Tuesday, January 16, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Island Voices
Workplace violence can be headed off

By Catherine A. Bruns
Director of the Hawai'i Employee Assistance Services

In the Dec. 28 editorial "Workplace rampages: What haven’t we tried?" the author laments the fate of 14 employees, here in Hawaii and in Boston, who were murdered by a co-worker, and asks, "What is there that we haven’t thought of yet that might work?"

Isn’t this the million-dollar question? And one that every employer, no, human being, would like to know the answer to. The author states that this type of tragedy will happen again, and unfortunately this is true. It has happened again for Hawaii with the workplace murder of Chef Tom Matsuda at the Sheraton Waikiki a little over one month ago.

We are not immune here in paradise to the darkness of violence in places we feel safe, and the last year has proven it. Employers statewide are taking the issue of workplace violence seriously and asking for help.

Who are they asking? Employee assistance programs. While nobody can stop an individual who is determined to act out violently, that doesn’t mean prevention is unnecessary.

As seen by the latest state findings relating to Xerox, having and implementing policies and training employees do make a difference. Although it didn’t help the seven men murdered at Xerox, there are certainly hundreds of cases in which prevention works.

Employee assistance programs have a wealth of experience in providing consultation to employers who are concerned about an employee’s behavior or work performance, in addition to counseling employees and providing workplace violence education and training. The programs can be an employer’s first resource in guiding action related to a potentially violent employee.

At Child and Family Service’s Hawaii Employee Assistance Services, we have consulted in the last year with over 55 managers and supervisors who have been concerned about an employee’s threat or angry outburst. We not only work with the employee and supervisor, but also provide referrals to other appropriate community resources. There are many resources available for people who are having a hard time controlling their rage.

So, let’s ask again, "What is there that we haven’t thought of yet that might work?" If I were an employer and I hadn’t thought of using the services of an employee assistance program yet, I just might do that.

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