Workplace Safety Tips - risks & remedies for bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace.
In an average week in U.S. workplaces, one employee is killed and at least 25 are seriously injured in violent assaults by current or former co-workers. Though most killers left behind clear warning signs, most coworkers and employers ignored, downplayed or misjudged the threat – thinking it was all just odd but harmless talk.Warning signs:
A problem employee may have no history of violence but that’s no guarantee he won’t become violent – even homicidal – especially if he threatens suicide. He becomes very dangerous if he feels he has nothing left to lose. Beware if he or she starts acting out of character, saying "Goodbye" to friends or otherwise speaking cryptically.
• Bitter, frustrated, chronic complainers.
• Socially isolated.
• Having marital or family problems.
• Bragging of violence and making threats.
The typical workplace rampager is usually a good worker who is under age 40, is socially awkward, tends to be the victim of teasing, and doesn't take criticism well.
It's crucial for employers to have a process for reporting incidents confidentially and to expect employees to report worrying behavior. When warning signs are reported, the response must be tailored to the situation. NEVER ignore it.
The first report may just prompt a closer watch. If more reports come in, it may need to take action, such as free counseling. The next step may be to give the employee some paid time off to resolve his or her issues. In the worst cases, the employer may be forced to fire the employee (with a local police officer present) and get a restraining order.
Oftentimes, bullies never truly grow up; they badger, tease, and taunt victims throughout childhood, their teens, and then as “adults” in the workplace. Oh, they’ve grown more discrete, not using physical violence anymore, now they just use intimidation and snide, belittling, mocking, hostile humor – day after day, week after week, year after year.
Bullies often don’t realize that they’re bullies. They delude themselves into thinking that they’re just being honest and frank by pointing out other people’s behavioral foibles. Or they think that they’re being cleverly funny by harassing some hapless souls who may well already have enormous stress in their lives.
Sometimes, a bully pushes a victim too far and when he retaliates, the victim becomes a “deranged killer” and the bullies become “innocent” victims.
Coworkers who see bullying must overcome the “Oh, it can’t happen here” attitude and report the bullying to management - who also must overcome that attitude of denial and just hoping for barely adequate workplace safety. Besides, a bullying victim deserves merciful intervention from management.
Proper management requires "people skills" to manage diverse personalities and ensure reasonable harmony and peaceful coexistence - which, as a bonus, also boosts productivity.