The Permissive Environment Is The Suspect…

The permissive and participatory conduct which most employees
take for granted,eventually escalates into the more serious
assaultive behavior commonly referred to as employee on employee
workplace violence starts with innuendos, a bad word, or simple
jokes taken out of context or used to inflame another.
Initiation of a proper and thorough investigation is possible
under the auspices of a Threat Assessment Team. Banter between
employees if left alone by supervisors becomes tense and often
results in a more aggressive response. The truth of the matter
is that in most cases this banter is perceived as harmless shop

Supervisors often believe that this healthy shop talk builds
camaraderie and does not detract from performance. However, such
permissive behavior empowers the potential perpetrator who may
feel he enjoys the partiality of the supervisor. After all, he
does his job, pumps out the numbers and meets the “bosses”
demands. Regardless of the relationship and his performance,
definite and clear action should be taken initially to curtail
the potential of an explosive situation from impacting the
workplace. The spontaneous reaction by the victim is surprising
and could be sufficiently volatile to affect bystanders as well.

Remembering that the business owner is ultimately responsible
for the actions they fail to take in any situation places the
decision in question. The prevention of workplace violence
requires a proactive response. Security is everyone’s
responsibility but ultimately but ultimately management’s duty.
The exposure to violent behavior by non employees is yet another
issue which will be presented in future articles.

In a permissive environment, the uninformed employee has no idea
that emotions tied into simple acts of harassment are an
explosive combination often leading to a spontaneous counter
response by the victim. While the response is unfortunate in
terms of who ultimately precipitated the incident, the victim
who is now taking the action into his hands becomes the
aggressor and must be held accountable.

Using a Threat Assessment Team or a trained group of individuals
would be the proper approach in this scenario and in future
incidents. The conduct of the Threat Assessment Process would
involve the total analysis of information and intelligence
available about the participants, the incident and the
environment in order to render a fair and impartial outcome.
Being properly trained is key. Knowledge of how to conduct a
fact finding investigation is critical to the successful
determination of the type of disciplinary action or criminal
prosecution might bring. The process should synchronized and
well coordinated and reflective of the organization’s leadership
team if possible to insure that the preliminary responsibility
of conducting the fact finding investigative process does not
fall on the shoulders of the Security Director only. The major
players of the Threat Assessment Team should include at a
minimum: the Immediate Supervisor, Personnel & Human Resource
Managers, Employee Assistance, Safety and Security Managers, to
insure a thorough Threat Assessment (Investigation) is

In Assessing the above scenario the root cause of the
confrontation was the unabated name calling, verbal abuse and
innuendos, in a contributory and improperly supervised
environment. Supervisors who fail to step in can be held civilly
liable and responsible for their failure to act early or
appropriately to prevent escalation or confrontations. In cases
of death or serious injury between employees or customers,
wrongful death law suits are often filed in addition to criminal
prosecution. Not knowing is no longer a legitimate excuse. When
supervisors fail to act appropriately, management has the burden
of investigating the incident, dealing with the issue of the
aggressor over the contributory behavior of the instigator and
decide on the appropriate progressive actions (disciplinary or
referral to local police) necessary.

And, so while a Zero Tolerance Policy is necessary and highly
recommended, it should not be an absolute standard in
administering discipline until the “root cause” of the
contributory behavior becomes clear through the Assessment
Process. When controlling or addressing the potential fruits of
unwelcome behavior or to more appropriately, prevent incidents
dealing with a Workplace Security Issue, every situation should
not be resolved in the same manner with the same administrative
decision. Any broad-brush approach to enforcing the Zero
Tolerance Policy sours the innocent bystanders and prejudices
the potential witnesses who may fear retaliation or retribution,
factors which may further complicate the disciplinary process
and/or criminal referral.


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  • writerPosted On: April 19, 2006

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