Dealing With the Disgruntled

Written by: Lorrie Howard, Horizon Point Consulting 

I recently received an email from a company (hoping to sell me their services) that included an article on “resignation violence” and told the story of an employee who went in to HR to resign her position and ended up attacking the HR representative.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that while workplace violence by co-workers is relatively low, it is on the rise.

During my career, there are a few situations that come to mind when I was concerned about going in to a meeting or became concerned during a meeting due to an employee’s response.

According to OSHA, nearly two million American workers report being the victims of workplace violence annually. Imagine how many instances go unreported each year. Keep in mind that in many of these reports the accused assailant isn’t a co-worker, but visitors, vendors, contractors, and customers.

The FBI reports that approximately 80% of active shooter events occur in the workplace.

Workplace violence isn’t always a result of something that occurred in the workplace, often it’s a result of some other event or issue within that individual’s life.

So how can organizations help to minimize the risk of workplace violence?

  1. Conduct pre-hire checks. This may include contacting employment references, conducting background checks, and requiring drug screens. It could also include searching for a candidate’s social media presence.
  2. Have a well-defined zero-tolerance workplace violence policy. Make sure that your policy outlines what may be considered workplace violence. It’s not just physical violence, it can also be verbal assaults, bullying, visual threats, and more.
  3. Make sure employees know the reporting process. If an employee experiences workplace violence, do they know who to report it to and the process of investigation that will occur as a result? And if an employee files a report, make sure they are taken seriously and investigated promptly.
  4. Provide regular training. All employees should receive annual training on workplace violence. Leadership should understand how to handle complaints, who is responsible for investigating, and what that investigation process looks like. Training should include what to do in the event of an active shooter.
  5. Implement safety precautions. Assess your vulnerabilities. Does your facility have cameras, is a key card required for access, do you regularly do safety walks to make sure outside lighting is in working order, what’s your visitor check in procedure? Once you’ve assessed your weaknesses, determine how you will fix them.
  6. Offer an Employee Assistance Program. I’ve talked about this before. It’s a benefit that I strongly believe in providing to employees. There have been many situations in which I referred employees to the EAP. It is a benefit that can help both those employees who are exhibiting signs of stress or anger that could lead to potential workplace violence as well as the victims of workplace violence.

Is your organization successfully minimizing the risk of workplace violence?

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