December '17

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rv-pro.com December 2017 • RV PRO • 55 zone between harmless and harmful. What should an employer do, for example, when humor contains a vio- lent element? Suppose Sam tells Andy in a joking tone of voice, "I'm going to knock your block off after work." In such cases, experts advise taking the individual aside and counseling that you realized they were joking, but that such behavior is still not acceptable. More troubling are statements for which a humorous intent is unclear. Sam's assertion in the previous para- graph, if uttered without sufficient humorous tone, might or might not be a serious threat. "Sometimes it can be hard to tell," White says. "It all depends on tone of voice, the environment, and the body language. But the investigation process should try to come to a conclusion." In such cases, White suggests starting to watch the employee's behavior more closely. Does Sam have attendance problems? Is he violating other organi- zational polices? Has he health or finan- cial problems? "Try to observe the employee without being too invasive," he says. A final category of event is the state- ment that is obviously not a joke, but is so veiled as to call into question its violent intent. Suppose Alan tells his supervisor: "You had better not treat me like this." His voice has a warning tone and his demeanor is dark, but is the statement a threat to commit violence or just a threat to quit and go work for a competitor? The answer is elusive. The best response is to take Alan aside and counsel him on what caused him to make his statement and what he had in mind, according to White. When in doubt, experts say trust your gut and don't over-analyze. If you feel afraid, there is something amiss, according to experts. Act Early Barbara's outburst, described earlier, while perhaps innocent of violent intent, also may provide an early warning sign of more severe trouble down the road. Iden- tifying such warning signs, and addressing them promptly, is the best way to obviate extreme behavior, experts say. "Supervisors should be alert for employees who start to behave in strange ways, such as barricading themselves in their cubicles, or making statements such as their supervisors are poisoning their food," says Maxey, with Workplace Guardians. Be alert for those employees who are constantly unable to get along with others, who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, who are quick to anger, or who respond in inappropriate and exaggerated ways when given minor directives. All can be early signs of greater issues down the road, experts say. Employees should be trained to report any such behavior to supervi- sors who can start to more closely mon- itor the troubled worker, according to Maxey. "The key is to catch a problem early on. When supervisors fail to address early warning signs, the employee's problems can marinate over time and then get to the point where there is some kind of damaging outburst," he says. Zero Tolerance Experts on workplace violence sug- gest that every employer establish a "zero tolerance" workplace violence policy that mandates termination for acts of vio- lence, or threats of such acts. For less extreme behavior, an employer should mandate a system of progressive disci- pline that may include administrative leave and mandatory psychological eval- uation and counseling. A workplace policy also should address the subject of weapons, according to experts. "No weapons should be allowed in the workplace or in the business parking lot," says Bonczyk, with the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute. "You would be surprised what people put in their purses and backpacks. Those things include knives and guns." A caveat is that some state laws allow authorized firearm owners to keep guns in the trunks of their cars. Experts advise business owners to consult with an attorney to learn if their business is located in a so-called "guns in trunks" state. Once business owners have written a workplace violence policy, they should

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