Empowering Employees to Deter Workplace Violence

The Enlightened Leader's Guide to Prevention

by Jeffrey M. Miller

In the realm of human resources, no other issue poses as much of a threat to the life of a company, not mention the safety of employees, as that of violence in the workplace. In the past several years, one of the primary focuses of conscientious HR managers and CEOs has been toward finding and creating training programs and procedures that will minimize the impact of this threat to both the company and its lifeblood - the employees working for it.

However, contrary to the popular trend towards programs that focus solely on interpersonal communications and stress-management, my focus is on programs that teach employees what to do when these passive tactics fail. Ask any expert who knows how to effectively handle danger in its most raw form and they will all tell you...

...only those capable of handling the worst situation can handle lesser problems effectively.

I know how that sounds. It can certainly be argued that non- aggressive people can be taught negotiation, and other such skills in handling and diffusing a potentially violent situation. And...

...I would agree. If...

...we weren't talking about the concern for the potential on the part of one of the participants, for violence.

As illogical as this sounds, the fear or ignorance of the potential for violence can actually cause a situation to escalate faster towards that end.

Do you understand the implication of that statement?

It's so important that I'll say it again...

"The fear or ignorance of the potential for violence can actually cause a situation to escalate faster towards that end."

A Lesson From the Military

Earlier, when I implied that "non-aggressive people" may actually cause a violent reaction, I was not saying that you should be training your people to be violent in order to counter violence. In fact, I wasn't talking about the predisposition towards violence at all.

What I was talking about was aggressiveness in its positive state, as the willingness to take on challenges and risk - the very trait you need in effective managaers and sales people.

The fact is that our modern society, with its politically-correct sensitivities, has produced a significant number of people who think they can reason and "nice" their way through any situation or hardship. By the time these people realize that they can't reason with an employee with, say, a passive-aggressive personality disorder, it will be too late.

Not to mention the fact that the target of the violence will be totally unprepared at that point because they have never learned how to effectively handle violence. And THAT is the point:

Your employees don't have to be violent people to know how to effectively deal with violence.

So, unless part of the prerequisites for employment into any position in your company includes requiring that people are already trained in karate or some other form of self-defense, the likelihood is that the majority of your employee base - yourself included - will find themselves on the "victim" section of the post-incident and police reports AFTER an attack has occurred.

NOT where anyone wants to be!

By now, my focus and logic should be clear.

Make sure that your workplace violence plan is empowering your employees to do more than talk. Believe it or not, the primary reason that postal centers, schools, and other such buildings are the favored targets for the weak but violent person, is that...

...they will not meet with resistance before doing what they set out to do.

The fact that employees in these businesses cannot carry weapons makes them the perfect targets for those who choose to use them. Think about it. When do these attackers kill themselves?


When the cops - the guys with the guns - show up.

Looking at this logic from another perspective...

How often do you hear of police officers attacking each other?



And why is that?

Right, again!

They are all either armed or capable of stopping the violence long before it has a chance to escalate.

You certainly don't have to arm your employees, and I'm not suggesting that you should. However, adding training to your workplace violence program that at the very minimum teaches your employees how to avoid, evade, and escape from an aggressor who is attacking them with anything from punches and kicks to guns and knives is an excellent place to begin.

Even a terrorist attack is not outside the scope of the well-crafted plan. The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001 is a prime example of a situation that, to many, "doesn't happen here."

Watching the responses of those literally hundreds of people who panicked and chose to jump from windows, run up to the rooftop of a burning building, or simply acquiesce and make "good-bye" phone calls to loved ones a full half-hour or so before the end, to me...

...was one of the most horrific sights I have ever witnessed.

Had these people been trained to think correctly under pressure, to assess a situation from a "survival" mindset and not a scared animal, many more people would have survived the violence and mayhem that fateful day.

Remember, the Enlightened leader sees beyond the obvious. He or she is capable of recognizing potential threats to their goal and taking steps to minimize the damage BEFORE it happens. And the key here is...

...taking the action that's required.

This leader also knows that, what sounds illogical when you think about it, is often the very thing that will produce greater results than ideas founded on conventional wisdom. And, protecting your business from workplace violence is one such situation. Empowering your employees by teaching them simple but workable self-defense tactics IS the key to...

  • Virtually eliminating the possibility of aggression due to superior advantage being in your favor - not the assailant's

  • Reducing fear-based stress on employees by empowering them with skills that work

  • Protecting your company from post-attack lawsuits from employee-victims who were NOT trained to deal with this type of problem

    But, you and I both know. It's your company, your money, and your decision.

    And you and your employees must live with what you decide. Literally!