Workplace Violence Policies and Programs Must be Communicated

“What should we do if we notice someone who fits the profile of an enraged employee?”

“What if we are going through a hard time and would like to talk to someone?”

These questions came up in recent in-house training sessions I conducted on workplace violence prevention and response.  There happened to be a supervisor in one of the classes who told the group that their company did in fact have an employee assistance program and could provide counseling for troubled employees.  This was news to the employees.

It is imperative that companies have policies and procedures in place to deal with threats from within and from outside.  BUT, these policies are useless if they are not communicated to the employees.  Does your company have a policy that covers harassment, threatening behavior, reporting behaviors of concern, active shooter situations?  Does it also require reporting of restraining orders or orders of protection?  Domestic violence spillover into the workplace is the fastest growing category of workplace violence.  A recent survey indicates that 94% of corporate security directors rank domestic violence as a HIGH SECURITY problem at their company.  As homicide is the leading cause of death on the job for women, this topic must be addressed.  In many instances, such as the tragic case with Amanda Connors, manager of Cost Cutters in Sioux City, South Dakota, others in the workplace are killed besides the intended victim.  Ms. Connors was trying to warn one of her employees about the employee’s enraged ex-boyfriend, when she was gunned down.

Are your employees aware of company policies and have they been properly trained on what and how to report?  Do they know that their concerns will be taken seriously and addressed promptly?

I have seen cases where a volatile employee is allowed to continue with his threats because no one wants to address the problem.  The result is dismal morale, fear, higher absenteeism, and lowered productivity.  Employers have a duty to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees” (OSHA General Duty Clause).  Zero tolerance, effective and clear policies that are enforced, regular training with employees on awareness, recognition, and reporting, and follow-up are vital to a solid workplace violence program.  Make sure all employees are aware of what’s available to them and how to utilize employee assistance programs.