April 1, 2008: Protesting job cuts, French union workers held four bosses hostage for more than 24 hours at a Caterpillar plant. Last week, workers at a French 3M plant held the company boss hostage for two days, and earlier this month workers at a French Sony plant held a similar protest.
This is not an April Fool’s joke! But you don’t believe this type of workplace violence can happen in the America? Think again.
December 5, 2008: In response to Republic Windows and Doors factory of Chicago decision to close, 250 workers refused to leave the factory and occupied the premises for 6 days until they received $1.75 million in severance pay to leave.
Facts: The Workplace Violence Research Institute estimates workplace violence cost U.S. businesses $36 billion per year. Violence in the workplace is the second leading cause of workplace deaths. Companies are being held liable for not making their premises safe for Employees against workplace violence.
With the national unemployment rate 8.4 percent in March, up from 8.1 percent in February and from 4.8 percent last year, I am getting more requests for my one-day workshop, “Preventing Workplace Violence”, then I have in the last ten years. Why? Because if Employees’ livelihoods are threatened through layoffs and terminations, they may resort to violence, especially if they feel they have been mistreated by the Company in the layoff or termination process. Now every Company needs to consider implementing a Violence Prevention Program to ensure the Company is adequately prepared to recognize and respond to behavior and circumstances that pose a threat of violence to it and its Employees.
A Workplace Violence Prevention Program should have the following components:
- A Written Workplace Anti-Violence Policy stating the Company’s commitment to provide a safe workplace, free from violence and the threat of violence and including a code of Employee conduct that clearly defines unacceptable behavior and prohibits all violence.
- A Threat Management Team, a team of Employees trained to manage any reports of inappropriate behavior and actual incidents of violence. Instead of waiting for a violent incident to occur and then deciding who and how it will be handled, a Company should create and train a Threat Management Team so procedures and lines of authority are clear. An essential part of the Threat Management Team’s duties should be Threat Assessment, determining the seriousness of potentially violent situations and how to intervene to prevent violence from occurring.
- A Violence Prevention Training Program: One of the most critical components of any Company’s Violence Prevention Program is training. Often a violent act is preceded by behavior that signaled the violence to come — threats or displays of temper; verbal abuse of coworkers through phone calls or e-mails; complaints about unfairness or injustice; making comments about violent acts. If these and other signs are recognized and addressed, violence might be stopped from occurring.
The 3 components of a Violence Prevention Training Program are:
- Employee Training: Employees should know about the Company’s Anti-Violence Policy and how to recognize and report incidents of violent and intimidating, threatening, and disruptive behavior.
- Supervisory Training: Employees should learn how to detect inappropriate behaviors and early warning signs of situations having potential for violence; how to properly handle reports of violence from Employees; and how to minimize the potential risks of workplace events, such layoffs and terminations.
- Threat Management Team Training: should include the Company’s Anti-Violence Policy and procedures; basic facts about workplace violence; risk factors the workplace could face; identifying problem behavior and recognizing warning signs of potential violence; and investigative and incident management techniques.
The Bottom Line: In the increasingly uncertain world created by ongoing layoffs and terminations, violence can occur at your Company. But the difference maker often is whether the Company is proactive when dealing with the issue of potential workplace violence. If a Company is knowledgeable and watchful about workplace violence, it can anticipate and take actions that may prevent its occurrence. And that is a very good thing for the Company and its Employees.
Questions: Does your Company have a Violence Prevention Program?
Does it include a clear policy and sufficient training to alert Employees and Supervisors to signs of potential violence?