Let's not fool ourselves. Tensions are high. Mental health is at an all time low. Business are struggling to stay open. Jobs are in jeopardy. We fear our health and the health of our loved ones. Then we have the complications related to our children's education. What will be? How can we juggle this? How do I balance my work life with all that I have at home?
Then we have the political and social unrest. That is causing more tension than many even realize. Those who used to get along, are now not seeing eye to eye. The political viewpoints tied to protests and other activities that are causing many a great deal of fear and stress are creeping into our workplace. Hard not to.
As we see more and more, workplace shootings continue to be topics that we must discuss and understand other data behind incidents of workplace violent. Such violence is far more common than most believe. In a study I just reviewed, more than 50% of HR professionals have experienced a workplace violence incident recently. This is up from under 35% in the past.
How can we make our employees feel safe at work? Safe related to COVID19, safe related to public/social unrest. Safe related to individual stressors causing reactions to otherwise not so stressful incidents, much more severe. We have alot to do that's the answer.
What is workplace violence? According to OSHA, workplace violence is "any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide".
I am seeing an increase in tension among co workers and their supervisors. People are feeling more and more entitled and handling it less professional than they should or would have in a different climate. I am seeing that some are overusing claims of harassment and workplace bullying when they are upset with their boss or coworker. In general, our tolerance for differences or decisions we don't like are turning into "battles" rather than discussions. Why? There are many variables, not the least of which are just the nature of our differences, but the level of keeping composed and professional has definitely taken a hit. We need to rewind and get back to respect among ALL.
What can we do?
Make sure your workplace prevention program is updated and clearly communicated.
Make sure your training on the topic is scheduled, including those related such as anti harassment and anti discrimination related training.
Provide specific training for those who are struggling with their approach to others at work.
Consider how everyone has their own "biases", how can we work around that?
Provide any resources you connect with such as Employee Assistance Programs.
Ensure you seek to resolve conflict. This is another area that I have been quite busy with lately.
Be sure you discipline those who are acting contrary to what you desire in the workplace. No consequences, sends the message that such behavior is fine.
Stay on top of the emotional part of employees, coming to work with so many more stressors.
Be sure that your performance evaluation system is solidly in place. Large or small, you need this for more reasons than I can write in this article. Why don't you do them? Usually because they are awkward for many. Well here is a way to get through them effectively.
Be flexible as they need time off for children especially with the "new normal" of schooling.
Be flexible with work arrangements.
Most are reaching out for such support and naturally that is what I am here to do with you. So no matter what, you are responsible for the safety and security of your staff. All of the above are the skills you need to develop or refine in order to create an environment that is fair, objective and supportive. Employers typically don't see their role in the workplace negativity, but believe me when I tell you, every supervisor can do better in keeping this to an absolute minimum. As we near the election, it is anticipated that the conflicts may increase. Be prepared to create/maintain a respectful environment and begin now by correcting behaviors that are contrary to what you see.
Many avoid dealing with difficult people because they fear some type of perception that they will get push back based on some prohibited characteristic covered by law. I would take my chances because if you are being objective, fair and honest. you will not have to worry about this. Anyone can sue you, but if you do things in the manner you should in correcting such issues, you should not have an issue in winning such claims.
Here to help you through all of this but for those "do it yourself" types. Take the time and view the quick, effective, best practices included in these webinars.
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Be safe and begin today with best practices in creating a respectful, positive work environment. It will be worth every minute you spend on focusing on employee relations and managing your staff.