When I was 18 years old I was in an abusive relationship. I think part of it was being young and not looking for or knowing the warning signs of a dangerous person and part of it was probably just bad luck. I could go into a lot of detail about it and have discussions about why it’s hard for people to get out of abusive relationships, (because honestly I didn’t understand why until I was in one) – but that’s not what I want to talk about today.
It’s been 10 years now since I found myself in that violent and scary relationship and it’s something that doesn’t cross my mind much anymore. I work for an ethics and compliance software company now, and we cover some topics more frequently, like anti-bribery, anti-corruption, sexual harassment, fcpa, etc., but this week we started looking at a very important topic for ethics and compliance professionals, prevention of workplace violence training. On Tuesday, July 29 we hosted the webinar, “5 Critical Components for Preventing Violence in the Workplace” with Dr. Marc McElhaney of Critical Response Associates.
Dr. Marc McElhaney provided startling stats about violence in the workplace today. I was shocked to hear that homicide is the #1 cause of workplace death for women and the #2 cause for men. How is that possible? Obviously we don’t want our employees dying at work PERIOD, but to hear that MURDER is the #1 cause of death for women employees is rather mind-blowing.
Have you ever witnessed a murder at work? I haven’t – I hope I never do. But if we are fortunate enough to never witness it, we still should not neglect prevention of workplace violence training. At the time I was in my abusive relationship I was working at a boutique clothing store. As my personal situation got worse it bled into my work life. He would show up at the store demanding to see me if I hadn’t answered my phone (I was working!). It quickly became clear to my colleagues what was happening. The strange part was every person I worked with (there were maybe 8 of us total) was a woman and each one had been in an abusive relationship. When you think about it, this probably also means most of us were simultaneously working and dealing with an abusive relationship at one point.
Your job as a compliance officer should not be compliance officer AND relationship counselor. It just shouldn’t be. I am a true believer in leaving your personal life at home when you come into work. But sometimes, as I learned at a young age, your personal life will follow you into work whether you want it to or not.
After I experienced the horrifying workplace visit, I tried to get a restraining order. But with only verbal threats and bruises that had since faded I had nothing to hold him on. My colleagues at work comforted me saying they would call the police if he showed up again. But is that what you should do?
Let’s start at the beginning. First, before there is ever a threat of workplace violence you want to make sure your employees go through workplace violence training. Use this as an outlet to communicate the 12 signs of a dangerous person, after all, your employees are your main line of defense in identifying and reporting high risk behaviors.
12 Signs of a Dangerous Person (Originally Published by VolkBell)
Tip: Dr. McElhaney recommends trying to avoid looking for a certain profile (often violent acts are committed by individuals with no prior record of violence), but instead to identify high-risk behaviors. You can use the 12 signs of a dangerous person to do just that.
- Difficulty getting along with others (i.e. make inappropriate remarks, constantly unhappy)
- Controlling behaviors
- Clinical paranoia (i.e. feel that others are against them)
- Power obsession
- Victim attitudes (i.e. see themselves as the victims and put blame on others)
- Litigious nature (i.e. tend to blow things out of proportion)
- Constant anger
- Violent opinions
- Vindictive references
- Odd behaviors (i.e. social anxiety)
- Unhealthy habits (i.e. sleep disorders, drug/alcohol addictions, health issues)
- Recent layoff
Next, you want to have a threat response program in place. It is not enough to say when a situation arises we will deal with it by “calling the police” or “getting a restraining order.” When violent situations occur emotions are running high. Your company has suddenly been plunged into an uncommon stressful situation – is now the time you want employees making decisions that could potentially impact whether someone lives or dies? No. Get a plan in place beforehand and practice responses in your workplace harassment training.
If the situation is internal as opposed to external (i.e. you are dealing with a “high-risk” employee not an employee with a “high-risk” spouse or partner), your initial instinct might be “Let’s just get them out of here!” However counter intuitive it may seem, upon learning of a high-risk employee at your organization you do not want to fire them immediately. Your best opportunity to reduce the risk present to the company will disappear after termination. In Dr. McElhaney’s experience, retaliation or violence against the company often occurs after termination, sometimes years down the road. So, instead of elevating the stress of your high-risk individual by immediately terminating him/her, see if you can’t communicate with the person. You might be able to determine what is causing his or her high-risk behavior and help remove some of the factors impacting it.
I realize workplace violence is not a fun topic, but we can’t neglect it. Keeping employees safe is a big part of compliance officers’ jobs.
I haven’t witnessed a murder at work, you haven’t witnessed a murder at work. Is this even relevant at all?
Out of every 100 people:
- 6 will be diagnosed with severe mental illness (this year)
- 5 will attempt to commit suicide
- 10 will struggle with a drug or alcohol problem
- 5 will be stalked by a spouse or partner
- 13 will be raped or assaulted by an intimate partner
Don’t let those numbers weigh on your conscience. If you don’t have prevention of workplace violence training, get it – you could save a life.
For More Information About Workplace Violence Training, Check Out These Resources:
- Blog: The Terrifying Reason Why Today’s Workplace Harassment Training Isn’t Enough
- Blog: When Domestic Violence Becomes A Workplace Business Risk
- Solution: The Network’s Comprehensive Workplace Violence Training Program
On-Demand Webinar | 5 Critical Components for Preventing Violence In The Workplace
Nearly two million Americans are victims of workplace violence every year, but the risk of incidents can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. View this webinar to find out how.