Q. I’m looking for a template to assist with developing a good, comprehensive workplace violence policy that is easily communicated to a large frontline populations. Do you have any recommendations?
A. Great question. Before we answer, I have a few questions for you to consider. First, is your company policy-driven and will managers and supervisors know what to do with this policy? And are they likely to use it in the format you choose? Often companies issue policies to clarify an issue and end up not enforcing it.
Is your company willing to enforce a policy uniformly in all divisions and at all levels? A workplace violence policy can be more dangerous from a liability and corporate reputation standpoint than having no policy at all if you’re not willing or able to enforce it consistently. For example, are you willing to go to court and testify that this policy has been made available to every employee at every level and the company consistently lives by it, no matter who is involved? Even if it’s an executive officer or your best sales manager, or their family member who is violating the policy? If the answer is no, you may want to consider guidelines, processes, procedures or something other than a policy.
There is no one agreed upon policy that would work for every company. When forming your own policy there are some things to consider. The terminology must be very clear. There is no room for vagueness. Consider how you will communicate and consistently enforce rules regarding threatening behavior, intimidation, bullying, harassment and other acts such as assaults.
How will your policy specifically state and consistently enforce company rules of intolerance for certain behavior from employees and visitors, such as vendors, clients, family members and friends. How will you deal with anyone who violates the policy? Consider stating that they will be removed form the premises immediately and not allowed to return pending an investigation. Consistently discipline or terminate any employee who behaves inappropriately or makes a threat. Others should be barred from the premises and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if investigation determines that their behavior has jeopardized the safety of the employees or the workplace.
Any behaviors that you state as intolerable must be clearly understood by the lay person and described in terms that are perceived equally by every employee. Behavior that might be considered appropriate in a warehouse or on a loading dock, often referred to as “shop talk,” may be viewed differently at headquarters. Be sure to describe these differences adequately. Or, you may state that “shop talk” or “horseplay” will not be tolerated but only if you can consistently enforce it uniformly across all areas.
Pay attention to issues involving domestic or partner violence against or perpetrated by an employee and be prepared to recommend sources of support for the affected employee and to deal appropriately with the offender. This may include consulting with Legal counsel and obtaining a corporate restraining order.
I recommend that you plan ahead and train your managers and employees about response options. Assess your access control procedures and physical security risks and coordinate with local law enforcement and other external sources of support. Plan ahead and state who will be notified, who will respond, what training is needed to communicate this, who has to review it to make sure everyone is comfortable with it; then ensure that it is incorporated into each department’s procedures.
Answer provided by Rosalind Jackson, Production Manager for the Security Executive Council. Ms. Jackson has been involved with workplace violence prevention and employee safety for 11 years.