Violence takes on many forms. It can be a threat of force, shove, fistfight, etc. In extreme cases, it can involve the use of a gun. Whatever the form, it’s potentially dangerous. Even the bully who intimidates is a threat of sorts. These situations create low morale and damage productivity. They can also be costly to the company due to a lawsuit brought on by the victim of the violence.
Try to look for signs of violence before it occurs. If you or your staff sees emotional outbursts, co-workers confronting each other, employees confronting authority figures, or even unusual social behavior, you need to address the situation as soon as possible. First try talking to the individual in private to get an understanding of the emotional outburst. It might be related to the stress of the job, which is something you can control. If it is an emotional issue beyond your control, get in touch with HR. They may be able to help provide some intervention. You might want to let the person go home early, or even take a couple of days off to deal with the emotional situation.
The main point here is to defuse the situation before it escalates. Bring the person into your office and talk it out. You do not need to be a psychologist, just be there to listen and provide as much insight as you can. Again, do not be afraid to utilize HR if it is something beyond what you can control. If it comes to a point where serious violence can take place at any moment, get in touch with security. If you cannot get in touch with security, call the police. You do not want it to get to a point of no return, and you especially do not want any serious violence to take place in the office. At the very least it should be taken outside.
You also want to defuse the bully by establishing the fact that such behavior is not tolerated as part of the company’s values. State this calmly and not let in to what the bully is seeking, which is intimidation. In most cases a person is a bully because of their own fears and low self-esteem. The best thing you can do when dealing with a bully is to never let them succeed by getting good performance results due to the bullying of others. If they truly do good work that is not the result of intimidating others, praise the good work as you normally would. If the bully sees that you are monitoring and recognize good results, based on true achievement or by intimidation, the bullying should subside either way. If not, the situation should be treated as any other difficult employee issue. How to deal with difficult employees will be covered in the next section of this lesson.
The best thing you can do is maintain a positive, calming, anger-preventing attitude. The leadership tips in lesson 1 can help, as well as much of what is taught throughout this course. You might not always spot the people who are ready to explode, but you will decrease the chances if the environment you create is a positive one. By treating everyone with a true caring attitude, you will reduce explosive situations. If you manage and lead with an explosive authoritarian personality, your employees might want to explode as well. This also goes for dealing with angry people in your department. They might not be violent, but the negative emotions the angry employee is generating affects morale nonetheless. When someone is showing signs of anger, find out what triggered the emotion and find a solution to the problem.
Whether a person is violent or just angry, you need to always protect yourself and your team members from harm. Defuse the situation. Take the person outside or in your office to keep others away from your conversation. Calmly discuss the issue, remove the person from any tools or machinery which can cause harm, let them take the rest of the day off to get a hold of their composure, and if needed, get HR and/or security involved whenever the situation is beyond your control.
Whenever you speak to an employee, whether it relates to bulling, anger or violence, always be sure to document everything that transpired. You would need to give, at the very least, a verbal warning. Depending on the severity, an incident report is usually written up by you or HR. Depending on the nature of the act, suspension and/or termination is highly possible.