Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reducing the Risk of Violence with Better Relational Skills with Your Employees

In the workplace drug and alcohol use is the primary cause of violence, from fistfights to rape. About 15 people are murdered on the job each week. Surprised? They aren't all as sensational as Fort Hood, but hundreds of murders occur in the workplace each year.

Only exceptional cases make it to the national news, and certainly every one makes the local press. As a supervisor or manager, you want to ensure that you do not become famous in this particular way, so here are a few tips with regard to the relationship that you have with your employees. The most important is to listen, detect, and pay attention to their complaints.

Come down hard on employees who bully others, tease an employee for the behavior, ethnic background, funny looks, or odd poorly-formed social skills. Listen more to employees who are airing complaints. Give positive comments to employees and deal with any personal issues you have that interfere with your ability to demonstrate warmth and positive regard to employees.

Follow up more after an employee is terminated. Of course, this is usually a human resource function, and even HR may have a hard time doing.

Resistance to dealing with the employee's anguish makes this a tough assignment, but you must figure out how to insert support into the larger picture and not simply decide that the employee needs to lump it. Well, you can, but there are certain profiles of employee that present extraordinary risk if you decide to go this route.

The bells should go off if your employees is male, an historically poor performer or loner, has any fascination with guns, has previously threatened to act violently, has been working for the company for about five years, or is an ostracized, socially awkward, or bullied employee.

You know right now which employees in your organization are picked on, teased, held up to ridicule, or otherwise abused. These are ticking time-bombs.

So what if you terminate an employee along with HR helping you do it. Phoning the employee ain't likely. After all, the employee may hate your guts. So what's the answer.

Use your company's employee assistance program or EAP, and DO NOT involve them in the terminations, less they become "contaminated". They will not be able to provide support in the form of a listening ear later if you force the EAP into doing this. It is also arguable, inappropriate and unethical to surprise an employee with the EAP sitting in the termination interview. (Why? It violates the doctrine of client self-determination of asking for help, and not have the helper go to the employee. This doctrine applies to all helping professions. This is why psychologist don't knock on your front door or phone you to ask whether you need services.)

Long before ever having to terminate employee, make liberal use of the program as a referral source for dealing with troubled employees. That includes the following: Those with poor performance, victims of accidents or incidents, recipients of disciplinary actions, coworkers in conflict, employees with garnished wages or who come to your attention by way of media incidents, legal problems, or other behaviors, employees who tell you first about a personal problem affecting the lives or performance.

A newsletter to help your supervisor develop better relational skills with subordinates is FrontLine Supervisor. You can get a free trial subscription here. There is lower rate for any company with fewer than 100 employees. Ask about it. Or you can learn all about this publication here.