Ottawa, Ont.: Organizations should have plans in place to protect against workplace violence, says a new study by the Conference Board of Canada, an Ottawa-based think tank.
The board said workplace violence has broadened beyond extreme acts of physical violence to include psychologically harmful behaviors.
Companies should address harassment incidents, which occur more often than physical violence and often precede it, it said, adding risks can come from individuals both within and outside the organization.
The study recommends organizations take steps to protect their employees and bottom line:
Heed early warnings:
Employees at all levels of an organization should be able to spot the signs of potentially violent people and situations.
Make targeted use of professional assistance service options, such as employee assistance programs.
Specialists can identify and manage both workplace violence and harassment, provide expert consultation services that identify risks, and suggest elimination or mitigation strategies
Have appropriate policies and resources to respond when needed.
Workplace policies that include violence and harassment provisions should have clear expectations and consequences for individual conduct. Other options include regulating physical access to workplaces, such as layered levels of access in health-care settings and redesigned jobs and schedules so that employees do not work alone.
Provide effective crisis leadership and response in the event of violence or harassment.
Acknowledge the incident, communicate with compassion and competence, and outline the steps that are being taken to bring the organization back to normal and make it more resilient.
Companies should also conduct periodic risk assessments and review prevention plans regularly.
The study, Managing the Risks of Workplace Violence and Harassment, is based on research conducted by the board’s Council on Emergency Management and Council of Industrial Relations Executivesé