As a business owner I have noticed that entrepreneurs talk about a range of topics and we share some pretty personal details; what doesn’t happen is the talk about violence. We speak about managing teams and dealing with problem performers, but we very rarely speak about what happens when those situations go horribly wrong. To get to the bottom of this I got some advice from subject matter expert, Felix Nater of Nater Associates Ltd on what to look out for and how to respond if an employee situation turns violent.
What you should look for
Employees often exhibit unwanted behavior when the boss is away, but violent behavior is very specific. When evaluating your organization you should look for:
- Verbal threats
- Property Damage
- Physical attacks
“The most common forms of non-violent acts of workplace violence are harassment. Verbal abuse, name calling and aggravation all fall under non-violent forms of workplace violent. These minor incidents when left uncorrected escalate in intensity and can lead to retaliation, fights and assaults” says Nater. So my fellow entrepreneurs, ignoring it will not make it go away. In fact ignoring it may make it worse. According to Nater uncorrected acts or threats lead to direct acts of physical violence and behavior designed to cause fear and fights in and out of the workplace.
What are the triggers for workplace violence?
Most of these non violent acts of aggression occur when there is simply no supervision or no strategy in place to handle these instances. Aggressive employees are aggressive simply because they can be and from a management perspective we understand that the reasons behind aggression can be as different as the staff. So try these things:
- Provide adequate customer service training
- Provide professional development that deals with team building and diversity training. Don’t just focus on typical race/gender diversity; really make an effort to help your employees understand each other and your customers.
- Walk the front lines and stay engaged. Meet with your staff and learn about their interactions.
What are the best ways to address violent situations?
This should go without saying, but in situations of workplace violence the best way to address the situation is to lead by example. “This is a situation where accountable and responsible leadership is essential” says Nater. He recommends that leaders:
- Establish boundaries and enforce workplace policies.
- Manage workplace settings.
- Investigate every complaint and visually examine unique off-site and on-site settings to determine risks and design plans to minimize those risks.
- Keep investigations impartial.
- Ensure that the outcome of investigations conveys to the staff the potential risk and measures to minimize that risk.
For entrepreneurs the best way to avoid violent situations is to prevent them from ever occurring and according to Nater, the best way to avoid or prevent these situations is to create an aggressively accountable supervision standard. In other words, it is up to your supervisors to create the atmosphere of intolerance for workplace violence and investigate claims of violence thoroughly. You owe your staff and yourself a safe and creative environment.
Felix Nater has been helping organizations create safe and secure environments for over 17 years; he is the founder and owner of Nater Associates Ltd. You can learn more about Nater Associates Ltd at www.naterassociates.com