The best way to handle violence in the workplace is to prevent it. To curtail violence among employees in your business, take the following steps:
- Accept the possibility that workplace violence can occur in your workplace.
- Review your recruiting and hiring procedures—institute criminal background checks and carefully check all references and former employers.
- Check external and internal security. Where appropriate, use a screening system. Determine if more stringent security measures are necessary.
- Provide external security to prohibit uncontrolled access by outsiders throughout the company. Identify those members of your staff (such as yourself) who may be likely targets and establish procedures to control access to them. Take every known threat seriously. Follow up and investigate completely.
- Know the warning signs of a troubled employee.
- Prohibit the possession of all weapons, either inside the workplace or transported in an employee's vehicle on company property.
- Make sure all employees know how to reach your local police, ambulance, and security company if you have one.
- Attempt to develop a workplace environment that fosters trust among existing employees and management.
- Develop policies against all forms of violence including harassment and enforce them consistently and universally.
- Establish grievance procedures. If you need to fire an employee, do so with sensitivity, in a way that preserves the employee's dignity.
- Establish exit interview procedures that collect company keys, identification, etc., and alert you to any potential problems.
- Install routine security procedures when employees are fired.
- Emphasize humane and respectful treatment of all employees and pay particular attention to those who are terminated.
- Know how to prevent and handle workplace fighting.
- Know how to handle a violent incident, if one should occur.
Warning Signs of a Violent Employee
In many cases, there are early warning signs of a potentially violent employee that are not communicated to the people who could take action or that are not taken as seriously as they should be. Generally speaking, employee behaviors that may be warnings include:
- Depressed behavior
- Paranoid behavior
- Recent acquisition of a weapon
- Talking about or posting a clipping of a violent incident in another workplace
Practices that occur in the workplace that are believed to lead to higher incidents of violence include:
- Poor grievance procedures
- Poor employer-employee relations
- Harassment, threats, and intimidation
- High levels of stress
If you notice these behaviors in a co-worker, contact your supervisor and, if appropriate, the Police Department.