Tip Sheets: How Small Businesses Can Address Workplace Violence

Some may think that workplace violence happens only in larger organizations or, as we have seen on the news, in schools and shopping centers. This is not the case. They occur in small business settings also, and all too frequently.

Accordingly, here are several “tip sheets” for small business owners and managers to help prevent and deal with workplace violence:

Know the Signs of a Violent Employee 

  • Depressed behavior.
  • Paranoid behavior, such as accusing coworkers of unfriendly conduct.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Quickness to complain about or quarrel with others in the office.
  • Talking about violent incidents that have taken place in another workplace.
  • Talking about guns, especially a new gun they have recently purchased.
  • Recent poor work performance.
  • Slurred speech or glassy eyes. (These can be signs of alcohol or drug use).

General Operating Procedures to Help Prevent Workplace Violence

  • Accept the fact that workplace violence is real and can happen anywhere, including in your office. 
  • Identify those members of your staff who might be targets of workplace violence. For instance, HR departments, warehouses, and reception areas tend to be targets.
  • Take every threat seriously and never ignore an incident, threat, or situation. There is no joking about workplace violence.
  • Do not allow guns in the workplace. If possible, prohibit them from being carried in an employee’s vehicle.
  • Attempt to create a workplace setting that fosters trust and openness.
  • Have established disciplinary procedures in place, including termination, should an incident occur and make sure all staffers know them.
  • Educate yourself and your managers on conflict resolution. This way, you will know how and when to intervene in situations.

 Should Workplace Violence Occur

  • If a serious incident occurs, call the police.
  • Make sure all staffers are safe; if not, and as noted in a previous blog, often the best steps to take when a workplace incident occurs is to run and hide until the area is safe.
  • Be consistent. All incidents, no matter whom they involve, must be treated in the same manner.

When Firing an Employee

  • If you need to fire an employee, do it in a way that preserves their dignity.
  • Emphasize humane and respectful treatment in the firing process.
  • Have someone else present when a staffer is being terminated. If a security officer, have them sit in the back of the room. This can be less threatening.
  • Have an exit interview. Be sure it is clear why the person is being fired.
  • During the exit interview, ask the fired employee for office keys, identification badges, and other company items in their possession.
  • Make sure the staffer’s access security information has been removed from the company database as soon as possible. 
  • Establish a grievance procedure or job assistance.

 Other Precautions

  • If a business owner or manager is aware that someone may be violent, there could be legal ramifications should an incident occur.
  • If the police are called in, do not tell them one staffer “started the incident.” Instead, tell the police what happened to the best of your knowledge and ask them to “investigate the situation.” 
  •       Should news reporters come to your workplace after an incident, designate just one person as the company spokesperson to answer their questions. 
  • Keep answers brief and do not name names. Tell reporters, “The police are investigating the situation. We cannot say anything more than that.”
  • Remember, the role of the press is to look for a news story, and their account may not paint your business in a positive light. The less the company spokesperson says to them, the better.

 After a Workplace Violence Incident   

In most cases, business owners have two tasks to address after an incident has occurred:

  •       Make sure the survivors are assisted. This can include coworkers, families, and friends of victims.
  •       Get the business open and back to normal as quickly as possible.

These are the same two goals for virtually any type of workplace violence incident. The only variable is the seriousness of the incident. The more serious, usually the more time it will take to get these steps accomplished.

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© TAL Global, 2019