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December '17

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56 • RV PRO • December 2017 rv-pro.com B U S I N E S S make it available to all employees. Don't just put the document on the shelf and forget it, experts advise. "I can't tell you how many places I go into and no one has read the policy in years," says White. Tread Carefully So, the company workplace violence policy is written, communicated and posted. How should owners approach the employee whose behavior violates its terms? Pr i va t e l y a n d w i t h s e n s i t i v i t y, according to experts. "Do not approach the troubled employee in public," Bonczyk says. "That can be devastating and embar- rassing, and can lead to still more aggres- sive acts." Bonczyk advises pulling the person aside and holding a meeting behind closed doors. "Put away the cell phone and focus 100 percent on the employee," she says. Start by putting the individual at ease, advises Bonczyk. "Break the ice and give the employee an opportunity to calm down by offering a glass of water or a cup of coffee, and by talking about common topics, such as the weather or new movies," she says. Once the individual seems calm and collected, the owner or supervisor should move on to a description of the behavior they witnessed, Bonczyk says. She says a starting point might open with words such as: "Josh, yesterday I noticed that you shouted at Sandra when she asked you to help with her presentation. You seemed very angry. What was going on which caused you to behave that way? And how can we help? "Focus on what you have seen," Bonczyk says. For example, she sug- gests describing behaviors that have actually been witnessed rather than trying to interpret emotions or causes. Suggesting that the individual is trou- bled, or resentful, or envious of another employee's success, will only cause the person to deny the charge and become more upset, she warns. As the conversation proceeds, take steps to calm any emotional outbursts, Bonczyk advises. "If the employee starts to scream and to become aggressive, don't try to inter- rupt or become aggressive yourself," she says. "Instead, lower your own voice and try to defuse the situation by repeating your desire to understand and to help." The focus of the conversation should not be on placing blame for behavior, but on offering assistance to help the employee behave better. "Be sincere about your desire to assist the troubled employee," Bonczyk says. "People can tell when you're not." Once the employee explains what is troubling him, offer whatever assistance is appropriate, Bonczyk says. Suppose Josh says he is having money problems. Here is where you can sug- gest he speak with a local financial coun- selor with whom your organization has a relationship. In many cases, an owner or supervisor may suggest the person meet a repre- sentative from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if they have one. Also, the employee whose behavior relates to something like the serious illness of a family member may be entitled to time off under provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, Bonczyk says. Make a note on the calendar for a follow-up meeting, perhaps 10 days or two weeks later, or even sooner if the situation warrants it, experts advise. Find out if the employee has made gains in solving his problem and if there is any- thing else the company can do to help, experts add. So, what happens if, despite those best efforts, the employee makes no prog- ress and the angry or antisocial behavior continues? "If the employee is resistant to change you will need to look at termination," Bonczyk says. Before firing the indi- vidual, consult with an attorney to make sure the company is complying with all federal and state laws. "Put the employee on notice and doc- ument everything. Such documentation will be needed later if the employee sues for wrongful discharge," Bonczyk says. The act of firing a troubled employee can itself lead to an act of violence. It is prudent to take steps to reduce the risk of injury, according to Bonczyk. "Have a member of law enforcement on-hand if you feel the employee may become violent during the termination," she says. Prevent Tragedy Taking quick action to deal with unsettling behavior is important. But so is doing whatever can be done to obviate such situations. One of the most effective steps is exercising care when taking on new staff members, according to experts. "Conduct adequate background screening when hiring a new worker," Bonczyk says. "It is very difficult to coach or counsel a troubled individual once that person has joined your organization." Document the vetting activity, recording the steps the company took to uncover any previous history of workplace violence. That will provide important evidence in defending an organization against lawsuits by injured parties, according to experts. "Plaintiffs' counsels will ask for per- sonnel files to see if employers performed due diligence during the hiring process," Bonczyk says. Experts say another effective preven- tive measure involves employee training. "All employees need to know how to recognize at-risk behaviors," says Maxey, with Workplace Guardians. "Urge them to report what they observe to supervisors." Employees often hold back from reporting what they see because they think they might get someone in trouble unnecessarily, or that they might be retaliated against by the person being reported or even by the company, according to experts. "It is important to communicate that you will support individuals who step for- ward," says Maxey. "State explicitly that

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