A couple of years ago, a company that we will keep confidential due to the sensitivity of the report we are summarizing suffered an active shooter incident that was perpetrated by an employee of that organization. After the incident, a comprehensive study was conducted to assess the workplace climate and culture within the facility where this incident occurred. The assessment, conducted by a third party contractor, revealed that even though employees were overall happy with the company, their job duties, benefits, and compensation, there were key cultural themes that contributed to a significantly unhealthy climate and culture within that facility. Included in these factors were:
* Absence of leadership – Where it was apparent that some leaders failed to identify and/or acknowledge the dysfunction within organizations they serve
* Negative perception of managers – Employees perceived their managers to be more concerned about how they are viewed by top management and less concerned about how their own employees viewed them
* Decision Making – Employees felt like no manager ultimately took responsibility for things that went wrong thus they felt like employees were often blamed for any failures
* Work-Life Balance – Employees felt like there was a lack of an effective system for ensuring balanced workloads and at the same time that they could not ask for help or extensions because they feared they would be viewed as trouble makers by their supervisors or managers
* Communication – Where it often was delayed, lacked details, felt filtered or to be disingenuous. There appeared to be an over reliance on email, texting, or written forms of communication between managers and line employees which in turn was causing an interpersonal effect that failed to produce personal relationships
* Safety and Security – Employees noted that before the active shooter incident, security efforts at their facility was “lax” citing that other facilities owned by the organization are secure and require ID badges to move to and from departments. Employees acknowledged that a secured facility would not have prevented the incident since the shooter was a fellow employee; however, they believed that a more visible security team may be a significant deterrent
* Employee Recognition – Simply put, employees felt like managers took all the credit when things went right, but blamed them when things went wrong
* Employee Appraisal Process – Employees felt like appraisals were unwieldy and confusing, sometimes being pejorative and critical without being constructive or offering actionable expectations for the employee’s development
* Inconsistent application of HR Policies and Practices
The facility assessed is comprised of approximately 1,800 employees including executives, managers, supervisors, line employees, and contractors. Although this assessment revealed little about security concerns in this organization, it places the spotlight on climate concerns that may eventually lead to employee distrust and/or intensified stress/pressure with no outlet. This assessment also sheds some light on the importance of culture studies and an even higher importance on the timing of such studies. Much like your health, car, or any machinery and networks, the climate of your organization requires “preventative maintenance” so deficiencies can be identified and worked on before they become problems.
As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20” and unfortunately many organizations do not realize that using another’s hindsight as a prevention effort is not only acceptable, but responsible. Whether your organization is comprised of five employees, or 10,000, we recommend you take time to consider some the following workplace violence prevention efforts:
– Develop a manager/leadership training program that develops those junior leaders, in the company corporate climate, the legal aspects of being a manager, including having a working knowledge of basic HR issues, not necessarily to be able to handle specific, HR related questions and concerns, but at least have the ability to answer general questions.
– Conduct a culture and climate study of your organization and make the necessary adjustments or remedial training where needed
– Consider including your security manager in the planning and review of your wellness program
– Conduct specialized, focused security awareness training which should include Workplace Violence Prevention unique to separate audiences within your organization such as:
* Threat Evaluation Team members
* Managers and Supervisors
* Employees and Contractors
– Establish a confidential reporting system that will keep the reporting party anonymous
– On a quarterly basis (at least) C-suite personnel should review culture trends such as absenteeism, LOAs do to stress, Workman’s comp claims, and disciplinary actions and should follow up on issues or deficiencies
– Make an effort to promote employee wellbeing and morale by conducting team building events, town hall meetings, and enhancing employee benefits based on the organization’s climate. It should be noted that having “Town Hall” meetings requires follow through so that concerns or accolades presented in that open forum are acted on and not simply dismissed as the usual “employee complaint session”. Action on those issues needs to be measured and visible.
We believe that if you invest in the people responsible for serving those who invest in your organization, your dividends will inevitably increase.