Tips for Avoiding Workplace Violence
When a gunman shot and killed three executives, critically wounded one other and killed himself in a Philadelphia board room on Feb. 12, American workers everywhere were reminded that violence can erupt without warning when business decisions and personal emotions intersect.
"Here we have an extreme case of a business relationship gone bad, which is something that happens every single day, in varying degrees, across the country," said workplace expert and employment attorney Robin Bond. "Organizations have an ongoing responsibility to protect their employees, and to educate and prepare them for the possibility of workplace violence."
Bond offers these tips for employers seeking to ensure safety in their places of business:
In any dispute, it's important to first try to resolve the problem through a third party mediator. Another option is to have all sides get their own legal representation so that the personal feelings can be kept out of the discussion.
Whenever you fire someone, have a witness, but in a private place, with positive feelings about the contributions that employee made to the company. Alert building security and have someone nearby who can react quickly if the situation gets out of hand.
To best avoid liability and to protect employees, have a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy and program with dedicated financial resources and time for training to ensure that all employees know whom to contact in the event of a threat or violent act.
Employees who feel mistreated by coworkers or managers are advised to get help outside the company immediately, preferably from an employment lawyer who can give an unbiased opinion on the situation. Keep all relevant documentation, including performance reviews, e-mail correspondence, client feedback and company policy handbooks -- this is all evidence that will be reviewed by human resources, an arbitrator, or even a judge and jury.
For additional information, see OSHA's safety and health topics page on workplace violence at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence