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Federal Employees News Digest : Oct. 8, 2012
October 8, 2012 Vol. 62, No. 13 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com ing episodes of] workplace violence," said Michele Paludi, a psychology professor at Union Graduate College School of Management and co-author of Understanding Workplace Violence, who also trains in prevention and man- agement of the problem at workplaces across the country. "In every situation, every workplace violence episode, inter- views with co-workers and others show clear-cut signs for weeks and really months before each episode." "There are signs of being easily agitat- ed. For example, when confronted about performance issues, the potentially vio- lent tend to get more aggravated," Paludi told FEND. "They also start talking about plans to 'take care of that guy, or woman,' whoever offended them. And they start quoting books and movies that have violent themes. " In these very serious situations, Paludi said, potentially violent employees start making threats and talking about getting even---and yet most employees shrug off those episodes and interpret them as someone "just letting off steam." Furthermore, Paludi said, "there is clear and empirical research" correlat- ing impending violence with certain behaviors or actions---such as coming to work more unkempt, a sudden decrease in personal hygiene, or withdrawals of large sums of money. Employees need to take such behav- iors and words seriously, she said. Paludi noted that when employees do report signs of looming violence, they frequently do not follow procedure, and often just go to a trusted supervi- sor---skipping contact with HR or other authorities that may be prescribed by agency procedures. "They need to make sure they under- stand their workplace's procedures," she said. "This problem is badly under- reported." Training needed Another expert found nothing unusu- al in MSPB's finding that nearly one federal employee in eight had witnessed workplace violence. "I'm not surprised at all at that statis- tic," said Carol Fredrickson, a 15-year law enforcement veteran who now co- runs Violence Free, a workplace vio- lence consultancy in Phoenix, Ariz., that has worked with the Justice Department, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and U.S. military. "If that statistic includes people out- side of the federal employees [editor's note: it does; one-third of the perpetrators are "agency customers or clients"]---the per- petrator involved can be a stranger--- because federal employees often are dealing with the public on a routine basis, and the public can be very nasty to federal employees." "The best thing that the federal gov- ernment can do is to train people how to handle angry people---employees and others---in a public service environ- ment," Fredrickson told FEND. "One of the important things that agencies can do is train their employees how to handle difficult customers. The No. 1 thing I am told by people is that they were trained in workplace violence, but they say---after something happens--- 'I didn't know how to de-escalate this angry person!'" "We have more workplace violence, really, every year," Fredrickson said, speaking of the general direction of sta- tistics in recent years. Fredrickson outlined seven rea- sons why people do not report warn- ing signs to the appropriate authority. They include: denial of the danger, fear of retaliation, fear of becoming and being labeled the office "snitch," fear of becoming the target of a grievance or lawsuit and losing one's job over it, fear of negative reactions from a supervi- sor (the reporting employee is seen as incapable or the supervisor won't take action), a lack of agency or employer procedures (or a lack of understanding of them) and, last, a lack of training to prepare employees for this problem. "I have read government policies on this area---and I have read some of them six or seven times, and I can't tell you what these say---and I am an expert on this," Fredrickson said. "I tell people [policies] should be written in simple, eighth-grade English. I also tell every- one: Clarity is the key on this." Fredrickson further elaborated on reasons for a failure to report---but said that training is the first step in remedy- ing all of them. "Often, after we go in as part of the investigation after a workplace violence incident, we find anywhere from five to a dozen people who saw warning signs," she said. "And when we ask, 'Did you report it?' the common answer is, 'No, I didn't know how to report it, who to report it to, and whether I really was supposed to, and I didn't know if this was serious enough for that.'" "We have to at least start to make cer- tain that managers and employees are on the same page on workplace violence problems---because usually they are not," she said. "Employees and supervisors are not on the same page, and supervisors and managers are themselves on a dif- ferent page than upper management on this problem." As part of her efforts, Fredrickson has co-authored an online multime- dia workplace violence resource called "Violence-Free 365, available at www. violence-free.com/workplace-violence- experts/. To see the MSPB report, go to:http:// tinyurl.com/8m8pddc. USPS offers retirement incentive The U.S. Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union have negotiated an agreement under which USPS will offer eli- gible full-time career employees a $15,000 retirement incentive. The incentive will be open to eligible full-time employees who terminate their ser- vice through retirement, early retirement or voluntary separation. Eligible part-time employees will receive a prorated amount. continued from page 1 continued on page 4 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com.
Oct. 1, 2012
Oct. 15, 2012