the firm against scurrilous allegations

Policies will help frame acceptable behavior

Policies will clarify reporting procedures

Policies will establish response and investigative duties

Why Policies fail?

Policies are viewed as a hindrance or inconvenience to productivity

Policies are viewed as a measure to control behavior

People have different views about the need for security controls

People are afraid policies will be difficult to follow

Policies inhibit creativity

Policies are not coordinated or staffed

Policies restrict creativity or inhibit performance

Policies are enforced

Policies are not promoted and supported by programs

New policies may produce friction between employees, supervisors, and management and employee groups. Care and sensitivity to the objectives of the policy must be articulated in advance. Basically, people don't like change, rules or restrictions and may consider the policy as an infringement or worst yet, impeding their rights to interact or a break of trust.

Management is concerned about costs versus protection and appropriate training is not budgeted or planned. Getting all sides to agree is nearly impossible. The objective is to try to reach a win-win situation while not compromising the ethical decisions essential to eliminating perceptions and protecting employees and the business.

Policies must:

Be implement-able and enforceable

Be concise and easy to understand

Balance protection with productivity

State reasons why policy is needed

Define what is covered by the policies and any limitations

Identify responsibilities

Define how violations will be handled

Touch on accountability, responsibility and consequences

Incidents that lead to workplace violence will not be tolerated

While writing your policies, don't go overboard and develop something that is unreasonable or can't be implemented or measured. The final result must consider protection with the desired level of productivity and without inhibiting performance, efficiency and morale. The policies must be concise, easy to read and understand. Try to keep a policy to around 1 - 2 pages, were possible. Also, be aware of the impact of new policies on existing programs, personnel and the business.

Once the policies have been reviewed and approved, they should be communicated immediately within the organization and a date given as to when the new policy will take effect. After the policies are implemented, change control, audits and assessments must be performed regularly.

Strategy:

The formulation of the Workplace Violence Prevention Policy should not attempt to define every situation but attempt to establish the general intolerance of misconduct leading to the more aggressive behavior which include verbal threats to commit bodily harm, aggravated intimidation and harassment, stalking, verbal confrontations followed by physical assault and homicide as a result of workplace violence. Essentially, the policies should be designed to identify the behaviors, which lead to potential incidents of workplace violence. Every effort should be made to define workplace violence and provide examples of the incidents and conduct that can lead to workplace violence. The policies should describe examples of the workplace environment, which can include permanent and temporary worksites by giving examples.

Clearly established reporting guidance should be implemented; including employee hotlines and stated supervisory responsibilities.

It should address consequences, accountability and responsibility. Since workplace violence can typically occur at any worksite, away from senior managers, supervisors who fail to take corrective actions will be held responsible as well as the participants. When the perpetrator is a non-employee assertive steps should be undertaken to devote resources to support the law enforcement function.

Policies should avoid the pitfall of assumption emanating from the belief that workplace violence is only relative to the misconduct between employees and not non-employees. Care should be taken to address your Workplace Violence Prevention Policy by employees, supervisors, managers and non-employees as well. While much cannot be done to control the uncontrollable conduct of non-employees, employers are cautioned not to avoid addressing inappropriate behavior to avoid a negative image and place employees in harms way.

Design and implementation of your Workplace Violence Prevention Policy should consider the following recommendations when deploying your policy.

Recommendations:

Incidents of Workplace Violence are by-products of the workplace environment and the situations that individuals might find themselves a part of. Every effort and care must be exercised in developing thoughtful policies consistent with sound practices. Issues of workplace related violence are a workplace reality emanating from perceptions, misconduct, ineffective leadership styles, lack of diversity emphasis, poor communications, mistreatment and of course violence prone behavior all a microcosm of our society.

As such all employees should be mindful of contributing conditions, behaviors, attitudes and situations that might cause a spontaneous or premeditated response. Employees should be educated about the pitfalls of such contributory behavior and the need to take appropriate action. Example: Caustic leadership style will create consternation leading to confrontation. Supervisors should exercise care in resolving behavioral issues to avoid perceptions of unfairness, disparity, favoritism, disrespect or allegations of verbal abuse during counseling sessions. When deciding to design or implement your policy, refrain from the obvious and think globally as it relates to your unique workplace environments. The objective is to avoid the cookie-cutter mentality.

- Zero Tolerance should be the optimal objective of instituting any Workplace Violence Prevention Policy.

- Protecting people, property and premises should guide your decision when implementing such policies.

- Avoid situations that place workers at risk as a result of. unnecessary exposure to threatening conduct or abusive conditions.

- Supervisors and managers should avoid engaging employees in a verbal exchange to gain the upper hand. Such exchanges could backfire causing the employee to believe his dignity and respect is being challenged leading to retaliation.

- When disciplining employee do so in a considerate tone devoid of personal innuendo or personalized commentary.

- Following disposition of disciplinary action maintain respectable boundaries when coming in contact with an employee.

- Try to admonish privately and praise publicly.

- When confronted with challenging issues regarding allegations of misconduct by supervisors and managers, investigate the allegation immediately.

- Create a creditable reporting system designed to empower employees to report what they see, hear and feel.

- Establish acceptable and unacceptable working parameters to insure employee know when to report incidents that require immediate resolution.

- Employees who have contact with the public should be instructed on acceptable behavior and at risk situations.

- Preventing workplace violence requires a collaboration of resources; consider the Threat Assessment Team as your barometer of indicators.

- Training employees in Workplace Violence Prevention and Security Awareness will help reduce incidents and enhance workplace security.

- Supervisor should be empowered to investigate all incidents that come to their attention to avoid misperceptions of a permissive environment and to identify intervention strategies.

- Every threat should be investigated and evaluated based on the context and content of the utterance. What may not be a threat on the surface could very well make the victim feel threatened.

- Victims of workplace violence or security breaches should be supported with the legal resources of the company.

- Management should create a mutually supportive atmosphere that insures the full support of the company. Providing legal support is an example of leadership creating a supportive environment.

- To avoid escalation, management must apply the rules and procedures fairly but consistently regardless of the situation.

- When terminating employees be mindful of the mental and emotional affect the traumatic decision will have on the employee during the festering period. Deliver what your promise during the termination process or beware of the backfire.

- Know that while in your presence, the employee will be lethargic, shocked and unresponsive but that things will ultimately change as the impact and reality sets in.

- Consider positive treatment when adjudicating disciplinary action. Avoid harsh approaches and drawing preliminary conclusions.

Workplace Violence is an often-misunderstood topic. Employers do not feel that have any problems with workplace violence and often miss the cues, which are the warning signals. They often dismiss the allegation as an aberration or part of the office culture. Sexually provocative photographs of women and men in suggestive poses, racially charged bantering found acceptable by a few, acceptable name call calling and nicknames that rile others, perceptions of favoritism in assignment are all relative incidents or indicators of potential problems to come. Recent statistics clearly support that employers do not dedicate sufficient preventive resources to workplace violence prevention and that training in this area in underemphasized. When such training is conducted, the content tends to be low level and ineffectual. Training was not scheduled or conducted as planned.

In many instances, policies were implemented but were not followed or enforced.

Incidents of Workplace Violence leave victims traumatized but often procedures do not address the aftermath. A victim can be the object of the abuse, threat, harassment assault as well as the witnesses and other affected by-standers. Consideration should be given to addressing the toxic environment created by the exposure. In many cases, decisions to deploy Workplace Violence Prevention Policies are a by-product of what they know or see on television and are not comprehensive enough to address the unique aspects of the business. Assessments are not conducted initially to identify unique aspects, derive employee input or assess management response and understanding. Instead, their impressions are reflective of the horrific scenes of employees shooting employees and not of the contributory behavior described above in their unique environments.

They have no appreciation for the contributing factors, which ultimately led the disgruntled employee to take matters in his or her hands. The final act did not happen over night, it was a methodical process conjured over month and years with disciplined deliberation. The decision to act out is based on a number of factors of which the employer failed to recognize or adopt appropriate countermeasures to prevent or detect potential problems.

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SAMPLE WORKPLACE VIOLENCE POLICY

The Company provides a safe workplace for all employees. To ensure a safe workplace and to reduce the risk of violence, all employees should review and understand all provisions of this workplace violence policy.

Prohibited Conduct

We do not tolerate any type of workplace violence committed by or against employees. Employees are prohibited from making threats or engaging in violent activities.

This list of behaviors, while not inclusive, provides examples of conduct that is prohibited.

• Causing physical injury to another person;

• Making threatening remarks;

• Aggressive or hostile behavior that creates a reasonable fear of injury to another person or subjects another individual to emotional distress;

• Intentionally damaging employer property or property of another employee;

• Possession of a weapon while on company property or while on company business;

• Committing acts motivated by, or related to, sexual harassment or domestic violence.

Risk Factors

Employees exposed to the risk factors typically work in public setting; work late at night or early morning hours alone or in small groups, exchange money with the public, in uncontrolled access environments open to the public and employees, and areas of previous concerns, which can include the workplace and community settings.

Reporting Procedures

Any potentially dangerous situations must be reported immediately to a supervisor or the Human Resource Department. Reports can be made anonymously and all reported incidents would be investigated. Reports or incidents warranting confidentiality will be handled appropriately and information will be disclosed to others only on a need-to-know basis. All parties involved in a situation will be counseled and the results of investigations will be discussed with them. The Company will actively intervene at any indication of a possibly hostile or violent situation.

Risk Mitigation Measures

Worksite Analysis: Managers should have a familiarity with their employee's permanent and temporary worksites to allow them access to sound decision-making options. This analysis should attempt to gather information from employees, supervisors, managers and law enforcement about the potential risks or if whether the community is experiencing a particular rash of crime. Managers should endeavor to identity employee environments that offer unique threats and risks and address them as specific risk factors. A hospital offers a uniquely different set of risks than working in a small group or alone at a maintenance facility. Working in an office setting with minimal access controls might expose employees to threats and assaults by the clients and publics they serve. Since every environment is uniquely different, managers should take care in understanding the process by seeking competent expert services in this area.

Hiring & Retention: While the Human Resource Department takes reasonable measures to conduct background investigations to review candidates backgrounds to reduce the risk of hiring individuals with a history of violent behavior, changes in settings, personal situations and attitudes change in people over time. Critical to the hiring process is the retention of violence prone employees who are retained without any recourse. Care and concern in the monitoring of employee is critical to the safety of other employees and intervening in sufficient time to assist the employee.

Safety: The Company should conduct annual inspections of the premises as part of the worksite analysis to evaluate and determine any vulnerability to workplace violence or hazards. Any necessary corrective action will be taken to reduce all risks. Factored are the assurance that deployed technology such as CCTVs, Access Controls, Doors and Locks are properly functioning and a coordinated piece of the prevention process.

Individual Situations: While we do not expect employees to be skilled at identifying potentially dangerous persons, employees are expected to exercise good judgment and to inform managers, security or the department head if any employee exhibits behavior, which could be a sign of potentially dangerous situations. Such behavior includes:

• Discussing weapons or bringing them to the workplace;

• Displaying overt signs of extreme stress, resentment, hostility, or anger;

• Making threatening remarks;

• Sudden or significant deterioration of performance;

• Displaying irrational or inappropriate behavior.

Leadership Challenges: Employees should be treated with Dignity and Respect. The disciplinary process should be devoir of personal inferences and kept professional throughout. Where possible and part of policy, shop stewards or employee representatives should be part of the process. Discourage supervisors from drawing premature conclusions until all the facts are in.

Terminations: Remember that the decision nor the discussion to terminate did not occur in a vacuum. Such decisions should be supported by a positive corporate approach that treats every employee with dignity and respect. Therefore, every effort should be made to be thoughtful, considerate and empathetic. Set the tone and deliver professionalism. Create an environment where the employee fully accepts his or her responsibility without any further reference or discussions. Due allow the employee ample time to ask questions and make observations. Avoid engaging the employee in argumentative discussions. Establish the parameter of the meeting early on. Insure the setting is verified and that everything the employee is promised is delivered immediately. Promote a spirit of support and understanding while remaining firm and professional. Never allow others not part of the immediate process to offer commentary during the meeting or at anytime following the termination. Keep a watchful eye out for indicators of disgruntled tendencies and be prepared to intervene early to avert disaster. Key to preventing an incident is in knowing that the employee controls his thoughts, decision process and is familiar with his or her workplace.

Employees at Risk: Department Heads or Senior Administrators to include the Human Resource Department will identify and maintain a list of employees who have been determined to be at risk for becoming victims of violence because of the nature of their job or because they are subject to harassment, violence, or threats from a non-employee. Human Resources and Security will design a plan with at-risk employees to prepare for any possible emergency situations.

Dangerous/Emergency Situations

Employees who confront or encounter an armed or dangerous person should not attempt to challenge or disarm the individual. Employees should remain calm, make constant eye contact and talk to the individual and notify security. The incident must be reported in order for corrective action to be taken. If a supervisor can be safely notified of the need for assistance without endangering the safety of the employee or others, such notice should be given. The use of code words or hand signal can be adopted. Otherwise, cooperate and follow the instructions given to minimize the risk.

Enforcement

Threats, threatening conduct, or any other acts of aggression or violence in the workplace will not be tolerated. Any employee determined to have committed such acts will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Non-employees engaged in violent acts on the employer's premises would be reported to the proper authorities and fully prosecuted.

Threat Assessment

The Threat Assessment Team can be created to help enforce your Zero-Tolerance Policy, serve as a coordinated body to identify early warning signs, assess and evaluate potential incident that could escalate and recommend risk abatement strategies. The Threat Assessment Team should include your Human Resource Manager or Personnel Manager, Safety Manager, Security Manager, Mental Health or EAP Coordinator and Nursing.

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