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    22 Replies Latest reply on Aug 25, 2009 5:16 AM by vistasad

    Managers not prepared for work place violence

    SandyPI Wayfarer

      I recently read an article in USA TODAY by Stephanie Armour that starts out by saying, "In an average week in U.S. workplaces, one employee is killed and at least 25 are seriously injured in by violent assaults by current or former co-workers" She goes on to say that the attacks might have been prevented by observing the clear warning signs. While that is true, I believe that a thorough background investigation by a licensed professional would have detected past violent behavior. In David Callahan's book, "The Cheating Culture" he says that an estimated 79% of workers admit either stealing or considering stealing from their employers. CNN reports that one in three business goes out of business because of employee theft.* There again a professional background check might have saved these companies.

      With these facts in mind, can you afford to NOT have a professional background screening program in place.

      Theft and violence not only apply to the workplace but in charity organizations need to be extra careful. Who is volunteering to take care of the children, the elderly, the sick, drive a van to pick up donations, or work in the charity thrift store? The realtor can save his agency and clients hundreds, if not thousands, by knowing who they are renting the property to BEFORE the lease is signed.

      The bottom line is many workplace and non workplace crimes may well be prevented by a professional background check.

      Sandy Glover
      Licensed Private investigator C2500973, Fl.
      President Gold Shield Legal Investigations, Inc. A2500354,Fl.
        • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
          England Wayfarer

          Sandy,

          Good posts. It looks like you might be in the business of background check. If so, that makes the two of us. Anyway we live in a differ world now and I agree with you 100%. We need to have more companies or small businesses specializing in this area. In my last firm that I worked for in Nevada there were several people who were on medication and I could always tell that when they were low on dosage the personality changed. I always treated them with respect because at times I would see the imbalance in their behavior. It would make me nervous which is one of several reasons I got into my business with my background and education. I also notice that part of society seems to think only self and what they don't realize is if you take care of your fellow neighbor than you might not be a victim of violence not to say it in a broad term but we all are responsible for each other even in a business environment. I have always been concerned if my co-worker was eating and getting enough sleep because if they weren't then they would bring their problems to work. Anyway, thanks for this post, this is actually one that I am interested in. We all must make are world and country safer so that someone else doesn't take advantage of it.
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
          • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
            Ed O'Gee Adventurer
            Sandy,

            Way to work in a plug for your business, but you are exactly right with this post. The climate of not just the workplace but the world is changing and now more than ever it is important to do your homework on the people you hire, not just for potential violence but theft, etc.

            It think a service like yours make good sense for any small business owner. Think about it this way, the few hundred bucks they spend having you perform a thorough background check, could save them thousands in the long run on potential theft, workplace violence, and even lawsuits.
            1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
              puzzleman Tracker
              I must be old school. I do not want to live in a society where I will be investigated each time I want to do business with someone or before I hire an employee.

              I fell that you should give people a chance if you think that they fit into operations. Some of the best people that I have hired have had problems in the pst such as violent acts, drug problems and such. You have to trust your feelings about them and give some of them a chance. I encourage a positive attitude in my shop, keep track of what work each is doing and how they are doing in life. Some I try to get more info from than others depending upon their personal situation and this helps me in keeping track of what is going on.

              I feel that you can make a good assessment of people within the first few weeks and determine if you don't want them to work for you. If I work the numbers correctly, The odds of anyone at my company being killed or injured is like hitting the lottery.

              I don't want to live in a culture of fear.

              Jim
                • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                  Iwrite Pioneer
                  Me and my friends in advertising joke that you never hear of anyone killing anyone at an advertising agency(We know of only one real incident that happened a few years ago).

                  I am leaning more towards Puzzleman on this. I don't want to live in fear. I think a lot of this work place violence could be avoid or reduced if people would treat others like human being and less like indentured servants. There are factors beyond a person's background that play into this. Look at the Postal service, their management style has been credited with having a huge influence on the high amount of workplace violence.

                  I am not excusing violence!!!

                  I am saying background checks will not tell you how people will respond to bullying and demeaning behavior.

                  I think there is a need for background checks - I just hope I never get to that point. I understand how foolish I might sound to some but it is my beliefs.

                  I don't want to be checking up on people.
                  • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                    SandyPI Wayfarer
                    I hate to tell you this, but we do live in this type of world. If you don't believe me, just watch the news, facts do not lie. I got into be background screening after my Aunt hired a lawn service without asking if they did any pre-employment screening. The result was the young man who mowed her lawn attacked her with a brick and took everything had of value to "feed" his drug habit. His employer stated, "he seemed like such a nice kid."
                    I wish you luck in trusting your employees,( which is a noble thing to do)..I just hope you don't regret it someday.
                    Sandy
                  • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                    Lighthouse24 Ranger

                    I can understand the perspective of not wanting to check up on people. I don't want to pay employment taxes, but it's the law. Likewise, it's federal law that "all employers shall provide a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards." The "risk of violence against workers" is one of fourteen hazards that is specifically mentioned. Further, if an incident occurs and it is determined that you knew a recognized hazard existed, yet did not take every reasonable precaution to protect against it, you can be found negligent and liable in both criminal and civil proceedings. Now you may be thinking, "I have insurance if someone gets hurt," but check the policy -- if you were violating the law, all bets are off. So it's kind of a big deal.

                    Senior executives of large corporations can get by with an "I didn't know" defense when violence occurs at a plant or store that's miles away from their headquarters (some unfortunate HR person or lower level manager will end up taking the hit). In a small business, however, it's always the owner who pays the price.

                    Being an employer makes us subject to laws that non-employers don't have to worry about. A background check of a prospective employee may be a reasonable precaution for some businesses and it may make no sense at all for others -- my point here is that business owners should consider that decision on the basis of the law, the future financial well-being of themselves and their families, and the health and safety of their employees and customers.

                      • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                        puzzleman Tracker
                        I do not want the first thing that my employees learn from me is that I do not trust you. If I expect them to trust me to provide them income to maintain or up their income, I do not want to say, I like you but I don't trust you.

                        PS: Last week in our town, a gunman came in and shot at several people and killing one of them. He did not work there. He was the boyfriend of a person who was terminated because she didn't show up to work for a week and never called in. I don't think a background check of the employee would have done any good.

                        PSS: Do the numbers mentioned above exclude any violence that happens during a robbery or other illegal action??

                        Jim
                          • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                            Iwrite Pioneer
                            The law requires that you provide a safe and secure workplace. I am not sure background checks do that. I think for a workplace to be safe and free of violence it is just as important to require that everyone treat people with respect. All the background checks will not protect against an employee who feels they have been treated wrongly. Everyday we hear stories about seemingly good people snapping and acting out of character.

                            I think some fields should most definitely require background checks, but not all.

                            In my entire career in advertising, I have only had one employer check my references and do a background check. Still, I have not been exposed to any workplace violence.

                            I think we get so wrapped up in what the law requires that we fail to simply do what is right. What is legal and what is right are not the same. How difficult is it to thank someone for doing good work or speaking when you are pass a person in the hall? Is it really that hard to acknowledge the accomplishments of all involved? What does it cost you to leave a person a shred of their dignity and respect even when you have to terminate them? I believe the rise in violence is directly connected to the decrease in civility. The worse people are treated at work the worse they respond.

                            One of the reasons I am trying to build my own agency is because I am tired of the way people are treated. Just because they work for you does not make them any less than you. Advertising as an industry has a lot wrong with it, but I really think we are so far ahead when it comes to how we treat each other. People make our business and we work hard to make the work place employee friendly.

                            Has anyone ever noticed that the main target of the majority of the violence is management - maybe better background checks on who we let own business would be a good thing? lol

                            Or at least invest in better management and people skills training.

                        • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                          Lighthouse24 Ranger

                          Fascinating discussion! I totally agree that when a manager treats an employee with disrespect, or when a manager publically humiliates someone (especially if it is associated with a job loss), it can serve as a trigger for a violent incident.

                          "Has anyone ever noticed that the main target of the majority of the violence is management?"
                          Well, no -- since workplace violence is a recognized hazard, the government tracks it closely. In 2006 (the most recent year for which there is data), managers were the victims in only 4.5 percent of the violent incidents that occurred in the workplace, and the perpetrator was an employee or former employee in only 1 out of 3 of those cases (what do you know, customers and competitors go after bosses far more often than employees do!). In fact, of the 90 workplace homicides that occurred in 2006, none of the victims were managers. The issue here is about protecting our employees.

                          As I said in my initial post, a background investigation may be advisable, or it may not. In the case of the person who went to his girlfriend's former workplace and shot several people, killing one -- a background investigation may have prevented it, or it may not have -- but here's how that question will play out:

                          First, at least five different agencies will investigate it. Second, the family of the person who was killed, each person who was injured, and any person who was traumatized (or even somewhat upset) by the event will be contacted by attorneys who promise big rewards if they'll sue. Some of them will. (If the incident itself didn't put the place out of business, all the time that employees and managers will spend in interviews and depositions might.)

                          If the company has general liability insurance, the insurance company will probably try to settle the claims against the firm. But under tort law, the owners and managers can be sued individually, as well. (Many owners have ended up selling their homes and business for pennies on the dollar just to fund a defense.) And then there are the court cases.

                          "Mr. Owner, were you aware that your former employee had four different live-in relationships with men who had criminal records, including the man who entered your workplace and gunned down your employees?" (This doesn't have to be true for the attorney to ask it, by the way. "No" replies Mr. Owner.)

                          "Well, Mr. Owner, don't you conduct routine background investigations on your employees? ("No.")

                          "Are you aware, Mr. Owner, that violent acts are almost never perpetrated ‘out of the blue' -- that there are always warning signs, and that a background investigation is one of the simplest and least expensive tools an employer can use to identify these signs and protect his workers?" (There's no right answer for Mr. Owner here, of course, and 15 years worth of federally funded studies will be entered into evidence to support his point.)

                          "So, Mr. Owner, I have to ask, with all this overwhelming evidence, why weren't you conducting background investigations -- especially when it could have prevented this tragic incident?" (To which Mr. Owner replies, "I didn't want to check up on people.")

                          "I'm confused, Mr. Owner. Isn't it true that under federal law, employees have no right to privacy in the workplace, and under federal law, you are required to take every reasonable measure to protect them from a violent incident? Don't you think the employees who were victims expected you to provide a safe workplace? Don't you think their families trusted you to obey the law? Mr. Owner, do you think you're above the law, and that you can do whatever you want, even when it costs your employees their lives?" ("No, of course not, I care abou-").

                          "Oh sure, you care about your employees, Mr. Owner -- just not enough to spend ten measly dollars to protect them from a homicidal maniac!"

                          By this point, the jury feels sorry for the victims and hates Mr. Owner. On the other hand, if the owner had been routinely conducting background investigations, it would have precluded that whole line of questioning (and it may have precluded a victim's attorney from even taking the case to trial, because the owner would have had evidence that he was taking reasonable steps to ensure the safety of his workers -- and again, that's the point here.) Of course, there are other ways to do that -- it doesn't have to be background investigations (but as Sandy's original post indicated, it is worth considering at least).

                          All that said, there are about 7.5 million workplaces in the U.S., and "only" about 1.2 million of them had a reportable violent incident last year -- so the odds are pretty good (about 4 in 5) that business owners can keep doing whatever they want and everything will be fine.

                          I believe this is a valuable discussion topic for anyone who has employees (plus I got a whole program segment out of it), so my respect and thanks to all who are contributing (even if you disagree with me)!
                            • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                              Iwrite Pioneer
                              Nice.
                              We should all close our doors.
                              You can be sued just the same even if you did the background check. What if the check failed to reveal anything and the person goes "postal?" What if the person didn't have a record? Here in America, you still get sued. Nobody wins but the lawyers.

                              Where do we stop with our "investigations" into people? Do we check to see if anyone in the family is alcoholic? What about suicides? Don't forget screening for possible health problems that will impact your insurance coverage. Do we search the websites to see what type of lifestyle they engage in?

                              Just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

                              I am not be extreme. I honestly see how quickly this can turn into something ugly and intrusive, all in the name of good. No thank you. I'll take my chances. I am hiring a person to work, I'm not purchasing them. If the time comes that I have to do background checks, I'll quit. It won't be a business that reflects me. I will shut it down.

                              Sometimes you just have to stand for a principle.
                                • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                  Iwrite Pioneer
                                  I really enjoy this! We are talking about more than dollars and cents. We are talking about beliefs and how we view things.

                                  I think we need more of this and less of the selling and asking for money on this forum. Man, did that make me sound elitist? If so, I didn't mean it that way.

                                  This thread is helping me to come to grips with how I am going to run my business when I have employees.

                                  Maybe I should do a background check on my only employee, me. lol

                                  Thanks.
                                • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                  puzzleman Tracker
                                  I agree with Iwrite. Being in touch with your employees is the best way to prevent problems, violent or otherwise. I run an upbeat shop where everyone makes a noticeable contribution and everyone has to work together to get the work done while having fun. When you have camaraderie, all people are pulling together, not against each other.

                                  Lighthouse 24, I understand your point about the questions with the lawyer. I'm not sure what I would do in that situation but I would try to get my point across about trust and respect. Hopefully, my lawyer is smarter that theirs.

                                  Unfortunately, stuff happens. You cannot prevent all situations from happening. In town, 2 years ago we had a guy who killed his boss, his daughter and wife (who did payroll) because the state started garnishing his paycheck for back child support. He then committed suicide leaving a note that they wouldn't be able to take anymore money from him.

                                  When my times comes, it comes.

                                  Jim
                                    • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                      Iwrite Pioneer
                                      I was out to dinner with a young man who used to work with me. He had a seizure, not his first. He was okay but so afraid of how his job would respond if they found out. It wasn't at his job, we were out eating. No one should be this afraid of losing their job because of illness but he is.

                                      I know this isn't the example we use the most but I really wonder how far are we willing to take this.
                                      • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                        Lighthouse24 Ranger
                                        Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Just wondering, did your smarter-than-all-of-their-lawyers attorney tell you it was okay not to do background checks? (LOL)
                                          • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                            puzzleman Tracker
                                            No, my lawyer did not say that is was not ok to do background checks. I never asked him.

                                            If I wasn't an optimistic person, I would never have gone into business for myself with the little resources I had (maybe it was craziness). I refuse to live in a state of constant fear. Fear of what about the guy walking down the street with the long jacket on, fear of the guy cutting my grass, fear of the guy delivering my supplies, fear of everyone else. If you want to do background checks on every person you come into contact with, why not be like Howard Hughes and hole in a hotel. Or live in a monastery with no outside interaction. I don't do that because I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that nobody is bad until they show it to someone. I will not live in fear. I can get into some really heavy philosophy here but I don't want to get that deep.

                                            I have worked and ran restaurants for my employers in some of the worst parts of town. I am not of the same heritage as the area that I worked in, so I stuck out. I earned the respect of the people around my neighborhood by treating them as human beings. Being fair when they did wrong. some of the things I dealt with were people having sex in the restrooms, shooting drugs in the restroom and dumpster area, people having fights in the parking lot and so on. I have had people threaten me, my wife and my dogs with harm because I fired a person after the third write up for the same offense. I have had people flatten all of the tires on my vehicle with a knife because I wouldn't allow them to enter my restaurant when they had no shirt on. I have dealt with stuff. But the more people I meet from all over the globe, I know that there are good people everywhere. That's the people I deal with.

                                            I have hired employees from prison halfway houses. These same people needed a re-start in life. doing this I was able to help a little over half of the ones that I hired get better jobs once they had a work history. did it go smooth? Heck no! But in the end it was worth it. As for the ones that I had to let go of, most went back to jail and I have had a couple come back another time for a job again and told them no. I give you one chance, you blow it good bye. I did help them try to get a job somewhere else. And it does make me feel good when they come back and say thanks.

                                            Jim
                                              • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                                Lighthouse24 Ranger

                                                Puzzleman, I offered my professional perspective on a serious workplace issue. Like any other post here, members can agree or not -- use the information or not. You're a "not" (at least in this case) -- I get that.

                                                For me, a background check has nothing to do with fear, pessimism, or excluding people from employment opportunities. It's a simple step -- like wiping up slip hazards on the dining room floor, cleaning prep surfaces in the kitchen of bacteria, or ensuring that refrigerated foods are at the proper temperature. It's just one of the many processes a business owner can use to protect customers and employees.

                                                  • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                                    Iwrite Pioneer
                                                    Lighthouse, I think for some of us this is more than a simple step, it is a reflection of how we see people in general, how we see the world.

                                                    I understand that there are a lot of things I could do to protect my business, I just feel that if I do some of what we are talking about here - it isn't my business.

                                                    Because I don't do a background check doesn't mean I am careless in my hiring practice. I know you didn't say that, but I wanted to put it out there.

                                                    If I was hiring people, the person I hire is someone I have to work with for an extended period of time, I will spend more than an hour talking with a person to get a better idea of who I am dealing with, then I ask them if they are willing to do freelance to get a better idea of how we work together. After all of that, I make my decision.

                                                    Fortunately, when I do hire someone, I am looking to hire people I have worked with over the years that I know well. So, my situation is different. Starting out, I will not be hiring strangers. They will be no cash register, and my accountant will have an accountant. And I will sign all the checks, personally. It is my business.
                                          • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                            mainstreetifs Wayfarer
                                            Very interesting topic. I am in the insurance business but I place a lot of my problem clients (poor management/HR duties, struggling financially, lots of lost time and workers' comp claims) with a professional employer organization (PEO) that does background checks, drug tests and pre employment physicals for all employees and new hires (they are all new hires when you enter into an employee leasing agreement). Many of these companies are small construction or manufacturing firms, towing companies, trucking companies, 24 hour restaurant chains like Denny's or IHOP, fast food chains...

                                            From experience I will tell you that the easiest way to avoid employee issues is to not hire employees with issues. Background checks, drug tests and pre employment physicals avoid employees with issues. People with problems simply don't apply to work for you when you screen them. I have seen dozens of companies change for the better when they get control of their hiring practices.
                                            • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                              babyjoy214 Adventurer
                                              Hi Sandy!

                                              I see your point that we have to be sure on the peoplr who we work with, it's kinda unfair on the other hand for the people who wants to be given a chance. I mean if you had a record once or twice and was for some time now and you can see he is eager for work, still the chance is rejected because of this background check.

                                              Everybody is allowed for their second chances, maybe the man started the violence in the report but what would be the story behind? maybe he was provoked..
                                                • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                                  Lighthouse24 Ranger

                                                  In most cases, the result of a background check doesn't automatically qualify or disqualify anyone from employment -- it merely provides information to the employer.

                                                  I once hired two welders with criminal records (one for assault, one for DUI) because neither person's past offense was relevant to job at hand -- yet the information did give me the "heads-up" to watch for pre-cursors of a violent outburst or signs of alcohol use on the job. Neither occurred, but I well-positioned to head off a reportable incident if a potnetial problem had arisen.

                                                  In contrast, the daycare operation near my office conducts background checks, and in their case, a conviction for child abuse, child molestation, etc. will automatically disqualify an applicant for employment. Shouldn't it -- or does the person who already molested two children deserve a third chance with your child?

                                                  Again, every situation is different and a background check doesn't force employers to do anything -- it merely gives them additional information to help protect their businesses, employees, and customers from recognized risks.
                                                    • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                                      babyjoy214 Adventurer
                                                      Yes, situations need to be considered. I am a nursing graduate and I've learned in my study that when it comes to personality, it is much affected by the persons childhood. If we say a person is molesting a child, there is a big chance that he was also molested. Therapy or Rehabilitation is necessary after his first offense.

                                                      My point is, there is also a second chance for this type of person, but it is very very risky, there is no other treatment for this things except for rehabilitation, consider his rehabilitation and his progress there, not just because he had this record.

                                                      In this world, I believe there are only few that are like you, who employed x-convicts and I salute you for that. i mean some businesses give high regards on background checks, if you had an offense definitely you're diqualified, I do hope there will be more people like you. ex-convicts, ex-rehabs have lost their self worth while experiencing those things they did, they still need to see that they are still human and functional..
                                                    • Re: Managers not prepared for work place violence
                                                      vistasad Adventurer
                                                      There are a few general points I'd like to make. Firstly the US has had a more violent culture in society than say Canada or the West Europe. In a country like India violence has jumped like crazy in the past 15 years both in society and the workplace. Fortunately there firearms are not so easy to procure.
                                                      We routinely do a check of every new hire. If the person appears to have a minor 'crime' we talk to him and watch him/her carefully. Giving a person a second chance is important in my scheme of things.