How to Prepare for Workplace Violence
While you can't always predict and prevent workplace violence, you can plan to limit its impact
December 01, 2005 — CSO —
McGoey acknowledges that "it's impossible to write a manual that will cover every possible scenario." So, instead, McGoey says, you plan for a few probable ones and spend the rest of your time getting your response plan down pat. Here are some of McGoey's guidelines.
1. Build and train a team. Responding to workplace violence starts well before any incident. Recruit a core group and train them as a response team. Include HR, security, business unit management and, if possible, a trained mediator and a crisis counselor. McGoey says you can use any number of books on workplace violence for training and bring in consultants to help build the plan, but you should also simulate scenarios. The response plan will not be general. It will specify parameters of what is appropriate when; what is tolerable behavior on the premises; what behavior will lead to removal from the premises; and when it is appropriate to disable an employee and call the authorities. The plan will assign each team member specific responsibilities because, as McGoey says, "you can't be making hand signals or phone calls during a crisis. Everyone has to know their role beforehand."
2. Know the law. Your rights and responsibilities in a crisis vary depending on who is acting violently. Is the person an employee or a stranger? Has he threatened someone, or is he just acting erratically? Bring in local law enforcement to educate your team on the state laws that will govern your response.
3. Watch for signs. "One of the first things you hear after an incident is, 'He had been saying some weird stuff, but I didn't think he was serious,'" says McGoey. "Even veiled threats must be taken seriously." Make sure the team, and employees in general, know to always report suspicious comments or behavior to the CSO or HR or both, no matter how minimal the threat seems. Also watch for the common events that often lead to violence: being passed over for a promotion, marital strife and, especially, public embarrassment. CSOs should educate managers on recognizing such signals and how to respond. "There are a lot more bad managers than good ones," McGoey says. "When someone's behaving badly [bad managers] become insulting and demeaning and they criticize the person in front of their peers. They actually escalate the situation."