This morning I attended a networking / educational event organized by Stanton Law, LLC where Todd Stanton, Dr. Marc McElhaney, and Karla Baldini talked about workplace violence and how business owners and HR managers can address it.

To summarize the 2-hour presentation here is what I learned:

  • People bring their life to work which has an impact not only on their performance but can also impact the well-being and security of co-workers. Did you know that 30 % of workplace violence is domestic violence? I was surprised by that statistic.
  • Workplace violence costs employers more than $121 billion each year due to medical expenses, missed work, legal fees, and lawsuit verdicts.
  • Labor acts such as FMLA and ADA provide very little protection or guidance for employers regarding workplace violence issues. Even though there are no guarantees, it is still better for an employer to spend the extra money and hire an expert to ensure that they follow proper and secure procedures.
  • An employer cannot predict or prevent workplace violence cases, but at least they can prepare for the worst-case
  • Workplace violence has been increasing over the last years, and there are no signs that they will decrease.

Now, this topic has never really been on my radar much but here are the additional ideas that came up for me when I heard this presentation.

  • Being an HR manager, especially for a smaller company, can be a high-risk job that is probably underpaid. Dealing with the firing of difficult or volatile employees can be stressful, no matter how you cut it. In a hiring process, you just can’t see whether an employee has tendencies to volatile or aggressive behaviors. After all, violence is a process and not a trait. Things happen in people’s lives that impact their work performance, attitude, and emotional stability.
  • Invest in the leadership development of your HR managers. As the person being responsible for letting go of employees, they have to have the leadership, emotional intelligence, and conversational intelligence to lead sensitive and emotional conversations effectively.
  • If there is no trust between employees and upper management, employees will less likely communicate when fellow employees make violent remarks or display suspicious behavior.
  • As a leader, you want to have the type of relationship and social awareness that you recognize emotional shifts in your staff members and address it in a polite and sensitive way. Having a trusting relationship is fundamental so that employees feel comfortable sharing personal challenges.
  • Invest in the well-being and personal development of your staff or provide resources for common personal issues. Too often we think that people know how to fix their issues. But if they did, they would do it. Instead, if your company partnered with professionals, such as therapists, marriage counselors, communication trainers, life coaches, financial advisors, etc. to provide lunch’n learn seminars, your employees could gather the necessary information for self-help or inquire professional support.

After all, unhappy people don’t do unhappy things, and joyful people are better professional performers.