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Leadership Training That Helps Prevent Workplace Violence

By Holly Mockus   |   

As summer temperatures rise, tempers can flare at work. However, workplace conflicts and violence are a year-round occurrence, threatening the health and safety of frontline workers everywhere.

Every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 20,000 private sector employees experience injuries related to workplace violence, including 400 deaths. Workplace arguments and fights can damage your company’s reputation, expose you to lawsuits and hinder recruitment. No one wants to work at a company where they don’t feel safe.

Manufacturers use risk assessments, background checks, and surveillance systems to reduce workplace violence. De-escalating conflicts can prevent many incidents before they occur.

Managers and supervisors with the proper leadership training can help ease tensions by uncovering and addressing problems before the situation turns violent. They can learn how to deal with difficult employees, conduct uncomfortable conversations, and know when and how to resort to disciplinary actions.

Below are three ways we like to help turn managers into leaders who can provide a sense of calm to the workplace.

Eliminate barriers with difficult employees
Difficult employees behave in ways that are challenging to deal with as a leader. They tend to disagree or argue with others. They can be mean or aggressive or ignore important rules and processes. And some employees will be difficult just to attract attention.

Before judging these employees, managers and supervisors should discover what’s bothering them by asking questions, listening, and observing.

Some employees become agitated because they don’t fully understand what they need to do to succeed. They are unclear about how their success is measured and why their job is important to customers and coworkers.

Studies show that over 50% of people don’t fully understand their jobs. This group is prone to underperforming and causing problems. To fix this, ensure they are fully trained to know why their role is critical to product quality and workplace safety. Help them understand why company policies and procedures are important and seek their ideas on how to make improvements.

If they don’t like their job and coworkers, find ways to rotate their tasks and try to change the people they work with. Address any issues that might make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Try giving them more frequent feedback or asking a few personal questions to get to know them better. Complaints and problems should be identified and addressed as early as possible. If these efforts fail, managers and supervisors should escalate the problem to their superintendents, managers, or human resources representatives.

Training can help supervisors and managers who are uncomfortable with difficult employee conversations.

Actively listen and conduct difficult conversations
Making this connection with frontline workers is difficult without active listening skills and the ability to conduct difficult conversations. We train managers and supervisors on the basics of active listening, which is vital for every employee, including the complainers.

You must listen and decipher what they’re saying and then turn that into something actionable. Following through on those conversations is essential so employees see the company cares enough to act on their concerns or questions.

Training can also help supervisors and managers who are uncomfortable having difficult conversations with employees. Difficult conversations come in many forms, from helping people correct poor performance or behaviors to changing policies or communicating layoffs. Addressing these conversations early, directly, and confidently can help avoid unnecessary conflicts.

We train leaders to prepare for these conversations and stay on track to pursue a clear goal or outcome. Difficult conversations require research to collect all the information needed to talk about a specific event or pattern of bad behaviors, and lots of practice before meeting with the employee.   

Deliver disciplinary actions, if needed
When the first two steps fail to address the behavior of a difficult employee, it might become necessary to resort to disciplinary action, especially in a production environment where health and safety are critical. When that happens, managers and supervisors should understand their role in the process and how to accomplish it legally, effectively, and fairly without provoking an incident.

Disciplinary action is not intended to punish employees but rather to help them understand that there is a performance problem or an opportunity for improvement. And then allow them to take the right action and correct it.  

Managers and supervisors might not have the authority to act in all instances. But they are still responsible for escalating the problem, informing their managers and human resources, and recording the incident in the employee’s file. They must know the company policy and legal or union requirements. 

Actions should be privately  with human resources, a support person, or witness as appropriate. The employee may be eligible for a support person or union representative to attend the meeting. As a last step, the actions should be recorded in the employee’s file. And throughout the process, the manager or supervisor should be firm yet maintain empathy and professionalism to avoid an employee outburst or confrontation.

Intertek Alchemy offers courses for all three of these steps and other leadership skills like anger management, handling employee complaints, performance evaluations, providing constructive feedback, and valuing differences.

We also provide active shooter courses for employees and safety experts who manage readiness and emergency response plans. Contact us to learn more.   

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