Advice on Preventing Bullying, Workplace Violence


Heidi Hayden, the Firm's Chief Human Resource Officer in the New York office, was featured in an article based on a seminar she conducted, titled "Bullying and Acts of Aggression in the Workplace: Implementing Effective Preventative Strategies."

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Speakers at a seminar given by the Washington, D.C., law firm Epstein Becker Green gave HR professionals tips to stop bullying effectively in their workplaces and prevent workplace violence. ...

Bullying can come from an employee, vendor or customer and can happen during or after work, said Heidi Hayden, chief HR officer for the firm. ...

Hayden suggested pre-hire background screenings to avoid introducing a violent person to the workplace. She emphasized that employers should have a policy to govern their actions during the screening process and that the policy should be followed and acted on consistently.

Hayden suggested that HR professionals "scan your environment." Is inappropriate behavior addressed? Are employees leaving one department at a higher rate than other departments? How well are policies followed?

Employee surveys can help identify problem areas, she said, but HR should "be ready to take action" if the survey points out problems.

Conduct investigations to address problems the first time they crop up, Hayden said. "You might as well address it the first time; you may not have to worry about it happening a second time."

Training can prevent workplace bullying and violence, Hayden said. Training should be mandatory throughout the organization and include the organization's policy on incident reporting, how to recognize warning signs of bullying and violence, how to respond effectively, how to resolve conflict, how to handle crises and emergencies (as in a crisis response plan), and how to use the Employee Assistance Program. Make sure that training on bullying and violence prevention corresponds with training on harassment prevention, Hayden added.

Finally, Hayden suggested making sure that all HR systems are working together to prevent bullying and to avoid prompting workplace violence. Do new-hire processes include background checks? Do orientation and training address violence prevention? Does the compensation and benefits system encourage employees unintentionally to compete too much? Do evaluations address how employees treat others?

"Do not inadvertently reward bad behavior," Hayden cautioned.