How Organizations can Approach Workplace Violence

Published on July 21, 2017
Helping organizations proactively reduce risk factors associated with workplace violence
Over the past 35+ years, I have extensive experience dealing with violence. I have spent over 20 years in the military as an infantry leader. In the corporate environment I have worked in positions which affected the life safety of thousands of employees such as a Health and Safety Manager, a Regional Security Manager and as a Director of Corporate Security.

In 2010, I was asked by my Chief Corporate Security Officer to work on a project to review our corporate’s workplace violence procedures. I was paired with a nationally renown forensic psychologist who inspired me to become more educated in the field of Threat Assessment and Management. That challenge has led me down a path that assists others in the alleviation of pain and suffering by implementing measures to limit the amount of violence we see in our workplaces today. How is that accomplished?


Be Proactive

This component of an organization’s violence prevention strategy is one of the most important aspects. All to often we see examples of horrific violent events that are followed by a review that identifies specific danger or warning signs present before the event occurred but were not recognized or they were not reported. A causal factor for outcomes like this is usually due to a lack of proactive thoughtfulness given to the area of workplace violence prevention. Organizations can and should take research-backed abatement measures prior to incidents of violence.

Implement Control Measures

Current research on workplace violence has taught us how to assess and manage these incidents more effectively than ever before. We know that there are identifiable behaviors associated with targeted violence incidents. We also know that the relationship between the attacker and the workplace contributes to our analysis of the methods we use for reducing the chances of a violent interaction with the workforce. Some of the measures to consider include:

  • Senior leadership support for safety and security in the workplace.
    A culture of respect within the organization. Is it one that forbids harassment, bullying, discrimination, and the mistreatment of those who are different? Is there evidence of this in policies and procedures?
  • Employee involvement in safety and security committees. The employees are in the best position to identify hazards and recommend ways to remove or lessen them. Oh, this will also add to employee engagement which I have heard is a good thing!
  • A system of reporting concerning behaviors through both open and anonymous means.
  • Training for employees and managers on how to recognize concerning behaviors.
  • Selection of specific management members to receive and promptly conduct inquires into reports made from the workforce about concerning behaviors.
  • A process for referring employees for counseling or assistance for times when the stresses of life are taking a toll on them.
  • The above list is not all-inclusive but is a good start for leaders of any organization to consider.


Track and Review Progress

We are all well aware that if we want to improve a system, we need to collect and review the data about it to know the health of the system. The same is true for your organization’s workplace violence safety posture. You will need to have a system in place to record the number and types of incidents you are experiencing. This will provide your safety team with needed information to effectively identify areas within the program that present opportunities for improvement.

Hopefully this article will inspire some to take action which could mitigate a possible future act of violence.