Supervisor's Guide to Managing Workplace Violence

FOREWORD

The Secretary's policy statement on workplace violence states, "A safe working environment for all employees, free from violence or any threat of violence, is one goal of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Violence or threatening behavior 'in any form are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

In an effort to assist managers and supervisors 'in the Southern Region in managing the potential for violence in the workplace, this booklet entitled Supervisor's Guide to Managing Workplace Violence has been developed. The guide is designed to help you become more aware of the various warning signs, in order to better manage situations that arise and possibly stop a violent act from occurring.

You do not have to act alone when you are confronted with issues that have the potential to become violent. The Regional Management Team has established a Crisis Management Team (CMT) to assist you in assessing a violent or potentially violent situation and 'in deciding on the appropriate action to take.

I hope that this booklet will guide each of you in helping to ensure that every facility in the Southern Region is a safe and secure workplace.

Carolyn Blum

Regional Administrator


INTRODUCTION

The rise in workplace violence over the last several years has prompted the FAA to institute procedures and training to detect and mitigate episodes of workplace violence. It is FAA's goal to provide employees and customers with a safe and secure workplace. Although managers are aware of the potential for workplace violence, it is impossible to predict which situations will turn violent. Fearing overreaction to what may be an isolated instance of frustration and anger on the part of the employees, managers may ignore warning signs that are often precursors to violence. If management can become aware of these early warning signs, a coordinated response can detect and mitigate potential episodes of violence while also protecting employee rights.

Supervisors and managers should ensure that employees understand that it is their responsibility to report threats, suspicious activities, or acts of violence to their supervisor, regardless of the relationship between the individual who initiated the threat or threatening behavior and the person(s) who was threatened. Supervisors must act immediately upon all employee reports of threats. Employees reporting threats shall not be subject to interference, coercion, discrimination, penalty, censure, or reprisal as a result of these reports. Managers, supervisors, and employees must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the workplace is free from violent incidents.

There are a number of resources that are available to management 'including the Employee Assistance Program and employee relations assistance in the Human Resource Management Division. The Regional Counsel, Flight Surgeon, and members of the Civil Aviation Security and Logistics Division as well as staffs in your regional line of business are also available for assistance. Resources outside of FAA including the Federal Protective Service, building guards and local authorities may be utilized. Local supervisors are in the best position to determine if immediate action, such as calling 911, is required. A list of key telephone numbers is included on the last page of this handbook.

The objective of this guide is to enhance the supervisor's ability to recognize the early warning signs of potentially violent situations and provide supervisors and managers with the skills to respond appropriately to situations that have the potential for violence, including threats, harassment, abuse, and other acts of intimidation. The FAA is committed to ensuring the safety and security of our employees.


INCIDENT MANAGEMENT

The following Incident Management Model relies on a multi-disciplinary approach that emphasizes early problem identification and intervention. The objective of this model is to provide management an established framework and an emergency plan in assessing the situation and managing the problem before it escalates.

1.    Problem Recognition

Because warning signs may be nonspecific, supervisors may overlook the potential for workplace violence, fearing overreaction to what appears to be an isolated instance of employee frustration. However, uncustomary behavior is seldom isolated and may be indicative of a growing problem requiring management intervention.

To assist in the identification of potentially violent situations, the behavioral indicators below may be precursors to workplace violence. While supervisors should not rely exclusively on any one of these indicators, these factors together can assist supervisors 'in detecting a threat in the workplace.

The emergence of an employee threat is usually detected first by employees or immediate supervisors. With increasing reports of violence in the workplace and warnings not to ignore the signals of potentially violent threats, supervisors have to balance workplace safety with the rights of 'individuals to be treated fairly. Deciding if a particular statement or action constitutes a threat or creates a hostile working environment is difficult. However, a threat is the clearest indicator that violence will follow and supervisors must exercise good judgment in making such determinations. There are three types of threats:

Direct Threats: "I'll get even with him."

Veiled Threats: "This place would shut down for days if the mainframe crashed and the backup was damaged."

Conditional threats: "If I'm fired, there'll be hell to pay."

 When you are aware of such threatening remarks, do not ignore the information, even if you do not personally believe the threat is serious. Supervisors must determine the severity of the threat and decide what, if any, actions are warranted. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) manager, division managers/staff officers, and the Regional Crisis Management Team can help a supervisor plan actions that are appropriate including how to inform the targets of the threats.

There are other signs that usually accompany a threat. Some signs that may indicate a potentially violent person include:

> They are unusually argumentative

> They do not cooperate well with others

> They have recurring problems with authority figures

> They frequently blame others for their problems

> They display marked changes in work patterns

> They demonstrate extreme or bizarre behavior

> They frequently appear depressed

> They abuse alcohol or drugs

> They display obsessive behavior

> They have a history of violence

 

Keep in mind that a potentially violent person may not exhibit all of these signs and it is important to judge each case individually.

Some of the behavioral patterns include:

        Intimidating, harassing, and/or destructive remarks including minor insinuations. While these remarks may not actually contain a threat, they may be intimidating. If anyone feels intimidated or frightened by any remark made, they should report this to you. Do not ignore this information. You must determine the seriousness of these threats and decide what, if any, actions may be appropriate.

 

        Intimidating, harassing and/or destructive behavior, (i.e., yelling, threatening, knocking over furniture, etc). Intimidating, harassing, or confrontational behavior can include physically crowding a person, stalking, or directing menacing looks or gestures to create fear in other persons. Such actions are inappropriate for the workplace and should not be tolerated.

 

REMEMBER, in evaluating these behavioral patterns, there are several things to guard against:

        Do not isolate yourself and make decisions alone.

        Do not assume anything.

        Do not minimize or underestimate the potential danger.

        Do not over-react, become emotional or part of the problem.

 

Management should also take into consideration the following when dealing with the threat of workplace violence:

        Treat all threats seriously.

        Apply consistent standards to the employee.

        Respond in a timely manner.

        Be sensitive to individual rights, fears, and concerns.

        Use the Crisis Management Team, if necessary.

Most importantly, managers and supervisors should encourage employees to report instances in which another employee makes threats or harasses coworkers.

2. Documentation

Documenting threats, unusual behavior, or other early warning signs is an integral part of the incident management process. Recording facts such as who, what, when, and where such behavior occurs, may be important later.

 3. Assessment

 Management should continually monitor the situation on a continuous basis and consider the following questions in the assessment:

4. Threshold

At some point, management must decide to continue monitoring the situation, take corrective action, or request the assistance of the Crisis Management Team. If at all possible, this decision should be made well before the threat of violence is seen as imminent in order to allow the Crisis Management Team time to provide assistance 'in managing potential violence away from the workplace.

5. The Crisis Management Team

Assistance of the Crisis Management Team (CMT) may be requested through several channels depending on the seriousness and imminence of the threat. The local manager or supervisor may elevate the request to the division manager or contact the Regional Operations Center. The Regional Operations Center will notify the Regional Administrator, who will convene the CMT as the situation warrants.

6. Victim Issues

In some cases, there may be employees who were the direct subject of threatening remarks or comments. When dealing with victims, managers and supervisors should demonstrate their concern. Victims should be given adequate time to discuss their concerns. Also, be sure to address the following victim issues:

Additionally, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is available for processing and defusing feelings surrounding potential threats to a group of employees. Counseling for individuals can generally occur within 24 hours; however, group CISM programs may require up to 72 hours depending on employee and counselor schedules. Contact the EAP Manager in the Human Resource Management Division to arrange for this service.

7. Available Resources

Supervisors should become familiar with the resources both inside and outside of FAA that are available. Each situation must be evaluated to determine which resources are appropriate. In many cases the best contact is the EAP Manager or Employee Relations Specialists in the Human Resource Management Division. The Regional Counsel, Flight Surgeon, and members of the Civil Aviation Security and Logistics Division as well as staffs in your regional line of business are also available for assistance. Resources outside of FAA include the Federal Protective Service, building guards, and local authorities. Local supervisors are in the best position to determine if immediate action, such as calling 911, is required. A list of key telephone numbers is included at the end of this guide.


  SOUTHERN REGION CRISIS MANAGEMENT TEAM

 

The Southern Region Crisis Management Team (CMT) has been established as a tool to assist supervisors and managers in dealing with situations where there may be potential for violence in the workplace and to assist in formulating an appropriate response plan. The CMT can provide timely legal, medical, human resource, security, and logistical recommendations on how to best manage critical situations.

Each situation should be assessed to determine the best course of action. In some cases notifying local authorities may be the first step, while in others cases converting the CMT may be appropriate. When it has been determined that the CMT should be consulted, the local manager may elevate the request through the division manager or contact the Regional Operations Center at 404-305-5180.

The Regional CMT is chaired by the Regional Administrator (ASO-1) or designee, and consists of a multi-disciplinary team, including Regional Counsel (ASO-7); Manager, Human Resource Management Division (ASO-10); Manager, Logistics Division (ASO-50); Regional Flight Surgeon (ASO-300); Manager, Civil Aviation Security Division (ASO-700); and other ad hoc members including the manager of the affected Divisions. Depending on the circumstances, the Regional Administrator can expand the CMT to include other representatives with special skills, knowledge, and experience.

Once the CMT has been convened, in conjunction with the field management, it will assess the situation by reviewing available data; determine whether to initiate further investigative action; and reach consensus on appropriate actions to be taken.

The Crisis Management Team will conduct an after action review with field management to develop lessons learned and help refine team and individual functions and response for future situations. This provides an opportunity to report and share observations and experiences.

 For more information regarding the CMT consult FAA Southern Region Order 1600.18 dated May 4, 1998.