Preventing workplace violence usually involves several distinct steps, which can often be found in a written policy. First, avoiding dangerous situations depends largely on being able to educate the workforce to recognize risk factors and warning signs of potential violence. After education, the remaining elements of such a policy typically include prevention, response, and follow-up. Each place of work will have a unique system in place for dealing with it, but many organizations and businesses follow similar frameworks for addressing workplace violence.
Education is often considered the first step in preventing workplace violence. Techniques can range from informal conversations among co-workers to formal training programs. Managers and supervisors frequently educate themselves and their employees about the meaning of workplace violence, as well as the potential for it in their particular locations. If an emergency response team exists, it usually requires specialized training, as well. Workplace violence can have many definitions. It can be a violent act, or a threat of physical harm, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening behavior. It can also include verbal or written threats, and, in some places, disruptive actions, such as cursing and spreading rumors are considered workplace violence.
People who work in certain fields or locations tend to face a higher risk of experiencing violence in the workplace. Some examples include people who work closely with the public, such as healthcare workers or social services employees. In addition, individuals who handle money can often face violent situations, as well. Yet workplace violence can occur anywhere, and it is often difficult to predict whether an outsider or even a co-worker will engage in violent behavior at his place of employment.
The next step generally goes beyond general education and focuses on prevention. Many workplace policies describe violence prevention as raising awareness and providing specific training in order to assess threats and identify potentially violent situations. Two helpful tools for preventing workplace violence are a written policy that explicitly states what types of behavior are unacceptable, as well as pre-employment screening of job candidates. Depending on a particular organization’s risk factors for violence, it might also have an emergency plan in place. Many businesses also have programs — such as alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or an employee assistance program — available, and these can help to deter workplace violence.
If workplace violence cannot be prevented and an incident occurs, then response is typically the next step. Some employers have emergency response teams that have been specifically trained to deal with violent situations. This group can determine, for instance, whether an evacuation is necessary, or otherwise take whatever steps are outlined in the organization’s plan.
Follow-up is usually the last step in preventing workplace violence. Supervisors generally evaluate whether the situation was handled appropriately. Then they can create official reports and modify workplace policies and procedures, if necessary. If a traumatic incident takes place, then managers can either work with their employees directly, or bring in outside assistance for debriefing and counseling the staff. Many human resources experts agree that having a written workplace violence prevention plan in place clarifies roles and duties when an incident occurs. This can lead to employees feeling safer and more confident in the workplace.