Monthly Archives: May 2012
Nearly 2 million U.S. workers are victims of workplace violence each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year, 506 employees were slain at work. Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace. Don’t let your organization add to those sobering statistics.
To reduce the chance of workplace violence—or your liability if it does happen—follow these 11 guidelines:
1. Ban weapons, and have a zero-tolerance policy regarding threats in the workplace.
2. Screen applicants carefully by checking references and doing criminal background checks.
3. Train supervisors to recognize personality changes in employees that could be warning signs of potential violence.
4. Defuse disputes. Establish a mediation program to resolve employee disputes rather than letting them simmer.
5. Regularly evaluate security systems. Do you need silent alarms, ID keys, cameras or even an armed guard?
6. Require employees to report restraining orders that apply to them tomanagement. Make it a policy in your employee handbook.
7. Train front-line employees such as receptionists to be on the lookout for unusual or unsettling encounters. Provide clear instructions on how to handle them. Train all employees on when and how to contact police.
8. Establish procedures for employees to report threats or other violent behavior. Offer several avenues for reporting: supervisors, security personnel, HR or, if there’s imminent danger, everyone nearby.
9. Have a plan for handling contacts between employees and law enforcement. If a police officer or process server needs to see an employee, instruct your receptionist to direct the official to a private part of the office near an outside door. Then quietly ask the employee involved to report to that area.
10. Document any threats and your response to them. Your zero-tolerance policy should dictate terminating any employee who makes a threat. If it’s a worker’s relative or friend who’s being disruptive and dangerous, you are within your legal rights to terminate the employee, provided you give adequate warning.
11. Terminate with care. Have someone present as a witness if you have to terminate a violent employee; consider engaging backup security.
You should have a plan for what to do in case violence does erupt, starting with protecting yourself and others, calling police and warning those in the vicinity. The plan should include the following steps after the assailant leaves:
- Seek assistance from co-workers and attend to those who are injured.
- If the assailant is an employee, pull his personnel file.
- Designate someone to notify the victims’ families. Be sure all employees have a current emergency contact on file. Update that information annually.
- Inform a designated media spokesperson.
- Notify your attorney.
- Provide counselors trained to handle post-traumatic stress. Have them to talk with all employees affected by the incident.
- Ask law enforcement for approval to clean up the site. You don’t want to damage the integrity of the evidence, but you do want to restore the site as soon as possible.
- Beware of looters, who might try to take advantage of your situation.
- Begin documentation of the event as soon as possible.
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HR leaders, in their quest to be strategic, must not forget about the administrative tasks that still must get done accurately, effectively and efficiently. The scope of HR typically includes managing the HR Information Systems, overseeing contracted services, ensuring compliance with applicable labor and human rights laws, coordinating and delivering on projects and many other things. These mostly administrative tasks are an inevitable aspect of the bureaucratic organization that Max Weber described. If HR departments did not oversee these areas, who would? The role of the HR department does not stop with administrative tasks, but HR leaders must continually find ways to present the data they have in useful ways to leaders.
(I know your mortgage payment bounced last week because we forgot to pay you. Just fill out this form and we’ll fix that in a month or so. While you are here though, check out the itinerary for the Christmas party we’ve been working on!).
HR leaders diminish the importance of administrative and transactional tasks to their own detriment. No matter how ‘strategic’ an initiative might be, no employee will trust HR if the payroll department is unable to get their paychecks or benefits right. Operational leaders will not trust HR if the department constantly bungles their transactions. These transactions and administration are a necessity from HR departments, and HR leaders must ensure their teams excel in all aspects of performing them.
Some companies attempt to outsource as many administrative aspects of HR as possible. This may work for some organizations, but can create its own difficulties as well. For instance, healthcare workers in Calgary, Alberta filed a $50 Million class action lawsuit against Telus Sourcing Solutions Inc. in 2009. Telus was hired by a number of healthcare regions to perform administrative aspects of HR for the HR department. This lawsuit alleged numerous errors and issues with the processing of payroll and demanded damages and became a publicity nightmare for government, executives, and their HR department. Outsourcing does not abdicate responsibility and requires unique leadership competencies by HR leaders who must still be responsible and accountable for the services provided.
Metrics are important but must be delivered in a way that serves and benefits the rest of the organization. These metrics must not simply create more work for other departments. Unfortunately, many HR leaders do this inadvertently and diminish their own credibility in doing so (sure I’ll help you, just fill out this 13 page form first and we’ll add it to that pile over there). HR leaders must take a servant leadership approach to the rest of the organization, in order to be truly effective. Few people would argue that administrative tasks are glamorous, but they are necessary to help the organization function, and for the people in the organization to thrive at whatever they were hired to do.
HR departments may not directly deal with customers, but their ability to excel in administration directly impacts the employees who do. Source/Credit: Tim Vanderpyl for the Leaderlab.org.