10 Tips for Preventing an Escalation of Violence During Workplace Meetings

Incidents of workplace violence can arise in the most unlikely of places, particularly when meetings take place to deliver unpleasant news.  The employee being told they have been found to have engaged in inappropriate behavior, a messy dismissal meeting, a daycare provider having to tell a parent that their child needs to be removed from the centre or a bank officer advising an applicant that they do not qualify for a critical loan are just a few examples of where intense emotional reactions to bad news can lead to potential violent reactions.  Here are some tips for dealing with these necessary but unavoidable workplace situations.

  1. To the extent possible and depending on the nature of the meeting, staff in the vicinity of the meeting should be informed so they can respond if there is an escalation of violence.  If your workplace has internal security they should be notified as well.
  2. The physical environment where you meet will be important.  If possible, use an interview room with two exits so that you have a way of leaving the meeting if things escalate.  Remove any items that can be easily thrown and leave any blinds up so that you can signal to others if the person you are speaking with becomes violent.
  3. It is always a best practice to have someone else in the meeting, particularly if the news is related to a workplace investigation or a dismissal.  A person is less likely to become violent if there is another person in the room.
  4. If the employee is unionized, be sure to have a union representative present during the meeting both to comply with collective agreement obligations and so that you have another resource to help deal with the individual.
  5. Be prepared for the meeting.  Have a script ready (either written or mental) so that you are comfortable in delivering the message.  Try to anticipate responses so that you can confidently respond to any questions/objections that arise.
  6. If the situation escalates you will need to be prepared to disengage from the discussion, either temporarily to diffuse the situation or permanently if the individual actually becomes physically violent or threatens physical violence.
  7. Don’t let an angry employee/client/customer leave the meeting room unescorted.   For the safety of others in the vicinity, the individual should be escorted out of your workplace.
  8. If you require information from the individual you are meeting with don’t expect it at this meeting.  People who feel pressured into responding to bad news immediately have a greater tendency to react more irrationally than if they are given time to respond.
  9. Be sure that your staff who handle these kinds of meetings are trained in responding to workplace violence. 
  10. 10.  Make sure you have an emergency response plan in place and that staff are trained on the plan.  This is a requirement under Bill 168.

    Please Note: This blog has been prepared as an informational service for our clients and other interested parties. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, a complete statement of the law or opinion on any subject. Although we endeavour to ensure the accuracy of the content, no one should act upon the information provided without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are fully considered.


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