Workplace Violence Prevention: Focusing on Employees
At our Weekly Growth & Recovery Webinar on June 29, 2021, former federal agent and chief people officer for several healthcare companies Phillip Deming joined us to discuss red flags regarding workplace violence and how organizations can prevent these incidents.
Types of Workplace Violence Incidents
Deming introduces the topic of workplace violence by explaining the four categories in which workplace violence occurs:
- Employee on Employee Conflict: This type of conflict usually plays out in the workplace. It involves conflict between coworkers.
- Domestic Violence: This conflict involves an employee who has an estranged relationship with someone, whether it is a spouse, partner, girlfriend or boyfriend, who comes to workplace to harm said employee.
- Aberrant Behavior: This type of conflict can include employees who engage in abusive behavior in the workplace or strangers who come to the workplace with the intent to harm someone or commit a crime.
- External Threats (Customer, Client, Patient): This conflict is responsible for most workplace violence incidents. Because it involves many external people, the motives are most varied for committing workplace violence.
With these four categories of incidents, employers and employees must be proactive in discerning potential red flags. When determining whether workplace violence incidents could arise internally, it is important for organizations and employers to ask:
- Is this job stressful or creating any unnecessary stress for the employee?
- Does the employee work in a stressful environment?
- Is this employee capable of managing others? Are they equipped to deal with people?
- Is this employee working with any unstable or volatile people?
- Do any of your employees work alone? If so, how do you engage with them and help them to best fit their needs?
- Does the employee perform repetitive tasks, which may frustrate them?
- Has there been a change in job responsibilities or an increase in workload?
- Has there been a change in the employee’s behavior or physical appearance?
- Is returning to the workplace challenging for your employees?
- Is the job too inflexible for the employee now that they are back in the office?
Deming explains that, in preventing workplace violence, it also is important to be proactive to prevent violence outside the workplace. To do this, employers and leaders should ask themselves:
- Are any of my employees dealing with any physical problems such as chronic pain issues?
- Are any of my employees dealing with mental health issues?
- Are any of my employees struggling financially?
- Are any of my employees dealing with marital or relationship issues such as separation or divorce?
- Are any of my employees caring for a sick relative or elderly parent?
- Do any of my employees have concerns about childcare?
- Do any of my employees abuse alcohol or drugs?
- Are any of my employees dealing with uncontrollable events such as the pandemic?
It is imperative that employers recognize and engage with employees regarding these issues to prevent workplace violence incidents. Knowing this information will help you develop an employee assistance program and ensure employees are getting the help and support they need.
Employers should know that, if an employee has secured a protection From Abuse (PFA) Order against a partner or spouse, it is likely that the abuser will show up at the workplace to confront the employee. If this happens, Deming suggests that these steps be taken immediately, before any such visit takes place:
- Probe with the employee all the particulars relating to the PFA order and document the same
- Obtain a copy of the PFA Order and document of the same
- Secure a photograph/description of the alleged abuser
What Employers Can Do
Deming concludes his talk with six actions we can take to prevent workplace violence and support our employees:
- Be Involved
- Be an Active Listener
- Be Empathetic/Sympathetic to Concerns
- Be Supportive
- Be Aware of Red Flags
- Be Ready to Act