Tips to help prevent Workplace Violence

Recently, I was reading an article in the PEO Insidermagazine by Christina Stovall, MBA, PHR regarding Workplace Violence.  Many statements which I will highlight throughout this post got me to thinking.  According to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), approximately 2 million employees across the US experience workplace violence each year.  At first, that seemed like a big number. I know the news is filled daily with horrific stories, but millions, really? Then I got to thinking about all the cases that occur at your average small business that are not big enough for national news and realized it was possible.  Domestic disputes, arguments that turn violent, hostage situations, bullying, you name it.  In fact, a couple of years ago in my town, two business owners shot each other over a parking space.  I realized that the norm I am experiencing today is actually worse it seems than it used to be.  Stress levels are up, moods are declining, tempers are boiling to the surface faster and more and more people seem to be desensitized to judging comments or actions that can lead to many forms of devastating responses.  I think years of uncertainty, layoffs, financial concerns, lack of work and increased workloads are taking their toll.  In times like these, it seems some individuals are tested beyond what they can deal with when that final straw is broken.

So as owners and managers, what can we do to help prevent issues at our own place of business?  The following tips may help and I encourage you to share ideas that you may have as well.

• Be aware of changes in the moods of your staff.  Is anyone more stressed than usual?  Has anyone taken on a lot of extra work requiring even more hours of dedication to the job?
• Provide clear instructions to your employees regarding pending changes, their performance and any big developments that will have an impact.  Employees that know where they stand are generally able to better deal with change and typically will not react with violence.  But if they do not feel as if they have been treated fairly, their concerns have been addressed or that their feelings and comments have not been viewed as serious, they can quickly react with devastating results.
• Establish policies and procedures regarding workplace violence and ensure that each individual has been properly notified. 
• Draft an emergency response plan and make sure that all staff members are well trained.
• Offer access to an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) for your employees to seek assistance on matters such as financial, family or health.  At StaffScapes we offer such a program to all of our clients and their employees.  
• Take complaints seriously and investigate claims completely.

No one can prevent every act of violence, but talking about the issues, having a plan in place and offering a support system will go a long way in assisting those that may need it and keeping violence out of the workplace.