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Preventing Disruptive Behavior and Workplace Violence

Question:

Seems like there have been a lot of recent tragedies in the news involving workplace violence. What can we do as a company to reduce the risk of workplace violence and protect our workers?

Answer:

While workplace violence is significantly less common than popularly believed, due to extensive media attention brought to recent high-profile incidents, prevention is critical.  Incidents involving disruptions and threats are increasing, and early intervention helps prevent more serious acts. Workplaces prone to disruptive incidents are often characterized by high levels of unresolved conflict and poor communication. Conflict at work is normal, but must be addressed promptly and effectively; not avoided or suppressed.

Disruptive behavior can be reduced or prevented by facilitating a workplace environment that promotes a healthy, positive means of airing and resolving problems (methods that do not disrupt the workplace or harm or frighten others). It is also essential to improve the conflict management skills of managers and staff, to set and enforce clear standards of conduct, and to provide help (e.g. mediation and counseling) to address conflicts early.

Even with appropriate conflict management strategies in place, it is important to remember that even the most respectful environment can experience incidents of workplace violence. The environment may not always be the stressor that leads to the occurrence of an incident. An employee may be experiencing psychological problems, be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or suffering from familial stress. He or she may have developed a “romantic” obsession for  another employee and feel abandoned and humiliated by his or her rejection; he or she may be feeling overlooked in not receiving a desired promotion; or an employee may be experiencing rage due to the  knowledge of a potential layoff.

In order to intervene in a timely and appropriate manner before a violent episode occurs, it is important to be able to identify the stages of workplace violence. Employees, in addition to management, should have knowledge of these stages so that they can inform management of potential incidents. Management should have a plan in place for appropriate, early intervention.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.