This summer workplace conflict has escalated into violence that is shocking and disturbing. In July an employee in an Albuquerque New Mexico fiber optics company shot and killed two people and wounded four others.
Last week an employee was fired for stealing from the company, with videos to show him taking product from the New England beer distributor. He went on a shooting rampage that left eight people dead before he took his own life.
With the economy still in a heightened red alert zone in most of the country, with stress at an all time high, conflict can tumble into violence when we least expect it.
A discussion with Chris Mason, partner in the Phoenix office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, a national labor and employment firm with offices across the United States I was given some important advice for keeping your organization in the safe zone to reduce the risk of workplace violence.
- Zero tolerance policy: Make sure there is no gray area. Have strong definitions about what constitutes actual violence, threats of violence, verbal abuse, harassment of any kind, behaviors that can be considered dangerous.
- Safe reporting methods have confidential methods for employees to bring their concerns to the human resource representative. Keep a paper trail so that all documents are in proper order.
- Review policy annually have a “town hall” meeting, in person or teleconference, where policies are underlined and clear to everyone on staff.
- Develop training programs to “expect respect” and teach employees how to handle conflict quickly and effectively in an interactive manner.
Training programs such as “Ouch: handling Workplace Conflict” (through Creative Energy Options, Inc.) or one from Fisher & Phillips would benefit your company. See it as an insurance plan, a just in case plan.
Sometimes, even with regular employee education and proactive training programs in place, bad things happen to good companies. Yet, good companies can take one more step in their workplace violence strategy to help ensure their team’s safety – developing a crisis-response strategy.
Any crisis-response strategy should include:
- A law enforcement communications plan: which may include identifying a manager, executive or other employees who are designated to work directly with law enforcement in times of crisis and immediately after crisis situations.
- Security Plan: which may include creating a checklist of measures to take to protect business assets in times of crisis; including safety around data and computers; and especially taking headcount of employees to ensure everyone is safe and accounted for.
- Psychological review plan: pre-arranged relationship with mental health professionals to help with emotional aftershocks of violence.
- Post event investigation: review events that led to the violence and addressing what else could be added to zero-tolerance policy and training programs.
- Media relations plan: identifying a spokesperson for taking to the community about the incident.
- Legal plan: review of workers’ compensation laws and potential ramifications of the workplace violence.
This is not an easy area to discuss. However, it is crucial in these tense times with the world spinning so fast for every company to give deep thought to ways you can reduce risk of danger on the job.
For conflict management programs email [email protected] or visit www.laborlawyers.com for more information.