Effective communication is key to mitigating workplace violence
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 500 people killed on the job last year were victims of workplace homicides.
The grim statistics point to the need for companies to embrace strategies to prevent violent outbreaks in the workplace. Contrary to what many employers may believe, there are proven steps that can be implemented.
"Our first advice is, take a look and say, 'What do you have in place now that would help mitigate workplace violence?'" said Bruce T. Blythe, chairman of Atlanta-based Behavioral Medical Interventions. "We have a components checklist which I will share. It has the things in place that ought to be there."
Blythe's session on Workplace Violence: Understanding and Defusing the Violent Mind looks at specific actions that can prevent workplace attacks. Blythe himself has consulted with the FBI on workplace violence and terrorism.
"We handle bank robberies, violence, people dying on the job, and industrial accidents," he said. "A lot is mental health. A lot is helping management handle the crisis to mitigate the situation. It's crisis communication. What do you say to whom? What do you say to the media? Who is tracking social networking? What about customers?"
Employers started addressing the issue of workplace violence about 20 years ago "when the Postal shootings were happening," Blythe said. "Workplace violence was addressed in the '90s. Unfortunately, many companies are still using out-of-date approaches to workplace violence that they had set up back when. There are new laws; new gun laws where people can carry concealed weapons; those kinds of things."
One other major change that has taken place is the expertise. "We now know what works and what doesn't," he said. "Basically, we do know that an approach that tends to be tied in with only one discipline tends not to work as well."
For example, thinking of workplace violence as an issue only for HR or corporate security is not effective. "It's a multi-disciplinary approach -- security, legal, HR, certainly," Blythe said. "There is also the psychological piece -- what can we do to defuse this."
Defusing the violent person.
Recognizing and being able to prevent a potentially violent situation from erupting is not as difficult as you might think. The key is to know what to look for and what to do.
"People who tend to be violent tend to think in the same patterns over and over, much like a physician who sees the same symptoms and can identify that disease by seeing these things. The same things happen with folks who tend to be violent -- they have the same thought patterns going on over and over. It's pretty universal," Blythe said. "We're going to talk about what are those things that are the commonalities."
Additionally, Blythe will outline what potentially violent people respond to that can calm them down.
"If somebody is threatening, there are things you can do to calm them down or things that can escalate the situation," he said. "The single best defuser is communication."
But, as Blythe explains, there are different types of communication. Communicating with a potentially violent person is not the same as communicating with a friend.
"They tend to want to monopolize the conversation," he said. "They devalue you and do what they can to demean you. Law enforcement has known for a long time that when somebody is talking, they are less likely to act out."
Therefore, it's important to get the other person to talk and then redirect them, rather than doing most of the talking yourself. "It's not hard to do, you just need to understand how that violent mind works," Blythe said.
Blythe will offer what he calls his defusing one-liners that employers can say to potentially violent people. "People want something tangible," he said. "I spoon-feed them."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 31, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications