Workplace Violence - The Mitigation Factors

Felix P Nater

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Contributing Factors of Workplace Violence

Contrary to all the media hysteria on the gun theory and the rush to judgment, there are many contributing factors that motivate an individual to escalate his emotional appetite to vengeance. The warning signs are always evident in the aftermath. But the problem is the lack of investment in training and awareness for all in the festering stages during pre-violence periods. You might say it is the “tipping point’ at work. Here are some contributing factors you might want to consider:

- prone to violence or references to violence

- poor or overly authoritative management practices

- permissive workplace environments where toleration of name calling, abusiveness and intimidation is the norm

- workplaces where a lack of awareness tends to dismiss or overlook the indicators

- insensitivity to diverse workplace issues

- acceptable workplace banter just in fun

- spontaneous reactions to ongoing harassment and intimidation

- revenge towards the perpetrators

- perceptions of iniquities

- intense media coverage and TV attention

- getting even with the company or society

These contributing factors have environmental and societal impact and are often taken for granted. Supervisors often justify not taking any corrective action because the need to take action is unclear. In the case of Domestic Violence in the workplace, most supervisors do not get involved because they feel incompetent to deal with the situation or feel it is non of their business.

Who Cause Workplace Violence

It is important to remember that workplace violence is not only perpetrated by employees and the threat of an assault, robbery or rape can happen by non employees during their work day or related to their work. However, it is also important to know that the employee you hired years earlier is not the same person you think you know today. There are many causes of workplace violence that have nothing or very little to do with the workplace. Yet, knowing what to look for could help the employee before things got worse. Such causes that might lead to violence could include the following:

- known history or violent past behavior

- changes in personal situations such as confrontational divorces or caustic relationships

- extreme financial hardships

- health problems

- individuals who become mentally deranged

- bitter matrimonial disputes

- knowing the type of community you work in

- societal and environmental influences

Suggested Internal Controls

Technology and security awareness combined might help, however; technology alone is not the solution. What good is the deployment of technology without training that explains the value? The administered policy will not contain the emotions of a vengeful person, but the involved supervisor can have an interdictive value. Establishing clear reporting procedures encourage timely reporting of of potentially hostile situations from escalating. Proactive involvement helps to create a supportive environment in a workplace setting where the need to take appropriate action is supported because management is willing to commit resources. Terminating employees because that is the necessary act must be a guided process to insure a prudent approach to minimize the need to get even. Most terminations are a business decision that is handled by an insensitive manager.

Things To Do. . .

- Conduct security awareness training down to the lowest level. - Select the optimum termination environment. - Include informational mailings with paychecks. - Designate a time of year as Workplace Violence Prevention Awareness. Key will be the workplace culture that discourages such feelings. - Incorporate Employee Assistance Programs as part of a workplace Wellness Program. - Establish clear reporting instructions that places accountability and responsibility to report and document observations. - Have an anonymous reporting system to protect the source. - Conduct background checks that offer more insight into the process to protect against the “vacationing" criminal or predator or falsification of applications. - Employees undergoing difficult marriage relationships should be encouraged to seek help. - Do provide training for leadership in workplace violence prevention for all levels of management.

Knowing what to do and how to react can help to mitigate the threat of workplace violence and protect as many as possible from the violent act. Remember, while bullets can wound or kill you, so can a flying object or accidental fall. *Stop practicing theory and deal with situational awareness.

And finally but not last, formulate a threat assessment team approach composed of key players to review and evaluate reports or observations of potential situations to prevent escalation. Consider situations that might escalate as justification for convening the threat assessment team. This is particularly important in workplace environments where confidentiality issues protect privacy of individuals from external disclosure of information.

"Evaluate before you have to investigate". “Emphasize common sense before firing. " “Take favoritism out of the decision process regardless of the relationship".

Felix P. Nater is the president and owner of Nater Associates, Ltd. a workplace violence prevention and workplace security management consultant who helps educate and inform businesses and organizations to minimize the threat of workplace violence through the integration and synchronization of resources. You can view his services at


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