September is National Preparedness Month, and it’s a great time to review and evaluate your organization’s preparedness plans in relation to workplace violence prevention.
Here are five important things to consider as you begin your review and evaluation.
- Expand Your Definition of Workplace Violence.
I encourage you to review and expand your definition of workplace violence to include behaviors that are often precursors to verbal aggression and even physical assault. Behaviors to consider include discourtesy, disrespect, intimidation, harassment/bullying, retaliation, verbal abuse, and, of course, physical violence. As you start reviewing your policies and procedures, be sure to address the lower-level behaviors as well.
- Establish Policies and Procedures.
The next question to ask is, “Do we have policies and procedures in place regarding workplace violence?” Many organizations throughout North America are still answering this question with “No.” From higher education institutions to retailers to government entities to small businesses, many organizations today still do not have policies or procedures to address violence in their workplace.
If this is you, take a step in the direction of employee safety by making an organizational commitment to developing policies and procedures for workplace violence prevention and for responding to incidents should they occur. If this seems like an overwhelming task, I recommend our comprehensive, editable, and customizable workplace violence prevention and bullying prevention templates.
- Review Policies and Procedures.
If you do have policies and procedures in place, way to go! Take some time this month to review them with leadership and employees alike. Clarify your expectations that employees help to facilitate a violence-free workplace. Oftentimes, this is communicated through your organization’s code of conduct and employee handbook. Engage your employees and review these items. It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone remembers everything covered in their orientation process, and that’s all too often the only time codes of conduct, workplace violence, and workplace bullying policies are discussed.
- Get Employee Feedback.
Ask your employees for feedback regarding any potential risks they’ve observed or times when they’ve felt unsafe. Don’t assume that because you have an “open-door policy,” people will communicate this type of information without being prompted. Involve as many employees or represented employee groups as possible when reviewing and evaluating your policies. Since violence prevention is everyone’s responsibility, your employees will likely feel more ownership if you give them the opportunity to be part of the process.
- Make Sure Staff Are Trained.
Part of being prepared is equipping your employees with the skills they need to recognize potentially violent behavior and how to respond appropriately without escalating it further. Do you have training that supports your policies and procedures? Empowering your employees with knowledge to de-escalate the behavior of customers (internal and external) that they work with is another way to improve buy-in, confidence, and employee morale. When everyone has a consistent skill set and language to use in a potentially violent situation, risks can be decreased and the incident is more likely to be successfully mitigated.
Take some time to focus on preparedness for and prevention of workplace violence. Often, we focus on response and recovery, two actions that are indeed important. But if you could reduce your incidents by 10, 20, or even 50 percent, wouldn’t you agree that proactively investing in preventing violence before it can happen is worth it?