26 Oct

The Threat of Workplace Violence: What Can You Do?

Blog No Comments by Mareisha Winters

It is no secret to the working world that many organizations today are in turmoil. The recession has caused companies to have to downsize, reorganize, merge, be subjected to greater regulatory scrutiny, and in some cases go out of business.  These tumultuous events have put a new face on such things as organizational politics, dysfunction, and opportunities for advancement.  This month’s LTAW theme is: Work:  It’s a crazy place these days!

Workplace violence is a prevalent issue in the United States. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), each year nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. Workplace violence can strike anywhere, and no one is immune.

::[Did You Know?] Workplace Violence::

OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and death resulting from homicide.  Workplace violence acts can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors at a worksite.

Some factors that increase the risk of workplace violence include:

  • Exchanging money with the public
  • Working with volatile, unstable people
  • Working alone or in isolated areas
  • Providing services and care
  • Working where alcohol is served

When it comes to fatalities as a result of workplace violence, homicide is the second leading cause accounting for 11% of deaths. Other assaults and violent acts account for 6.4% of workplace fatalities. Contrary to popular belief, due to the numerous news reports we hear of shootings by disgruntled employees, the majority of workplace violence incidents do not stem from employees retaliating against former or current employees. Instead, the majority of workplace homicides are a result of robberies.

The Society of Human Resource Management 2011 survey on workplace bullying and violence found that the three most common costs associated with workplace violence were:

  • Management time/expense (55%)
  • Productivity loss (37%)
  • Staff replacement costs resulting from turnover caused by the incident (34%)

What Can Employers Do to Reduce the Threat of Workplace Violence?

According to OSHA one of the best protections an employer can offer to its employees is a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence.  This policy is not limited to just workers, but should also cover patients, clients, visitors, contractors and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.  In addition, employers can offer the following as additional precautions and protections:

  • Provide safety education and training addressing the following: What conduct is acceptable? What do you do if you witness workplace violence? What do you do if you are subjected to workplace violence? How do you protect yourself?
  • Ensure the workplace is secure: Where appropriate install video surveillance, extra lighting, alarm systems, security guards and identification badges.
  • Limit the amount of cash on hand by providing drop safes and limiting the amount of cash on the property during evening and late night hours.
  • In the health-care professions, where workplace violence is more common, companies should develop policies and procedures covering in-home visits, including the employee’s right to refuse to provide services in a hazardous situation.

What Can Employees Do to Reduce the Threat of Workplace Violence?

As stated earlier, workplace violence can happen anywhere and at any time, and no one is immune. However there are some precautions that you as an employee can take to reduce the odds:

  • Attend safety education and training programs (either through your employer or on your own) and learn how to recognize, avoid and/or diffuse potentially violent situations.
  • Do not enter any location at work where you feel unsafe. Utilize services that your employer may provide, for example an escort service to walk you to your car when you are working late at night.
  • Report any concerns regarding your safety to your supervisor and report any incidents in writing.

Additional Resources:

  1. Occupational Safety & Health Administration Safety and Health Topics: Workplace Violence
  2. Standard Guides Organizations in Preventing Workplace Violence
  3. OPM-Workplace Violence Resources

Ride the waves of organizational chaos with ease and grace!

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24 Oct

You Have Transferred Me to the WHAT Department?!?

Blog No Comments by Mary-Frances Winters

It is no secret to the working world that many organizations today are in turmoil. The recession has caused companies to have to downsize, reorganize, merge, be subjected to greater regulatory scrutiny, and in some cases go out of business.  These tumultuous events have put a new face on such things as organizational politics, dysfunction, and opportunities for advancement.  This month’s LTAW theme is: Work:  It’s a crazy place these days!

You think this is just any ordinary work day. You arrive at your desk, get your coffee, put your lunch in the department refrigerator, turn on your computer and get ready for your day.  You boss steps in and asks to see you. This is a surprise since you hardly ever see the boss.  What could this be about?  In a very monotone and matter of fact voice he tells you that you have been transferred to another department, to a different job in a different location.

Your head is spinning. You have all sorts of questions like why? How will this affect your pay, future opportunities?  What about the commute? This location is way on the other side of town! Is this because you are a super star or are they trying to move you to a non-essential role because they think you are a dud with no future?

Your emotions are running the gamut from anger to fear to confusion. Take a deep breath. Count to 20 before you react.  Stay positive.

Here are some questions that you should ask:

  • Can you tell me why the decision was made to transfer me to another job?
  • What skills and abilities do you think I have that make me the best candidate for this job?
  • Are there other moves that are a part of a bigger company strategy?
  • This role seems very different from what I currently do. What type of training will I receive?
  • What additional career opportunities might be available in the new department?
  • Is the new role considered a lateral move?  Will my pay and benefits be impacted?
  • What if I would prefer to keep my current job?

Depending on the answers to these questions you may have some quick decisions to make.  If there is no choice, that is, you either take the job or you are out the door, there may be some bargaining room to ask for raise or some type of commuter allowance if the job is much further away from your home. You may also want to negotiate more time if you boss says that the transfer is effective immediately.

If however, you get the sense that this is not a positive move, there may be no room for bargaining. In the end, if it sounds like you are getting the short end of the stick in the deal, you might want to take the job and at the same time start looking for something new.

In a perfect world, there should be no surprises like this. You should know how you are doing based on regular performance reviews and your manager should give you a heads up before springing a transfer on you like this. Well, we don’t live in a perfect world and you need to be prepared for the unexpected., especially in today’s climate. There are no guarantees in the work world today and surprises such as job shuffling are more commonplace.

Because the work world is more and more uncertain, you should always have a “Plan B”. Keep your resume current, have at least 6 months of savings and keep a strong network of those who can assist you in your career.

Ride the waves of organizational chaos with ease and grace!

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22 Oct

Yikes! My Company has filed for bankruptcy. Should I be looking for another job?

Blog No Comments by Mary-Frances Winters

It is no secret to the working world that many organizations today are in turmoil. The recession has caused companies to have to downsize, reorganize, merge, be subjected to greater regulatory scrutiny, and in some cases go out of business.  These tumultuous events have put a new face on such things as organizational politics, dysfunction, and opportunities for advancement.  This month’s LTAW theme is: Work:  It’s a crazy place these days!

Only 67 fortune 500 companies that were in business in 1955 are still in business today.  87% of the companies have either gone bankrupt, merged, gone private, or fell off the list. It is estimated that more that 200,000 small business closed during this most recent recession.

There are a variety of reasons why companies fail including bad management, costly law suits that strip the company of cash, and the inability to stay relevant and competitive in their market.  Think about retail video stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood Videos. Technology advances allowed Netflix to take over the industry with website mail service and now streaming video.

If your company declares it is filing for bankruptcy protection you need to understand the type. There are three different choices.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is usually referred to as liquidation. It is typically used when the debts of the business are very large and it has few assets. Chapter 7 bankruptcy most likely means that the business is over. Hopefully your employer would have let employees know of its plight before the actual filing.

In any event you need to find another job.

Chapter 11 is a type of bankruptcy where the company is asking to reorganize and usually means the company has a future. The company continues to operate while a court ordered trustee outlines a plan for how the company will pay creditors. Creditors vote on the plan and the court has to approve it.  The plan will lay out how the company will repay creditors. Such payments can extend over many years. Chapter 11 bankruptcies are exceedingly complex and not all succeed.

In this case part of the reorganization might include downsizing so you may be out of a job.  On the other hand, if you hold a key position you may be kept.  So the answer as to whether you need to leave is: it depends.  Keep your options open and stay current with how the company is doing with the reorganization.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is mostly for individuals but might be the choice of a sole proprietorship. Chances are you don’t work for a sole proprietorship but if you do and he/she files chapter 13, you should definitely leave.

Ride the waves of organizational chaos with ease and grace!

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