The role of a property manager is analogous to that of a professional juggler. A property manager has many tasks to complete daily, juggling the ins and outs of the business, ensuring that all processes, systems and personnel are in place to secure their physical assets and to create the right environment for tenants and visitors.
Property managers, who act as a liaison between the asset manager/landlord and tenants, as well as a variety of service providers, do not govern the actions of their tenants but act as educators to ensure their tenants are safe and secure.
Workplace violence has always been a difficult workplace security issue, and a pressing trend for property managers is establishing policies and procedures on workplace violence avoidance, if they do not already have a comprehensive plan in place. These policies should place a fundamental emphasis on 360-degree communication which ensures that tenants, building managers, legal personnel, human resources management, risk management, security staff and law enforcement are involved and working toward shared goals.
While a variety of personal or professional issues can lead to violence in the workplace, one common source is employee termination. Property managers cannot predict if an employee’s angry spouse will show up on site or if an employee’s financial situation will lead to violent behavior, but a planned termination gives the manager time to put the resources and protocols in place that can help prevent workplace violence.
Proactive property managers are working with their tenants to make certain that when an exit interview is conducted, all necessary data is collected. If the terminated employee reacts angrily and issues threats, for example, an established plan of action will prepare the building for possible negative eventualities. Local law enforcement can be alerted, a photo of the aggrieved former employee can be circulated with building security and the employee’s building access can be deactivated. Security personnel are critical in the communication and implementation of any action plan that will limit exposure and create the “avoidance” posture.
Property managers are the team leaders in a commercial property and have a considerable amount of responsibility for keeping tenants and visitors safe from violence. While properties may be split into different office spaces or businesses, and each may have their own plan, there should be a violence prevention plan coordinated for the building as a whole. The whole building plan should include who is to be contacted from property management and the necessary steps to take if an incident should occur on the property. Savvy property managers understand that reducing their tenants’ risk and exposure for workplace violence is crucial to the reputation of their property.
The security team should be involved in the implementation of the workplace violence avoidance plan. Through a team approach, and the combined efforts of the property manager and security team, a workplace violence avoidance plan helps ensure minor details do not fall through the cracks and human resources, employee relations and company policies are consistently applied. Security personnel are trained to identify warning signs and initiate emergency response plans, and can also coordinate the dignified, yet controlled, removal of the potentially violent employee.
Workplace violence impacts everyone in the workplace—not just traditional, permanent employees. Forward-thinking property managers are auditing their service providers and engaging in screening and background checks for their contracted vendors. Outside service providers or vendors are often a common part of the tenant or property manager’s daily population. They should be screened as would any other employee. Additionally, these contract teams should serve as an extra set of eyes and ears in the effort to prevent workplace violence and should be made aware of response plans should an incident occur.
Too often, managers and supervisors are unaware of workplace violence issues and are not prepared for the potential impact on the safety of the people who work for them and on their business. Understanding the behaviors that lead to workplace violence, and having the appropriate communications channels in place, is crucial to identifying possible workplace violence issues before they happen.
Key behaviors to look for include increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs, unexplained increase in absenteeism linked to vague physical complaints or noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene. Depression/withdrawal is another indicator, as are resistance and overreaction to changes in policy and procedures, repeated violations of company policies and/or increased severe mood swings.
Also, be wary of those who provide noticeably unstable, emotional responses or who exhibit explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation. Conversation subject matter can also be a red flag, such as unsolicited comments about firearms or other dangerous weapons and violent crimes, talk of previous incidents of violence, discussing domestic problems in the workplace (e.g; severe financial problems), suicidal comments and/or paranoid behavior (“Everyone is out to get me.”)
While issues such as evictions, harassment, non-payment and public nuisance are part and parcel of what all property managers address, workplace violence has unfortunately become commonplace and prevention plans should be as well. Property managers should be working in concert with their in-house or contract security provider to conduct a thorough threat assessment to determine the risk of workplace violence incidents at their properties. The team should develop a plan of action to eliminate or mitigate the identified risks. It is important to constantly work to keep workplace violence a topic of priority with all parties involved. Adopting workplace violence avoidance policies demands that property managers keep current with pertinent municipal, county and state laws and practices, and develop relationships with local law enforcement.
Property managers should review and update plans and ensure plans are being practiced. Managers that work in concert with their tenants, service providers, security and law enforcement to proactively keep workplace violence at bay represent the finest leaders in their field and the future standard of what will be expected from all property managers.
About the author
Gregory Falahee is Managing Director specializing in the commercial real estate market for Allied Universal®. Allied Universal, a leading security and facility services company in North America with over 215,000 employees and revenue over $7.3 billion, provides unparalleled security services and technology solutions. Greg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about Allied Universal is available at www.aus.com.