Workplace Violence Prevention: Are You Proactive or Reactive?

In a recent blog post, I spoke about the two types of clients that we get hired by in order to provide organizational training for workplace violence prevention.
Those two types of clients fall into these simply named categories of proactive and reactive.
If you work for a reactive organization, it means that your employer will wait for something to happen before they feel the obligation, or are forced, to do something about it in response.
If you work for a proactive organization, it means that your employer does not wait – but acts because they understand that they have a legal and moral obligation to provide you with a safe workplace.
Such a legal obligation consists of four basic requirements.

  1. Policy and Procedure Development
  2. Risk Assessments
  3. Employee Training
  4. Incident Investigations

Proactive organizations focus their initial efforts on the first three in an effort to mitigate or reduce the need to do the fourth.
When examining the issue of workplace violence, it must be stated that it can happen in any organization at any time.
Workplace violence occurs in large organizations as well as small “mom and pop” operations.
It happens in large cities and in rural towns.
Perpetrators of workplace violence can range from strangers to troubled employees to model employees.
Often those previously mentioned reactive organizations have buried their proverbial heads in the sand and taken the approach that it can’t happen here.
If organizational leaders believe that violence cannot occur in their workplace, or that the strongest threat comes from an external source, they are placing their employees at risk.
Such a notion can be the outcome of an organizational culture where the threat of workplace violence, in all of its guises, is not taken seriously.
The culture of an organization may actually encourage confrontational, aggressive, or even violent behaviours.
Some more organizational cultures may inhibit open communication, which may have the effect of stifling employee reports of aggressive or confrontational behaviour when they either witness it, experience it or become aware of it.
Others may give employees reason to believe that nothing will be done to address their concerns if they are raised in the first place.
If no reporting of incidents or potential incidents occurs, the organization can easily be lulled into a false sense of security because there is nothing to indicate that anything is going on that the organization should be concerned about.
Preventing and responding to incidents of workplace violence requires a coordinated effort across the entire organization and at every level of organizational leadership.
Workplace violence prevention efforts may be less than effective if the organization and its leaders are able to produce this level of coordination.
Organizations should foster a culture that values openness and one that is receptive to new ideas, and treats employees with dignity and respect. Such workplace cultures have no tolerance for threatening behaviour, intimidation or hostility.
Employees should be encouraged to report any incident that gives them calls for concern and every single report must be taken seriously, and acted upon if required, by organizational leaders.
Providing training and education to employees and supervisors in order to familiarize them with conflict resolution strategies would be an important aspect to include in an organization’s workplace violence prevention program. We call our workplace violence prevention training program ZERO Violence as that is what we aim to help organizations achieve.
Being able to resolve workplace conflicts before they escalate into anything more serious should be considered a priority.
At the first signs of hostility, threats, intimidation etc. should be dealt with effectively and consistently by supervisors within the organization in accordance with the organization’s workplace violence prevention program and, if necessary, the disciplinary procedures.
Dealing effectively with these situations creates a more productive workplace, can act as a deterrent to employees contemplating these types of behaviours and demonstrate that there are consequences for such actions.
Here is just one example of an such organization responding to an incident of workplace violence.
I cannot tell you the number of times when we have been hired by reactive organizations to deliver workplace violence prevention training to their staff, supervisors and managers following an incident of workplace violence and one comment that is routinely shared within the room is that of, “I always knew that would happen one day.”
This provides an opportunity for me to internally roll my eyes and rhetorically ask, “if they always knew that it would happen one day, why didn’t they do something about it before it happened?”
Please make sure that your organization is always in the proactive category – don’t let me roll my eyes! Learn workplace violence prevention before it’s too late.


About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.

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