by Joy Dike, PhD
We talk about workplace violence frequently here at Invictus Consulting, but we feel pretty strongly about the topic and will continue to talk about it until its no longer a problem. We've written a white paper on the topic if you'd like to check it out.
by Joy Dike, PhD
Do you ever feel like you're in an episode of The Simpsons when it comes to conducting drills at your place of business or school?
People just don't seem to take these things seriously - people hiding in the bathroom during a fire drill, administration singing off that a drill has been done when it hasn't, or a drill being conducted at 3am on a Sunday when no one is in the building or on campus. There are too many ways to disregard the serious nature of emergency drills.
The fact is, though, that DRILLS SAVE LIVES. It is well documented that in times of severe stress your body goes in to auditory exclusion (your hearing worsens severely), you get tunnel vision (you lose vision on the periphery), you lose fine motor skills, and your thought process declines. By drilling and practicing what to do in the event of an emergency - whether its fire, tornado, active shooter, etc. - you are training your body and mind to perform the correct tasks when the time comes.
Imagine you're an elementary school teacher. You've taught in the same classroom for years. You've looked at the same fire evacuation plan on the back of your classroom door for years but never actually walked the path and practiced an evacuation. An actual fire occurs and all of a sudden your body goes into panic mode - you get auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, and decreased motor skills; now you literally can not follow the directions on the fire evacuation plan. Your students are looking at you to lead them, and you are frozen in panic, quite literally unable to think clearly. This is where drill save lives - if this teacher had practiced evacuating the classroom multiple times, over and over, month after month, year after year, her muscle memory would have allowed her to lead the children on the correct path to safety (even with auditory exclusion and tunnel vision).
Please, take emergency drills seriously. They are not a waste of time; they are not planned as a way to make your day more difficult; they are not irrelevant. Practicing what you would do in an emergency could save your life.
With that said, let's end this very serious issue on a lighter note:
by Joy Dike, PhD
We talk a lot about active shooters, mass shootings, and workplace violence here on the Invictus Consulting blog. Here we go again...
Recently a man walked into a leasing office at an apartment complex In Tallahassee and opened fire. What we know so far is that this man was acting out in retaliation for his wife having been fired from her job at the apartment complex earlier that day. He shot an employee of the apartment complex 6 times (not fatally) and then went back outside and casually waited for the police to come, looking, "like a man who had accomplished his goal."
Let's look at this case in the context of active shooter, mass shootings, and workplace violence. Is this man an active shooter? Is this an an instance of a mass shooting? Is this a case of workplace violence?
Remember that the agreed-upon definition (by the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency) of an active shooter is "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection."
Is he an active shooter? Was he:
Was it a mass shooting? While there is little consensus on what defines a mass shooting (see this blog post and this white paper on active shooter statistics for a more detailed explanation of this topic), all definitions assume at least 3 people are shot. This instance, then, would not be classified as a mass shooting.
Is this a case of workplace violence? There are four types of workplace violence offenders:
Now that we've determined that this is not a mass shooting, is potentially not an active shooter situation, but is definitely a case of workplace violence, do you feel relieved? Safer? More scared? Glad that one less active shooter case has NOT happened in the United States?
The reality is that workplace violence - whether it is a case of domestic violence, harassment, emotional abuse, threats, or an actual armed gunman - poses a greater threat to the daily safety of workers than do active shooters. Workplace violence occurs every day in places all over the country, and someone does not need to be wielding a gun to be classified as engaging in workplace violence; most instances of workplace violence do not involve guns at all. We've said it before, and we will say it again until workplaces are truly safe, but you need to have a workplace violence policy (i.e., a zero-tolerance policy), you need to make sure employees know about and follow the policy, and you need to make sure that your employees feel safe at work.
by Joy Dike, PhD
It's 10:30 on a Tuesday morning and you're sitting in your fifth floor office working on an important report. Your phone lights up with a text message alert from your company's mass notification system: "Active shooter on campus. Shelter in place."
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Really, take a moment and actually put yourself in this position and think about what you would do. I'll wait...
Would you panic and hide? Run to the elevator or stairs and high tail it out of the building? Call your spouse? Pull the fire alarm? Pop your head out of the door and see what everyone else is doing? Freeze up, unable to move?
HERE'S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
During an active shooter situation there are steps you can take to protect yourself and increase your chances of survival. Understand this: it is a matter of life and death - your actual survival may depend on what you do.
AVOID - Avoid the shooter at all costs. Escape from the vicinity of the shooter. If you can leave the confines of the building, do it.
DENY - If you cannot exit the building, the next step is to deny the shooter access to you and those around you. Find a place to hide. Lock the door. Barricade the door with office furniture or anything big. Use rope, a tie, or a belt to secure outward opening doors. Turn off the lights. Remain quiet, silence your phone, and remain out of sight.
DEFEND - If you have hidden and attempted to deny the shooter access to your location but he still finds a way in, the next step is defend yourself. Remember that an active shooter is trying to kill you, and you have the right to defend yourself by any means necessary. At this point your life depends on how well you defend yourself - do not fight fair. Position yourself where you can surprise the gunman. Use any objects at hand (scissors, hot coffee, fire extinguisher, etc.) to attack the gunman and incapacitate him.
You should understand these options and practice them because if an active shooter situation were to occur, your body will go into panic mode, which severely limits your brain's ability to function normally. Literally your body may go into: tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, time dilation, out-of-body experience, or reduced motor skills. These are all well documented physiological side effects of extreme stress on your body, and they can all hinder your ability to survive an active shooter situation. This is why you need to make (and practice) a plan beforehand.
by Joy Dike, PhD
As consultants, we have the privilege to present our risk assessment findings and recommendations to the decision makers in an organization - CEOs, CFOs, Executive Directors, heads of security, general managers, engineers, IT directors, school Headmasters, and more. More often than not, these are the people who have actively sought out having a risk assessment performed for their institution and are keen on improving security.
With that said, there are times when our findings and recommendations fall on deaf ears. Sometimes the decision makers are offended by our findings or don't believe us. ("We do TOO have radio communication between the lobby and 10th floor!") Sometimes they don't understand the terminology. ("Each of the locations surveyed that have visitor traffic should employ visitor management systems managed by the same SMS systems database allowing for universal reporting.") Sometimes they're frightened by the findings. ("You mean anyone can just hop over that broken fence and have access to the school campus?!") And sometimes they're overwhelmed by how detailed the assessment it. ("You mean that we have 531 active users in the access control database? But we only have 75 employees!")
While our risk assessments are always done in an unbiased and objective manner, we understand that hearing about your organization's or institution's risks and threats is sometimes hard to acknowledge. This is why at Invictus Consulting we make sure that each debrief meeting isn't complete until the decision makers thoroughly understand both the findings and the recommendations.
by Joy Dike, PhD
A zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence starts with having employees report violent or threatening behavior. Without this first step, no policy will be truly effective against workplace violence.
How can you create an environment where employees will feel comfortable reporting threats?
1. Encourage employees to report violent or threatening behavior
This means creating an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting issues to their supervisors or up the management chain and don't feel alienated from management.
2. Make sure employees know where and how to report violent or threatening behavior
This means having a clear and specific method for employees to report issues. It may mean reporting through:
Within any or all of these channels, there needs to be a clear and defined method of reporting. That may mean something as simple as a conversation or a form filled out. Whatever the method, document it.
3. Publicize the policy
A solid policy and method of reporting issues isn't effective if employees don't know about it. Publicizing your workplace violence policy could be as simple as:
4. Make sure your employees know that you will take their report seriously
Your employees need to know that their concerns will be heard and that someone will follow up on the issue. A procedure whereby employees will be notified about how their report was addressed will go a long way towards building confidence in the system.
The first step in creating a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence is creating an atmosphere in which your employees feel comfortable reporting issues and feel like their voices will be heard. Click here to download our white paper about workplace violence.
by Joy Dike, PhD
We come across a vast array of office cultures. The ones that give rise to the most problems are those that lack an environment of communication, but at the same time cultivate an environment of fear of rejection or reprisals for speaking up. If you find that that is your institution, then the following is for you:
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has one overarching suggestion for reducing workplace violence hazards: "One of the best protections employers can offer their workers is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel."
There are many aspects that go in to a zero-tolerance policy, but it all starts with making sure employees report and log violent and threatening behaviors by coworkers. How can you kill your zero-tolerance policy before it even gets off the ground?
1. Make sure your employees feel scared of their supervisors. Double down and make sure they're also too afraid to report violent or threatening behavior up the normal management channels.
2. Make sure your employees are alienated from management. You don't want employees feeling comfortable enough with management to bring their concerns forward.
3. Make sure your employees have no idea how to report violent or threatening behavior. Better yet, don't even set a policy for reporting violent or threatening behavior. If there's no policy, you won't get any reports and your job is done!
4. Make sure your employees are clear that no action will be taken if they report violent or threatening behavior. Try a paper shredder at the bottom of the suggestion box. That way reports won't even be seen let alone investigated.
In all seriousness, employees need to have a clear picture about how and when to report violent or threatening behavior. No workplace violence policy will be effective if people don't know how to report threats. Come back in the next few days to learn some steps towards implementing a solid and effective zero-tolerance workplace violence policy.
by Joy Dike, PhD
"I'm so mad I could kill someone."
Have you ever heard someome say something like this at work?
Listen, workplace violence is a serious issue, and threatening behavior in the workplace is not something to take lightly. The FBI indicates that there is no profile or litmus test that exists to demonstrate whether an employee might become violent. There are, however, some problem situations that may give rise to violence – personality conflicts between coworkers; mishandled termination or disciplinary action; weapons at the worksite; or drug or alcohol abuse at the worksite. Other risk factors are personal but spill over into the workplace – the breakup of a marriage or romantic relationship; family conflict; financial or legal problems; or emotional problems.
It is well documented that individuals rarely snap and engage in workplace violence without first exhibiting behaviors of concern. Knowing and reporting these behaviors of concern is just as important as understanding the problem situations and risk factors that often precede behaviors of concern. Such behaviors of concern could include depression, threats, menacing behavior, erratic behavior, aggressive outburst, offensive conversation, jokes referring to violence, increasing tardiness, increasing absenteeism, worsening relationships with coworkers, decreased productivity, homicidal comments, increasing belligerence, hypersensitivity to criticism, and verbal abuse. Of course any of these behaviors alone is not necessarily more suggestive of potential workplace violence, but many of these behaviors taken together should raise warning flags.
Let's revisit the person who yelled, "I'm so mad I could kill someone!" Is this a threat that should be taken seriously? The answer really lies in the collective past behavior of the individual making the threat. Let's say this particular person has been increasingly tardy to work, has showed a marked decrease in productivity, and has regularly shown up to work disheveled. In this case, yes, this threat should be taken seriously.
Having a risk management plan that incorporates workplace violence is an important part of keeping your employees, clients, and place of business safe. Make sure people understand what behavior your expect from them and how to detect erratic and threatening behavior.
by Joy Dike, PhD
We're based in the southeast, and we sure do love our guns here in the south. Both literal and metaphorical, that is.
In fact, all fifty states have passed some sort of legislation that allows individuals to to carry concealed firearms in public. Of course the requirements to obtain a permit, the types of firearms allowed, and the types of locations deemed "public" vary from state to state, but the fact is that individuals have some level of right to carry a firearm in all fifty states.
With that in mind, it behooves every business to have a written firearms policy, both for their employees and their customers/clients (if customers physically come in to your place of business). We aren't going to tell you how to write a firearms policy in this blog post, but we will leave you with some thought provoking questions as you think about this issue for your place of business:
How do you determine your firearms policy?
Who is the individual responsible for determining that policy?
What are the legal ramifications for setting such a policy?
Above all, who is the enforcer of this policy?
We can't stress this enough - a plan is only as good as the level of practice and understanding your employees have of it.
We have assessed many businesses and schools that have impressive Emergency Action Plans complete with an active shooter plan, off site muster locations*, and intelligent mass notification procedures. However, our dialogue with teachers or employees often uncovers the fact that they have no idea what to do in the event of an emergency or active shooter, they've never drilled the Emergency Action Plan, and they have never actually seen the full Emergency Action Plan document. All the muster stations in the world won't help if the people meant to run the muster stations don't know it's their job!
Consider this scenario: there is a bomb threat at your school and, according to your Emergency Action Plan, Ms. Smith is tasked with getting all fourth graders to the offsite muster station. Ms. Smith, however, has never seen the Emergency Action Plan and has no idea that she has a special role. She doesn't even know that there are offsite muster locations. Is this Emergency Action Plan any good? Again, a security plan is only as good as the level of practice and understanding the employees have of the plan.
If you have an Emergency Action Plan, you need to make sure your employees:
* A muster site is a location offsite from your school or building where employees or students congregate during an emergency that requires evacuation.