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Thwarting Workplace Violence

The Marines may have the answer.

Q: : I recently read an article in a trade journal about the escalation of workplace violence. Nothing bad has happened at my company, but I want to be prepared. What steps should I take to prevent anything from happening to my employees and me?

A: Workplace violence, including shootings, is so serious-not because of the frequency (which is really quite limited), but because of the great devastation it causes to victims, family, friends and the businesses themselves.

Although workplace violence is nothing new, years ago, we didn't seem to hear of employees going on a shooting rampage. Today, executives who fear for their safety-and who fear litigation for not having taken precautions against "foreseeable" workplace violence-spend millions on security systems within the workplace.

But video cameras and security guards, while probably inevitable, are not the answer. What's needed is a workplace characterized by mutual respect and self-esteem. A case in point is the U.S. Marine Corps. Try to recall the last time you heard of a Marine (or any other person in any branch of the military) going on a shooting rampage where lives were lost or ruined. As hard as you try, you won't recall such incidents. This, even though every Marine is armed to the teeth.

Officers and other Marines aren't concerned about workplace violence because they work within a brotherhood, in which all are dedicated to the mission, to the Corps (the company) and to their fellow Marines (the employees). Temper tantrums and threats don't occur because the mission would be jeopardized. When a Marine has a personal problem, he will not hesitate to discuss it with his superiors, because he knows that his employer, the Marine Corps, not only considers him to be the Corps' most valuable asset, but also treats him with the respect such a valuable asset deserves.

Those Marines unable or unwilling to take the first step toward solving their problem will be approached by concerned team members. If they can't find a solution, a sergeant or officer will be brought into the picture. Together they will resolve the problem, not by barking orders, but through personal and compassionate intervention.

In the business environment, managers would do well to emulate the Marine Corps model by creating a workplace in which the welfare of the individual is paramount and where team members care for one another. No employee should feel lost or estranged from his or her associates. Remember, the Marine Corps has a fairly large "work force" of 175,000 individuals who come from disparate backgrounds, yet they all consider themselves to be a vital part of not only their team, but of an elite organization.

That kind of esprit de corps can be created in the workplace, when management proactively makes each individual know he or she is an indispensable part of the whole.

Rod Walsh and Dan Carrison are the founding partners of Semper Fi Consulting in Sherman Oaks, California and the authors ofSemper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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