We asked Human Resources expert and WVPI Think Tank member Claire Knowles to write a guest blog on the continuing tragedy that is workplace violence from a people relations perspective.
Here's what Claire had to say:
We’ve all seen the television ads where people find themselves in a truly difficult situation—all they want to do is to escape—immediately! That internal flight mechanism kicks in!
The ad hits a deep emotional chord for the viewer. That catchy motto, ‘wanna get away?’ is fully understood.
But what if you can’t get away? What if, as played out everyday across our nation and as the epidemic of workplace violence continues, that you have no escape mechanism?
OSHA estimates that approximately 2 million workers experience workplace violence (of some sort) annually, yet the number could be even higher since many episodes go unreported.
The sad commentary is that there are already human solutions to preventing workplace violence, and CEOs, Leaders, HR Managers and Supervisors (within the workplace) do hold important keys for reducing the risks of those ‘wanna get away’-type behaviors from happening.
Workplace Violence encompasses a spectrum of negative behaviors. There is a continuum. Unchecked incivilities in the workplace beget bullying and unprofessionalism; and when those are not called out, that leads to harassment, taunting, fighting, and even worse behaviors of violence, up to and including homicide. The toxic work environment didn’t start with bullying—it started long before that, creeping into your organization like a cancer, until there is no longer a clear code of expected or enforced conduct. Thus hostile environments emerge.
It is noteworthy to underscore that Bullying and Harassment occur because they can!
So WHO is stopping it in your workplace?
And, WHO is initiating it in your workplace?
Leaders cannot claim ignorance to this. Those workers in the trenches, and certainly as gossiped about in the rest-room, know precisely who perpetrates bullying and harassment; and who is impotent, too cowardly to step up to stop it.
Savvy, informed, and courageous Leaders can make a huge difference for the workplace environment. From not hiring the “bad hire”, from not promoting the “bad supervisor,” to ensuring Supervisors and Managers are skilled in EQ, and enforcing standards, to having a workable Workplace Violence Prevention Comprehensive Program—including a Respectful, Positive, healthy Workplace Policy for which people are well-trained—it is all important.
Yet anchoring it all is the methodology of being able to hold the essential dialogs around what is most important for success, for physical and psychological safety in our workplaces. We must be able to lift up the elephants that need to be addressed—quickly—and frequently. Leaders can learn this skill and improve the workplace culture today! As reported in Forbes: 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses’ behavior—and not the position itself, so why are we not looking in the mirror?
We know, through successful, effectively-run workplaces that Workplace Violence Prevention requires a two-fold look: Both psychological safety (the inside culture) and physical safety (the administrative controls, access/egress, physical vulnerabilities). This is not rocket science—it is straightforward and can be done without a lot of fanfare.
The Workplace Violence Prevention Institute (Kathleen M Bonczyk, Esq.) provides a breath of fresh air for guiding us through this mire.
The Institute's mission is to provide education and training services and preventative and de-escalation strategies to mitigate the risk of workplace violence. The WVPI's goal is to offer proactive solutions designed to lessen the potential of workplace violence in all forms - from harassment to bullying, from assault to murder.
Claire Knowles is a career HR/Labor Relations Manager, Two-time Best-selling Author and Consultant to Leaders and their Teams/Organizations, particularly around improving Workplace Culture and Effectiveness.
Claire is also aligned with the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute, because her proprietary integrated dialog process is most effective in dealing with negative ‘undiscussables’ like bullying, and other forms of destructive behaviors that contribute to Workplace Violence.