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Bracing for Workplace Violence

The Role of “Threat Management” Within a Workplace Violence Prevention Program

A growing body of research suggests that serious acts of workplace violence are frequently precipitated by warning signs. The process of identifying these early indicators of aggressive behavior, and the extent to which identified threats are then assessed and managed before manifesting into serious acts of violence is commonly known as threat management. The first step is the early identification of actual or threatened violence, as well as any problematic behaviors that could portend future violence. In this regard, employees need to know what to report, when to report, how to report, and to whom to report incidents, complaints or concerns. Once a threat has been identified, the next step is to evaluate the potential for violence by evaluating the nature and extent of the threat itself; and evaluating the person(s) who may pose a threat to workplace safety. The combined result is a fact-based, risk-proportionate judgment identifying the level of danger- ousness posed by the threat source and the type of intervention, if any, most appropriate in the circumstances. Arriving at such an informed judgment is perhaps the most challenging aspect of any workplace violence prevention and intervention strategy.

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Reputational Risk Still a Top Concern for Board For a second straight year, boards of directors see reputational risk as their top concern according to a survey by Eisner Amper LLP. In fact, the concern about reputation has grown over the last couple of years. Taken together, the top areas of concern in reputational risk are product quality, liability, and customer satisfaction, at 39%. Second is a combina- tion of concerns about integrity, fraud, ethics, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which totaled 24%. They're also displaying a new optimism about a financial recovery, and are making plans to hire staff to support CFOs. Looking at internal growth and expansion, 71% compared to 51% in 2011 - feel that the current economic environment will give new opportunities for internal growth and expansion is a tremendous increase over the prior year. Boards' interest in putting more resources into internal audit - enhancing staff or co-sourcing and using outside staff - shows there is recovery going on.

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Amid the continuing economic slump, employers should be prepared to respond to episodes of violence. Ed Foulke, a partner in the Atlanta-based law firm Fisher & Phillips who also served as head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration during the George W. Bush administration, says he has seen workplace violence rising recently and attributes this to the continuing economic slump.“In the past, when people got laid off, they just went out and got another job,” says Foulke. “Now it’s not that easy to do.” Add to that the fact that financially strapped companies may not have the resources to provide as much in the way of support services and severance benefits for employees who are let go. With the risk of workplace violence on the rise, companies need to be proactive to avoid trouble. Foulke argues that preventing and preparing for workplace violence incidents requires a full program. He also says the best defense against those actions is to have a policy to prevent violence and protect employees against it, to show it is being implemented, and to show that employees and managers know about it.

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Most Workplace Violence at Agencies Committed by Federal Employees

A new analysis by the federal Merit System Protec- tion Board (MSPB) looks at the occurrence of workplace violence at federal agencies and suggests approaches for handling such incidents. The new analysis, which drew from data in the 2010 Merit Principles Survey, defined workplace violence as assaults, threats of violence, harassment, intimida- tion, and bullying. The MSPB found that 13% of federal employees reported having observed or experienced workplace violence, which was commit- ted 54% of the time by current or former federal workers. Other perpetrators included criminals, people receiving services from agencies and individuals with personal ties to an employee. Among the MSPB's preventative suggestions were providing violence prevention training to employees and training supervisors to make use of internal and external preventative resources. Other suggestions include reducing stress-levels in the workplace, completing pre-employment background checks, and resolving workplace conflicts before they escalate.

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