How to Prepare for the Unthinkable

Workplace violence is very rare, but business owners can’t entirely ignore the risk.

If your company has a workplace safety manual, it probably focuses on preventing accidents and injuries—and not what your company would do in the event of a violent incident. Thankfully, workplace violence is a rare occurrence, but when it does happen, the consequences can be tragic. Almost 460 people were killed in workplace homicides in 2011.

Astoundingly, many companies do not have a policy in place or engage in open dialogue with staff on what to do if the unthinkable were to occur. The best defense is planning and training. Here are some key components to help in the development of a plan that will complement your existing safety plans.

Create a Plan

Start by creating a zero tolerance policy for both direct and implied violence, publish it, and abide by it. Declare that all threats are taken seriously and must be reported immediately. Partner with HR professionals to develop a situational action plan. List proper exit strategies—i.e., never congregate in hallways or stairwells—and explain procedures to all employees.

The patrol division of your local police department is also available for consultation as you develop this plan.

Create a Safe Culture

When hiring, determine ideal characteristics for candidates filling high-stress positions. For example, a hotheaded temperament is not a good fit for a manager resolving client complaints all day. Putting the wrong person in the wrong role can lead to frustration and ultimately issues within the workplace.

Support open communication. Employees that are able to express concerns free from retaliation allow the HR team the ability to foresee issues and create solutions before an issue can escalate. As another safe outlet for frustrated employees, all companies regardless of size should conduct “stay interviews” or 360 evaluations with employees to discuss areas of improvement within the organization. Trained HR professionals and managers can lead these interviews and identify warning signs that are fairly consistent among violent offenders.

Example indicators are employees who:

» Refuse to obey policies and are confrontational

» Make odd or inappropriate references to weapons

» Display extreme changes in behavior

Smaller companies without an HR department may also provide an employee assistance program. This is often offered with your insurance package and allows employees limited free consultations with counselors, attorneys and medical professionals. The reality is workplace violence can affect us all—at any time. Proactive thinking and taking these steps to create a safety plan and develop a safe workplace culture will better prepare you and your employees for the unthinkable.

Lever1 is hosting a free risk-management breakfast workshop on Aug. 12 at the MU Extension office in River Market. Have your questions answered in more detail with the KCPD and HR experts. If you are interested in attending, submit your RSVP to