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Overcoming Common Barriers To Reporting Workplace Violence Concerns

Overcoming Common Barriers to Reporting Workplace Violence Concerns

A Tool in the Workplace Violence Prevention Program Toolbox

This article presents the importance of reporting incidents, threats and concerns in the context of workplace violence prevention.  It is important set up an organizational culture which minimizes the risk employees will fall prey to the common barriers which hold people back from reporting concerns about workplace violence. It shouldn’t matter if the offender is a customer, a coworker a domestic partner or a stalker or whether you or a coworker may be the victim, reporting concerns is crucial to safety.

Common barriers to reporting an incident of workplace violence include:

  • A workplace culture that considers workplace violence a part of the job. It is not.
  • Being labeled as a “snitch”. Since we were kids, parents, coaches and teachers have told us not to ‘snitch’ on each other.  In the workplace many employees’ initial reaction is that they SHOULD report a potentially violent person, but because they have been socialized to believe that this is ‘snitching’ – which makes them look petty, judgmental, or like a ‘goodie-goodie’ – they go against their better judgment and don’t report. Employees should reframe their thinking to ‘What if I don’t report this behavior and this person comes into work, starts shooting and kills three people! How would I feel then if I had information that could have prevented the whole tragedy?’
  • A perception that violent incidents are normal routine. They are not.
  • A lack of agreement on definitions of workplace violence. Organizational policy must be crystal clear that workplace violence includes all forms of harassment, intimidation, threats, verbal abuse and assaultive behavior.
  • Fear of being accused of inadequate performance or of being blamed for the incident, and fear of retaliation by the offender and your employer. There is a no tolerance position on any of these inappropriate responses to “good faith” reports.
  • Lack of awareness of the available reporting systems. The following slides will cover your available reporting options.
  • A belief that reporting will not change the current systems or decrease the potential for future incidents of violence or in other words, “nothing will change, even if I file this report.” Certainly nothing can change if you do not.
  • A belief that the incident was not serious enough to report. All incidents are serious enough to report and by doing so, leadership can work together with employees to prevent repeat or escalating behaviors.
  • A fear of reporting supervisory workplace violence. Organizational policy must be applied fairly, transparently and equally to all employees up to the highest position in the organization.  Workplace violence cannot be tolerated at any level.

Employees should be encouraged to report all incidents of workplace violence.  These include actual incidents of workplace violence or threats, irrespective of the source, and regardless of whether you are the victim or you witness someone else being victimized.  This includes threats or harassment via social media and threats of self-harm.  Reports should be made associated with concerns about a co-worker who may be exhibiting behaviors of concern presented in any workplace violence prevention training.  Employees should be reminded that reported requirements include information about a domestic threat which may be impacting them or a co-worker.

When incidents are reported involving customers in organizations who receive visitors in a public facing setting, safety plans can be enacted for people who are repeatedly disruptive, abusive or threatening, but only if their inappropriate behavior is known. Employees should never feel as if threats and abuse are part of the job because they are not.

With respect to employee workplace violence, remind employees that coworkers almost always noticed unusual behaviors before the event but never reported them and only talked about them after the incident.  We can all avoid this tragedy by being observant and reporting diligently.

Emphasize that it is every employee’s obligation to report the concerning types of incidents that have been experienced directly, witnessed or reported to you by a coworker.

Options for reporting workplace violence threats, incidents or concerns typically include:

  • Safety or security incident reporting form
  • Confidential or ethics hotline
  • Human Resource representatives
  • Direct supervisor

As you craft this message for your employees, define what options are available to them at your workplace.  Ensure you convey a “no retaliation policy” for reports that are made in “good faith”, so this should not be a barrier to making a report.

For more information or assistance in developing and deploying a workplace violence prevention program see https://www.securingpeople.com/workplace-violence-prevention-intervention/ or contact Frank Pisciotta at fp@securingpeople.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/frank-pisciotta-b611204/.

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