The Permissive Environment Is The Suspect... The permissive and participatory conduct which most employees take for granted,eventually escalates into the more serious assaultive behavior commonly refe...
The Permissive Environment Is The Suspect...
The permissive and participatory conduct which most employees take for granted,eventually escalates into the more serious assaultive behavior commonly referred to as employee on employee workplace violence starts with innuendos, a bad word, or simple jokes taken out of context or used to inflame another. Initiation of a proper and thorough investigation is possible under the auspices of a Threat Assessment Team. Banter between employees if left alone by supervisors becomes tense and often results in a more aggressive response. The truth of the matter is that in most cases this banter is perceived as harmless shop talk.
Supervisors often believe that this healthy shop talk builds camaraderie and does not detract from performance. However, such permissive behavior empowers the potential perpetrator who may feel he enjoys the partiality of the supervisor. After all, he does his job, pumps out the numbers and meets the "bosses" demands. Regardless of the relationship and his performance, definite and clear action should be taken initially to curtail the potential of an explosive situation from impacting the workplace. The spontaneous reaction by the victim is surprising and could be sufficiently volatile to affect bystanders as well.
Remembering that the business owner is ultimately responsible for the actions they fail to take in any situation places the decision in question. The prevention of workplace violence requires a proactive response. Security is everyone's responsibility but ultimately but ultimately management's duty. The exposure to violent behavior by non employees is yet another issue which will be presented in future articles.
In a permissive environment, the uninformed employee has no idea that emotions tied into simple acts of harassment are an explosive combination often leading to a spontaneous counter response by the victim. While the response is unfortunate in terms of who ultimately precipitated the incident, the victim who is now taking the action into his hands becomes the aggressor and must be held accountable.
Using a Threat Assessment Team or a trained group of individuals would be the proper approach in this scenario and in future incidents. The conduct of the Threat Assessment Process would involve the total analysis of information and intelligence available about the participants, the incident and the environment in order to render a fair and impartial outcome. Being properly trained is key. Knowledge of how to conduct a fact finding investigation is critical to the successful determination of the type of disciplinary action or criminal prosecution might bring. The process should synchronized and well coordinated and reflective of the organization's leadership team if possible to insure that the preliminary responsibility of conducting the fact finding investigative process does not fall on the shoulders of the Security Director only. The major players of the Threat Assessment Team should include at a minimum: the Immediate Supervisor, Personnel & Human Resource Managers, Employee Assistance, Safety and Security Managers, to insure a thorough Threat Assessment (Investigation) is conducted.
In Assessing the above scenario the root cause of the confrontation was the unabated name calling, verbal abuse and innuendos, in a contributory and improperly supervised environment. Supervisors who fail to step in can be held civilly liable and responsible for their failure to act early or appropriately to prevent escalation or confrontations. In cases of death or serious injury between employees or customers, wrongful death law suits are often filed in addition to criminal prosecution. Not knowing is no longer a legitimate excuse. When supervisors fail to act appropriately, management has the burden of investigating the incident, dealing with the issue of the aggressor over the contributory behavior of the instigator and decide on the appropriate progressive actions (disciplinary or referral to local police) necessary.
And, so while a Zero Tolerance Policy is necessary and highly recommended, it should not be an absolute standard in administering discipline until the "root cause" of the contributory behavior becomes clear through the Assessment Process. When controlling or addressing the potential fruits of unwelcome behavior or to more appropriately, prevent incidents dealing with a Workplace Security Issue, every situation should not be resolved in the same manner with the same administrative decision. Any broad-brush approach to enforcing the Zero Tolerance Policy sours the innocent bystanders and prejudices the potential witnesses who may fear retaliation or retribution, factors which may further complicate the disciplinary process and/or criminal referral.