Addressing Workplace Violence in a World of Hybrid Work


Did you know violence is the fourth-leading cause of death for American workers? More than 700 American workers lost their lives to violence in the workplace in 2020. 

If those statistics aren’t enough, a global pandemic is in the mix, and feeling safe ‘at work’ has taken on a whole new meaning. The boundaries of work have expanded far beyond the badge swipe and have delved into the territory of hybrid work, health screenings and protocols, and an overall feeling of heightened tension due to pandemic stress, political uncertainties, and civil unrest. 

So what can corporate security executives do to better address these issues that are actively affecting their company’s continuity, reputation, and finances?

We discussed these topics and more during a panel at the 2022 Ontic Summit. Dorian VanHorn, Director of Investigative Operations at Ontic, served as the moderator with Ryan Schilling, Program Leader for Protective Operations & Intelligence at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Wendy Bashnan, Chief Security Officer at Nielsen, and Brian Cooke, who works on Corporate Security and International Security Operations at Marathon Petroleum Corporation joining as panelists.

An edited excerpt of the panel discussion follows.

Wendy, why is it important for corporate security teams to properly communicate everything they’re doing to keep the organization safe, and what is your advice on how to best accomplish this?

“In today’s world, security and safety is everyone’s responsibility, not just the security team’s. Engagement with the workforce and being transparent about the threats, risks, vulnerabilities, and potential mitigation elements are critical to building trust and confidence within the workforce. Some of my strongest engagement successes have been with partnerships within Nielsen’s Business Resource Groups or our equivalent of ERG. I have found these groups to be cross-functional and a great asset in helping break down silos within the company. On top of that, their membership is passionate and energized, so it’s great to ideate with them on security topics they are interested in.”

Brian, many corporate leaders believe that providing employees with information and training related to workplace violence prevention creates a ‘culture of fear.’ What is your reaction to that, and what would be your advice for a security leader who is getting this pushback from their organization when trying to implement policies and training?

“Do fire drills create a culture of fear there will be a fire?  Of course not, they are simply good, logical training on how to safely respond to that particular emergency.  I fundamentally disagree with the idea that security and workplace violence training creates a ‘culture of fear.’ My experience has been the exact opposite. Real-world events, mass shootings, workplace violence, and the sensationalized news media coverage of them create a culture of fear. It also creates opportunities for security leaders to engage employees with good, logical training on how to respond during a particular emergency. 

Through workplace violence training, employers are demonstrating their resilience and, more importantly, their duty of care for their employees. Security leaders must present to their corporate colleagues how security training adds value to other business units. For example, employees who feel the company invests in protecting them in the workplace (physical security, workplace violence prevention, active shooter response, etc.) are less apt to leave the company and more likely to rate the company as a great place to work, directly benefiting the talent acquisition and retention programs of Human Resources. Health and Safety teams can integrate their training and resources with security training expanding awareness and access to Employee Assistance Programs and increasing overall cohesion in incident response. Marketing and ESG components can engage communities where the business operates, invite participation in training, and tout the great training and resources the company provides its employees.

Information and training related to workplace violence do not create a culture of fear. Quite the opposite, it creates a culture of opportunity — opportunity to demonstrate the company’s duty of care for its employees, opportunity to engage cross-functionally in your organization, and opportunity security leaders to add value to the company through their programs.”

Ryan, why is it important for corporate security teams to embed themselves into other departments to best mitigate the risk of workplace violence incidents, and how can they go about doing this?

“In today’s environment, it’s paramount to work outside of the normal global security walls/framework by interacting and creating partnerships within your company’s other departments. By doing this, you can create contacts, identify additional data sources, and provide value back to the business.

If you do this correctly, these business units will start informing and consulting with you. This will allow for earlier involvement, better collaboration, and the creation of a two-way stream of information.

Specifically, information streams from HR, communications, and legal can provide an immense amount of data to form a more substantial threat picture and help better understand the risk facing your company, and in turn, allow you to plan more strategically for the future.”

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