ASIS and SHRM Provide the American National Standard for Workplace Violence & Prevention

workplace violence

Workplace violence is any action that threatens the physical safety and/or psychological wellbeing of employees and visitors or that causes damage to company property. Violence is often categorized into three levels, as follows:

Level 1 – Verbal Aggression

  • constant refusal to cooperate
  • spreading rumors to harm others
  • being aggressively argumentative
  • belligerent behavior towards others

Level 2 – Unreasonable Behavior

  • refusal to obey company policies and procedures
  • sabotaging equipment and/or stealing property for revenge
  • sending sexual or violent notes to co-workers or management

Level 3 – Physical Acts

  • making suicidal threats
  • physical fights
  • destruction of property
  • commission of a murder, rape or arson

The workplace setting plays a key role in whether a person may become violent. Workplaces that demonstrate a lack of caring for employee well-being; do not focus on building a respectful workplace culture; do not effectively handle grievances, have ignored reports of aggressive behavior or violence; do not train managers and employees about violence; or do not show a commitment to employee safety, are certain to have incidents of level 1 violence, with the increased risk of level 2 and 3 violent acts occurring.

On the other hand, workplaces that are safe and focus on building a healthy culture of civility, that minimizes stress and that handle grievances and reports of aggression effectively, are less likely to experience workplace violence.

Sure, you can implement a policy and offer a one-hour training program on violence, for example, and hope that it stops. But my motto has always been that culture is an important piece of the equation. Culture dictates behavior, and therefore it deserves some attention when safe-guarding your workplace from incivility, bullying and violence.

Someone recently forwarded me this awesome 50 page booklet by ASIS and SHRM, so I thought I’d post it. I like this booklet because although it doesn’t specifically say so, it is focused on culture change when implementing a workplace violence prevention policy. Here are some of the highlights (with my two cents in italics):

Your policy should:

  • clearly define unacceptable behavior (you should also have a policy that clearly defines acceptable behavior too)
  • require anyone and everyone to make a prompt report of policy violations
  • provide multiple avenues for reporting those violations
  • assure confidentiality and discretion when a report is made
  • include commitment to address retaliation should it occur
  • impose consistent discipline

People involved include:

  • human resources
  • security
  • legal counsel
  • occupational safety and health personnel
  • union
  • employee assistance (EAP)
  • crisis and risk management
  • public relations

Training should include:

  • behavioral and psychological aspects of violence
  • risk factors for your specific organization
  • information about your organization’s specific policy, and rights and obligations under that policy
  • how to identify problem behavior
  • how to report problem behaviors
  • basic information about intimate partner violence
  • how to respond in an emergency
From a prevention aspect, additional training should include:
  • what positive workplace behaviors are
  • how to act in a professional and positive way
  • emotional intelligence
  • stress management
  • optimism and resilience
  • communication skills