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Workplace violence is a major problem in the United States. People are hurt or killed every month by co-workers or patrons.

While it is not as common a problem as sexual harassment or discrimination, workplace violence is preventable if certain measures are taken to keep employees safe. Follow these tips:

Create a harassment prevention policy – Each level of worker should be represented. Employees, managers and executives must all be informed about the policy. Be sure that complaints can be filed and will be addressed privately but quickly.

Create open lines of communication – Perpetrators are able to carry out their plans if they think that victims will be silent. If there are regular meetings of teams or the entire workforce, people have a chance to voice their concerns and relieve tensions.  Encourage employees to talk to one another and managers about issues, and develop a strong resolution plan with clear steps.

Promote workplace violence awareness – One of the best ways to prevent violence is to train people what to do if there is an intruder or a disgruntled employee. Establish an emergency management team and levels of communication that will facilitate help arriving quickly if there is a major issue.

Set and communicate consequences of threatening behavior – Employees should clearly understand how to identify threatening behavior. They should also understand what constitutes unacceptable behavior and the consequences of it.

Implement a zero-tolerance policy for improper conduct – Be sure that every worker knows about the code of conduct. If workers display signs of violence toward each other, their employment should be terminated. Also, put on display signs that let intruders or disgruntled patrons know that the company has a zero-tolerance policy for violence or threatening behavior.

Promote inclusiveness, acceptance in the workplace – Employees can benefit from diversity workshops that help them learn about differences in religion, ethnicity, age and other factors. Set up activities that help teams get acquainted and embrace their differences.

Keep conflicts from escalating into violence – Watch teams closely to see how they work together. In some instances, tensions can arise but are not relieved properly. This means that the tensions only grow and may lead to violence. Conflict resolution should be encouraged and should be an effective process.

Recognize each worker’s individual value – Every worker should understand why his or her role is vital to the success of the company. Clearly portray this, and thank workers when they contribute. Many workers who become disgruntled and carry out violence do so because they are not appreciated or properly acknowledged for their contributions. Try to notice when workers go above and beyond.  Also, be sure to treat workers equally and fairly at all times.

Encourage workers to report threatening or violent incidents – Reporting should be kept confidential to ensure that employees feel safe. Also, ensure that there is a zero-tolerance policy in place for retribution after a report.

Reduce asset theft risks – Robbery is often a factor in workplace violence. Keep the amount of assets in the workplace to a minimum. To reduce the amount of available monetary assets, use electronic pay systems. Also, keep a locked safe on the premises for any amounts of cash or other important assets.
 

The takeaway
When employers have a solid plan in place to prevent workplace violence, employees are able to avoid becoming disgruntled and behaving unacceptably.

Take all the steps necessary to reduce the chances of a violent confrontation at your company. Encourage your staff to voice concerns about any problems they may be having outside the workplace that they fear could spill over into the workplace, such as a stalker or an ex who has threatened them with bodily harm.

They should also know that there are channels for communicating openly and voicing concerns.