Analysis

Companies need a holistic approach to preventing workplace violence

  • Global
  • Creating a Secure Organisation
Post-incident reviews: Demonstrating the need for a holistic approach to workplace violence prevention

 
Although organizations are exposed to a wide variety of risks as they navigate the complexity of the global business community, perhaps no risk receives quite as much attention these days as the risk of an active shooter in the workplace. No longer considered just an “American problem,” the global news cycle is filled with stories of shooting events occurring in a diverse set of locations: retail stores, restaurants, corporate and regional headquarters, factories and many more workplaces. These shootings have historically been committed by a spectrum of threat actors with a variety of grievances and motives, including current and former insiders seeking to retaliate for a perceived injustice, as well as external actors such as aggrieved clients and customers. This reality, combined with evolving workplace violence prevention regulations and a civil litigation precedent enforcing the idea that companies must take reasonable steps to minimize the likelihood and impact of foreseeable risks, has resulted in an increased focus on this very important topic.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t focus on these issues until an event has already occurred. Even then, many companies don’t know where to start or how far to take their efforts. At Control Risks, we believe a risk-based, holistic and programmatic approach to workplace violence prevention must be taken to effectively manage events before, during and after they occur. We refer to this as our “3R” approach, focused on Readiness, Response and Recovery, described in more detail below.

Following an incident of workplace violence with lethal intent such as an active shooter, companies are often in shock and focused on two key goals: (1) providing their employees with the support they need, and (2) getting back to business as usual as quickly as possible. However, in Control Risks’ experience, companies often miss one of the most important facets of an effective Recovery: the post-incident review.
 

A post-incident review, also referred to as “lessons learned” or a “look back,” focuses on three core areas:

1. How prepared was the organization for the threat of an incident of workplace violence?

2. How prepared was the organization to respond to an incident of serious workplace violence?

3. How effective was the organization in its response to the event?

 

A post-incident review focused on these important questions provides the organization with valuable insight that can be leveraged to minimize the chances of future events (including other types of crises beyond workplace violence events) and can decrease the impact on the organization should a future event materialize. In fact, the review may result in direct findings that help strengthen the organization’s posture for Readiness and Response—the other two “Rs” in our unique approach. For example, in situations where the assailant was an employee of the organization, a post-incident review often highlights a variety of warning signs that were displayed before the event took place, including the following:

  • Threats or leakage of violent intent
  • Recent interest in weapons
  • Unusual interest in other high-profile attacks
  • Chronic or persistent grievances
  • Extreme changes in the display of emotions or patterns of communication
  • Becoming increasingly isolated
  • Displays of intimidation
  • Tests of the limits of accepted behavior

A holistic workplace violence prevention program with multi-disciplinary stakeholder involvement, focused on training and awareness, efficient escalation and targeted response, significantly increases the chances that warning signs will be identified and escalated. This reduces the chances of an event occurring and is key to any organization’s Readiness efforts. Further, the post-incident review often highlights issues in the organization’s Response, demonstrating the need for a more holistic approach to work. This includes example findings such as:

  • Individuals who witnessed warning signs did not escalate concerns due to fear, a lack of understanding of the importance of escalation, a lack of confidence that the organization would handle the situation appropriately or a lack of understanding of reporting procedures
  • Lack of clear escalation paths and dedicated multi-disciplinary threat management teams focused on prevention and response
  • Those who responded did not have adequate experience or training to manage all impacts to the organization
  • Crisis exercises never included workplace violence threats as a scenario

The issues raised in these findings could have been avoided had the organization had a holistic and effective workplace violence prevention program in place. Control Risks works with companies around the globe to implement and improve workplace violence prevention capabilities, leveraging our unrivaled workplace threat management and crisis management expertise and unique and holistic “3R” approach. This approach focuses on Readiness, Response and Recovery and is an incredibly effective lens through which to manage workplace threat issues and events.

The core components of our “3R” approach to workplace threat management are noted below:

Readiness

  • Procedures and protocols for triaging, assessing, prioritizing and managing various levels of concerning behaviors in the workplace, including stakeholder roles/responsibilities
  • A multi-disciplinary prevention effort, including guidance for HR, legal and security professionals, to manage employee behavior of a threatening nature
  • Comprehensive training on pre-hire actions, warning signs, interpersonal relationship violence, investigations, accommodations and interventions, hostile terminations, active shooter program, and working with local law enforcement

 

Response & Recovery

  • A dedicated workplace threat management team focused on assessment, investigation, intervention and management. Incorporation of behavioral threat assessment techniques to assess the level of threat posed by troubled individuals or troubling situations, whether the individual of concern is an insider or external to the organization
  • Integration with the broader crisis management team and planning to help ensure a holistic response to the incident
  • Post-incident review framework, tools and templates

 

This holistic approach helps companies address legal and ethical duty-of-care requirements, as well as mitigate the potential for litigation, loss of productivity and downtime. It also gives companies the best chance of minimizing the chances of a workplace threat event materializing, ensuring that employees know when and how to escalate concerning behavior and that trained, tested and dedicated response teams are in place to minimize the impact should one of these events occur.

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