Threats in the workplace are not only awkward, but also precarious. Over the past decade, workplace violence has become rife for employers, as they have only tackled threats of violence after employees act.
Employers can never take an employee’s threatening behavior casually. HR professionals need to act on every threat of violence because such threats are the only signal that workplace violence is being considered.
The sheer threat of violence should be countered with prompt discipline, and quite possibly termination (not that kind of termination). But really, what exactly should one do to enforce a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy?
Consider the idea that most threats of work place violence land first on the desk of the HR department. If you didn’t feel like doing anything about the threat that day the report arrived in your tray, you’d have a hard time not feeling liable if the threat came to fruition.
So what is currently being done to better prepare HR professionals in preventing violent situations at work? Well, the Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Guideline was released back in 2005 by ASIS International. More recently in 2009, the Society for Human Resource Management reported that it would join forces with ASIS International to create a joint Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention American National Standard. Occasionally, OSHA issues industry-specific guidelines for preventing and responding to workplace violence, particularly for late-night retail establishments, health care and social service workers in susceptible situations.
When designing a workplace violence policy, consider:
·Specifically defining and prohibiting all forms of workplace violence and threats of violence—the policy needs to be specifically linked with a clear statement of the consequences for violating the policy. Zero-tolerance means zero-tolerance.
·Requiring employees to quickly report any alleged violations of the workplace violence policy, and offering multiple channels to submit report.
·Affirming a pledge of nonretaliation for employees who submit reports under the policy.
·Recognizing the persons, or departments, responsible for taking action on reports. A formally designated "threat management" or "threat response" team will persuade employees and allow them to feel comfortable reporting under the policy.
Even the most well founded policy will not prevent workplace violence all the time. However, with adequate training on the policy and dedication to its enforcement from the top down, a clearly communicated policy will promote a safe working atmosphere.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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