Workplace Violence: Prevention Is Key, Say Experts

Three workplace violence experts speaking at this week's Voluntary Protection Program Participants' Association conference stressed prevention as the method for dealing\r\nwith potentially aggressive employees.

Three workplace violence experts speaking at this year''s Voluntary Protection Program Participants'' Association conference in New Orleans this week, stressed prevention as the method for dealing with potentially aggressive employees.

Dr. John Byrnes, president of the Center for Aggression Management, Winter Park, Fla., told attendees that employers need to be able to manage and measure aggression in order to prevent employees from acting out their anger.

Preparing for acts of violence before they occur by being able to identify the behavioral signs of an aggressor, is crucial to preventing a workplace violence incident.

Byrnes said the behavioral signs of an aggressor include, but not limited to, the following:

  • scattered disjointed thinking
  • belligerent towards others
  • constantly swears
  • little eye contact
  • head down
  • questioning authority

When faced with an aggressor, Byrnes stressed that the art of safe escape is paramount. "Human nature gives you two options," said Byrnes. "Fight or flight. Fight is not a valid option. Choose flight."

Knowing the behavioral signs of an aggressor is an important part in helping to prevent acts of workplace violence, however, there are also organizational factors employers can implement to help create a workplace that is free from violence.

W. Barry Nixon with the National Institute for Prevention of Workplace Violence in Lake Forest, Calif., said setting the tone of a violent free workplace by instituting a workplace violence policy and communicating this policy to employees and potential employees is as important as a company drug policy.

"Let candidates know that your company does not tolerate aggressive behavior and conduct background and reference checks on potential employees," said Nixon.

Another principle element of violence prevention is engaging in a team approach. Dr. Kenneth Wolfe, psychologist with the Incident Management Team in Southfield, Mich., said workplace violence prevention is more effective if all parties of the corporate structure are involved. This includes human resources, security, legal department, health and safety, risk managers and unions.

"This team should work together to diffuse a problem before it starts," said Wolfe. "These groups have to investigate and assess threats and determine if the aggressor poses a threat to themselves or others."

by Virginia Foran

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