Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP: I have written a lot about workplace mediation and how to resolve conflicts. However, I have personally gone through workplace conflict that lead to violence. So when I tell you to resolve conflicts early, you can also eliminate some workplace violence. Workplace violence can come from a conflict of some sort. I had a contract with a Christian University medical center, the year I was there we had 15 physical assaults' from employee against other employees. Now you would think that there would be no assaults at a Christian organization, but I am afraid to report - Christians have tempers and issues also. Conflict is everywhere, in fact most workers deal with about 3 hours a week in some sort of conflict.
The first conflict that I was involved in, that taught me a lot, was when I worked with a tax processing company in Phoenix, AZ. I was in charge of the computer operations and processing individual tax returns in our computer center. We did about 25,000 from January through April, so there was a lot of stress. I had hired a night shift operator and one day he didn't show up for work. Then I got a phone call that he was quitting and would not be there anymore. Quickly I had to train another member of staff to run the computers. Then at the start of my former employees shift, he showed up. I told him that he had called in an quit his job and I had to replace him. I was sitting in the computer room at the processing desk, he walked straight towards me, took his fist and put it trough the wall above my head. Huge hole created from anger above my head. Now the his relationship with me changed, Quietly I quickly escorted him out of the office and locked the office doors. Then his mother called me about 10 times that night. However, I brought the employee back the next day and he and I, with the facility manager went over what had happened. He apologized and went on his way.
The second workplace conflict came when I was contracted to do work at a major learning medical center in California. The campus had it's own police department and had a good staff. The Manager of the Security department had a conflict with an employee. It had been going on for weeks and they never brought the issue into mediation to resolve the issue. The conflict got so bad that the manager had to fire the security officer. The officer drove home, got his gun, came back to the medical facility and shot and killed his manager and the secretary. Immediately the facility went into lockdown. I gathered up my employees, took them into a safe room, all doors were locked until we got an all clear from the San Bernardino police. We did not know where he had gone, if we was still on campus. The officer went home and took the gun to himself and died. After that incident it affected all of the employees and we had to be taught on how to deal with conflict and what to do when we had to let people go. Every company, business, hospital, should have a plan of action, but they also need a conflict management strategy where a mediator comes in and tries to resolve the conflict before it get's out of hand. At this hospital it got out of hand.
Every company needs to hire a mediator to come into the business and mediate the conflict before it gets out of hand. Conflicts cost money for the company, employees production goes down, and it had lead to violence. Mediate conflicts quickly. If you need conflict mediation at your company, you can schedule a confidential consultation by going to my website and book time online: www.lodge-co.com
NSC: Every year, millions of American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. In 2020, assaults resulted in 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities, according to Injury Facts®.
Certain industries, including healthcare, service providers and education, are more prone to violence than others. Taxi drivers, for example, are more than 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers, according to OSHA.
But make no mistake: Workplace violence can happen anywhere.
The Numbers are Alarming
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace violence falls into four categories: Criminal intent, customer/client, worker-on-worker and personal relationship, which overwhelmingly targets women.
No matter who initiates the confrontation, the deadliest situations involve an active shooter. U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines active shooter as someone "actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."
A lot can happen in the chaotic minutes before police arrive; DHS advises staying calm and exercising one of three options: Run, hide or fight.
● If there is an accessible escape route, leave your belongings and get out
● If evacuation is not possible, find a hiding place where you won't be trapped should the shooter find you, lock and blockade the door, and silence your phone
● As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to incapacitate the shooter by throwing items, improvising weapons and yelling.
Every Organization Needs to Address Workplace Conflicts before it leads to Violence
Managers and safety professionals at every workplace should develop a policy on violence that includes:
● Employee training and creating an emergency action plan
● Conducting mock training exercises with local law enforcement
● Adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence
Know the Warning Signs
Some people commit violence because of revenge, robbery or ideology – with or without a component of mental illness. While there is no way to predict an attack, you can be aware of behaviors in coworkers that might signal future violence:
● Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
● Unexplained absenteeism, change in behavior or decline in job performance
● Depression, withdrawal or suicidal comments
● Resistance to changes at work or persistent complaining about unfair treatment
● Violation of company policies
● Emotional responses to criticism, mood swings
Most every "place" is somebody's workplace. So whether you are a patron or an employee, it's important to be alert.
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.