I am a Human Resource Assistant at Old Dominion University. Fortunately, there is not anyone in my work environment who displays any of the behaviors listed in Table 10-8 of our text: “Problematic Behavior in the Workplace that Might Lead to Violence” to any extreme or in multiple ways. Our office, like most, I think experiences from time to time a co-worker who takes things a little more to heart than others and may perceived as a bit hypersensitive to criticism. I have one colleague who is extremely disorganized on an everyday basis. It is my opinion that this is just his personality. It often creates chaos for those who work with him but it is not intentional on his part only frustrating for those who work with him. However, none of the aforementioned is perceived by me as signs of impending violence or presents as multiple behaviors from any one individual.
IF we had an individual in our workplace that exhibited multiple indicators of impending violence I am confident that Old Dominion University’s Workplace Violence Prevention Policy would most likely prevent a violent occurrence or in the worse case scenario mitigate the damages and provide after care/counseling for those affected. Old Dominion University’s policy is a detailed and comprehensive policy that is not only responsive but preventive. The ODU University Policy states: “The purpose of this policy is to provide a safe working environment for university employees by establishing preventive measures, determining disciplinary action for policy violations, and providing assistance and support to victims of workplace violence.” (“Old Dominion University University Policy.” 30 Sept. 2011.)
ODU’s policy defines workplace violence as: Any physical assault, threatening behavior, prohibited conduct or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace on property owned or controlled by the university. (“Old Dominion University University Policy.” 30 Sept. 2011) Old Dominion University prohibits workplace violence and individuals engaging in prohibited conduct shall be subject to disciplinary action under the appropriate policies, up to and including dismissal. (“Old Dominion University University Policy.” 30 Sept. 2011) This policy directs that any individual who feels he or she is in immediate danger should call 911 or alternatively the ODU police department. (“Old Dominion University University Policy.” 30 Sept. 2011)
When a complaint is made, department heads, directors and supervisors respond to any and all complaints that are made. They also communicate policy to staff and provide prevention training for employees, ensuring that employees are aware of how to report potential threats. In an effort to effectively disseminate this information and ensure that employees are cognizant of what constitutes threatening behavior while also providing employees the knowledge to effectively respond to threats ODU posts information easily accessible to employees with contact information for any further information that may be needed.
The office of human resources is invaluable on campus. It coordinates preventive measures, conducts criminal conviction checks, provides awareness programs, coordinates referrals to the employee assistance program, makes referrals to the Threat Education Assessment and Management Assessment Team, and coordinates with other University and community resources to provide support to victims of violence. This department is the mechanism for employees to report violations of policy in a manner that protects that individual’s safety and anonymity.
Annually the Workplace Violence Prevention Committee conducts a review to identify potential or existing risks, gathering data and analyzing reports to identify departments, activities or locations deemed to be at high risk and makes recommendations based on their findings.(“Old Dominion University University Policy.” 30 Sept. 2011) This committee periodically reviews reports from the ODUPD, the Office of Human Resources, and other offices to keep employees informed and updated regarding workplace violence prevention programs and evaluating the effectiveness of those programs. (“Old Dominion University University Policy.” 30 Sept. 2011)
It is fortunate for me that I have never found my self in an actual workplace violence incident and I feel fairly certain that my actions being specific to the situation would be rational. However, one can never be certain how they will react in certain situations until faced with said situation. One can be knowledgeably prepared for a situation but fear and anxiety can cause one to forget all they learned in preparation of such an event. Though the correct response may vary from one situation to another the first course of action I believe should always be to remain calm.
It would be important in any situation whether it is a verbal altercation or an active shooter to not heighten the individual’s already angry and/or hostile demeanor. It may be helpful to keep a dialogue going with this person in a calm non-threatening tone. This may serve to deescalate heightened emotions including the threatening demeanor of the offender and the fear the offender has induced in those around him. At the first opportunity I would signal for help, most certainly calling security personnel at the first opportunity.
The only experience I am able to reference in these regards is an incident from a previous job, many years ago when a co-worker became completely irrational. This individual became enraged over something that did not go right for him due to his own lack of preparation and lashed out at anyone in his vicinity using expletives in doing so. I never believed it would become physical and while it did not, none the less, it was frightening for those around him. My action in that instance was to quietly and calmly remove myself from this situation as quickly as possible. I learned later that all was fine and my co-worker apologized profusely to every one who suffered his meltdown that day.
Were it an active shooter situation my first thought is hide or get out as quickly as possible with quiet being of the utmost importance. If I am able to get out I am able to get help for others or if I have a cell phone and can do so quietly to make outside contact, I would be able to get help for myself and others.