David Whittingham video
Understanding types of violence: An overview and practical approaches for human services.
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RUN TIME: 1 hour 2 mins 39 secs
Welcome everyone. My name's Nicole Hughes, and I'm going be your MC for today. This is a second online session of our Work Well 365 Speaker Series for 2022. I'd like to begin by respectfully acknowledging the traditional custodians to the land that we are speaking to you from today and on which you are learning and working. We also pay our respects to elders past and present and expend extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island of people watching today. In this session, David Whittingham will be discussing the different types of work related violence, spending psychological aggression, like workplace bullying, harassment, threats, and physical violence. As a practicing forensic psychologist, David focuses on workplace issues and complex autism spectrum disorder and assessments. His goal is to provide workplaces with quality professional services to identify and solve complex people risks. Today, he will discuss practical tools and different risk scenarios, as well as ideas on workplace design administrative and work practices for these scenarios and useful controls for work related violence. There will also be the opportunity to ask David questions at the end of his presentation. So be sure to submit them in the chat box. Welcome David.
Okay. Hello folks. And thank you for the kind introduction. Uh, I guess today, what I wanted to really focus on was to provide a couple of experiences of some scenarios, um, where they may be familiar with some people to a level. Um, but it hopefully will provide a bit of a novel approach into understanding in the first instance, one to do with workplace bullying through application of the poor and the second, uh, in relation to a scenario of a physical threat in the workplace as well. And I'm going to go through some key parts around some of the different aspects of psychological research that might help with those, but in a practical sense to try and see how that brings home, um, both the importance of assessment, but then how does that feed into having really efficient controls that, um, not only a reasonably practicable, but they also have a, a, a flow on, um, from the assessment so that you can see the links between those and in some cases through having a control in one, uh, area, um, for a risk where there's some, you know, a hazard attached to that, but also where it's, it's effectively a type of bundling.
Can we solve two of these, these sort of hazards and risks off them with the one type of control? So, I'll talk about that. There will be some slides made available, that's a summary of the presentation and some reference lists. Uh, so, um, keep an eye out for that as well. All right.
So just to sort of frame things up, I'm going to talk a little bit about positive engagement and people risk, because whilst it's really important to obviously understand how things can cascade down to an area of concern for people, um, you know, whether that's sort of in civil areas or, or criminal areas, one of the best things that can be done is to try and provide a focus on things in the workplace that are around positive workplace engagement. And that, you know, is a key part of then how you're also trying to manage some of the, uh, prevention side of the process in managing, um, aspects of people risk. So that's what the first part will be, is going through a little bit of a sort of, uh, model, um, that sort of draws those things together. And then the second, uh, aspect is looking at a, um, workplace bullying scenario that's come out of, um, you know, a type of people at work case where we've used that tool.
Uh, and then how do you start to get efficiencies out of that, um, assessment process and protocol, um, to really get granular controls that, uh, you know, useful, um, arguably, um, associated. And we'll talk a little bit about the value of, um, some statistical parts of that. And then the, um, part that I'll be finishing on is a, uh, physical violence threat. So, uh, it can be quite common, uh, workplaces experiencing these either directly into personally, either over counters, but also increasingly nowadays in the online, uh, modality as well, whether that be over social media, uh, or, you know, direct messaging and the like as well, emails, et cetera. So, we'll talk a little bit about, uh, that part of the, um, well, a scenario in that area and then how that unfolded and how we went about trying to understand, not just, um, the assessment part of it, but some things that are relevant to understanding a couple of different types of violence within that area as well.
So, what you can see here, um, as boldly stated is the engagement model. You'll see, there's a line moving from a decision point on the left that goes through to the statement that talks about positive engagement and bystander conduct line. So that's where your organisation said, right? This is the, this is the positive line in the sand that we want to see in how our workplaces are operating. You know, that might be the sort of thing that the code of conduct is trying to really reinforce in the workplace. And then what you'll see there along that line is that there's this stepwise series of factors that go up, which is the positive engagement. Um, and there's the series of stepwise factors that go down, which ends up in the box that says unlawful or what we would usually describe as workplace bullying or harassment or things like that.
So, let's just talk about both of these sorts of, um aspects of the model. Um, and the importance of it just to reiterate is that if you can focus on, um, areas like positivity, you know, proactiveness diversity and inclusion, it can be a really, um, good support base for having prevention of some of the things that are falling into the categories of below that positive engagement line, um, and bystander conduct line, which is where things can become uncivil, um, maybe start to become inappropriate. And then, you know, if they're sufficiently intense, frequent, or severe enough, they can become unlawful. So, let's unpack that a bit.
So, with the first one, and just to help orient to where some of the information came around that, um, we have, uh, young and folks from 2018 did a type of meta-analysis. And what that looks at is, you know, grouping the results of a whole bunch of different studies to try and find some of the, um, if you like effects or key findings and how that is looked at over all of these different, in this case, 114 studies, and they found some associations around, you know, workplace engagement and some of these sort of behaviours, or, um, if we're being a little bit generous personality traits there too. So, one of them was the idea of that sense of extroversion, um, which I'll go into a little bit of detail and the next slide about what that actually sort of looks like, um, the idea of people being proactive or having a sense of proactiveness.
And these are correlations that you can see there. And that's about the strength of the association between extroversion and say, um, workplace engagement or proactiveness and workplace engagement in a positive sense. So, if that, um, as in the case of extroversion, it's at same 0.4, oh, that's saying there's a, a strength of the relationship between zero and one. So, it's, you know, it's getting close to half, um, and it's pointing to the fact that as extroversion goes up, workplace engagement goes up as well. So, when you look at that, then with conscientiousness, that's also got that positive relationship, as well as conscientiousness goes up. We're also seeing workplace engagement go up, but because most of this is not causal designs. Um, we can't say that these things cause that, but we can say that there's an association, which is important. And then the last one that you can see there, that's actually the strongest correlation is positive, a affectivity or positive emotions.
Um, and so the interesting thing about all four of these is even though we might have, um, if you like a, a sort of base, um, uh, level of these, to some extent, some people might have less, some people might have more, they're all behaviours that we can, uh, influence. They're all things that we can increase if we want to, or they're all things that we can decrease. And we probably do bits and pieces of that in many different circumstances already, whether it's through, um, how we're operating in our relationships at work, whether it's through how we're parenting, whether it's about, you know, how we're doing things in terms of say, speaking at work all the way through to, you know, meetings, how we're operating on work sites, things like that. So, these, you know, um, areas, um, play a, a significant role as it says there in 48% of the engagement.
And so, what that looks like when you start to get into more of the detail positive activity, it's the idea of cheerfulness, enthusiasm, and energy. So, you know, that's a really helpful way for people to experience someone else at work, if they're generally being cheerful, generally being enthusiastic, having that sense of energy. And if that's combined with some positive, you know, proactiveness as well, so where you adapt to things where you might reset to, you know, meet a different goal. So, you know, in particular, I guess we see that in the challenge of COVID in recent times and how important that idea of sort of a proactiveness around, you know, coping and also, you know, problem solving is, is critical. You also see extroversion as well there, and this is the idea of how much, you know, folks might need to gain energy from the amount of social stimulation activities that they have.
And, and sometimes people talk about the other end of that, which is sort of intro introversion as well. But one of the things that we might see is that, you know, that high level of it, where it might be a lot of sociability sort of talkativeness, um, you know, that sense of perhaps even assertiveness and excitability, those sorts of things can, you know, they can really add an energy to the workplace. They can really add a, uh, you know, something that feeds into that sort of enthusiasm and the positive effect as well. Um, and at the other end with the introversion, that can also be that sort of quieter, low key deliberate, uh, sort of, you know, feel of things too. And what, what you want, of course, in a team is the diversity to have all of that. There. We also know that it's helpful having that sense of extroversion to really, you know, help with that kindling of culture around, you know, thriving, uh, in the workplace as well.
And the last thing that we have there is part of these factors above the line. We've also got that idea of that sort of conscientiousness. Now it's, um, not explicitly mentioned there, but it's a part of the process that obviously is valued for people. Um, because you have some measure of self-discipline around the organisation of being able to, you know, come to work, do what you need to do your job, you know, even act dutifully, trying to focus on striving to achieve certain goals or tasks through the day. And you know, if that's too high, sometimes folks can be a little bit, you know, present with a sort of sense of stubbornness and maybe even rigidity. But if it's too low, it might be, you know, too flexible or too, you know, too much spontaneity. So, there's always that value of having a mix of these things in the team.
But the takeaway for this in particular is just the value of having positive affect or positive emotions, proactiveness. Um, and then the diversity and inclusion those, those areas. If we go back just to the previous slides here, building that positive workplace culture on, you know, some elements of these can help with that area, um, of the associations with workplace engagement. And so, I hope that's a little bit of a helpful framing piece for that part of the model. Um, there's also other drivers that come out of some research too, that talk about the importance of things with workplace engagement, like, you know, company practices, uh, the value of having leadership and supervisory support. Um, there are certain types of work attributes that might be important, discretionary effort and people having a sense of organisational citizenship about the business is also really important too. Uh, and job satisfaction, um, really helpful, quite useful marker people feeling that they're getting challenged enough at work or a sense of intellectual fulfillment.
Dan Pink used to sometimes talk about that as a sort of mastery kind of process. And uh, then of course having, you know, supportive co-worker relationships and some of these are areas indeed that are tapped into with the people at work tool that we'll talk about, um, a little bit later, which I think is really helpful, whether it's either in the area of a job demand or in the area of a job resource, um, leaders at ship and supervisory support and co-worker relationships are great examples of the sort of, um, things that you'd want to see as, uh, resources for people. So, we've talked a little bit about that positive upside in the model, but we also have that sense too, that how things can sort of, sometimes it feels like it's in a, you know, sort of over time moving down into this sort of area, uh, that ends up in quite complicated conflicted, um, situations in workplaces.
And part of that is understanding this sort of process that often starts with uncivil behaviours. And so in the model framing this here we have, you know, this decision, um, whether that's about the sort of things where you have people, um, starting to not come to meetings on time, you know, people not having their cameras on always on teams, um, you know, people, um, you know, sometimes even doing things that are a lot more rude where they might be, you know, searing. Um, so they're all the sort of rude and discourteous things that can sometimes, uh, start to set the tone in a workplace, um, that can start to have people feeling uncomfortable and a sense of discomfort. And if that's, you know, sort of happening enough in the areas that say the code of conduct, um, is particularly sensitive to these things might be regarded inappropriate sarcasm, you know, for example, could be an example of that.
Um, and then if that sarcasm is repeated enough and people are getting distressed about seeing it or hearing it, you know, that's starting to get into that area of where things have dropped down to that unlawful, uh, feel. And our general experience, you know, in workplaces is that it's usually, you know, it's usually common to have that continuum where things start out with that sense of incivility and then end up in that sense of unlawful, um, bullying that progression's not unusual. Um, so where this is also helpful is that when we're going talk a little bit later around physical threat, there are some distinctions between that sort of emotional aggression. And then what we would describe as a so more targeted predatory style of aggression, you know, that's quite well planned and, um, rehearsed and things like that. And so this effort to break things down to show a bit of a progression is to also, you know, kind of highlight that some of these things often have origins and earlier behaviours, which provides you with that opportunity for, um, for early intervention, you know, to put in those prevention tools, um, whether it's measuring things on an organisational level, like people at work, um, or some of the other tools that exist around, for example, team climate incivility tools, um, or indeed even workplace wellbeing tools.
But the point of it is, and as this diagram shows, you might have that decision that has some level of instability through behaviours in the workplace, but there's also then a decision point where there's an intervention and arrow that goes back up to the positive engagement line. So as things sort of cascade down to this area of more confronting risk, you also have the opportunity to put in place controls or interventions to get back to that positive engagement, um, line. And that's helpful if those things are articulated enough for, you know, bystanders to understand what is it that I'm looking for in the instability, the inappropriate, or indeed as it is above the line, the things that focus on that proactiveness that focus on the positive activity. So, people know what they're looking for and how they would either support, you know, um, to work with these experiences in workplaces, whether they be more challenging ones or whether they be also reinforcing the positive things that you want to see in workplaces.
So that's a framing piece to really just highlight that whilst we are going to talk about a couple of risk scenarios, it's really critical to pay attention to that space above the, um, line that, uh, this model. And it's one of a few models that, um, that, you know, that exist out there. And I think, uh, having that, uh, lens that covers off both positive engagement and risk provides a much more balanced approach to how you can kind of nurture things in workplaces. So doing a bit more of a dive now into the scenarios. So, the first one, uh, is a workplace bullying scenario that, um, that draws on the people at work. Um, and we also looked at a couple of other measures in there that examined incivility and a, a very, um, commonly, um, used construct nowadays, psychological safety. Um, and there's also the value potentially of your kind of compliance risk assessment too, which, you know, we would roughly call the risk matrix.
Um, and so we're going talk then about what were the controls and how did we come up with those controls through the assessment, but also talk about how you can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of those. If you are measuring things in a way that allow you to look at some type of statistical associations between some factors, and that's using that same, um, association, uh, that we talked about earlier, that correlation that goes from zero to one and whether it's positive or negative, you know, as one factor goes up and it has a positive relationship with another, then it appears that that factor is increasing this factor and vice versa as well. We don't know the causality because of these, um, designs, if you like. And then we'll talk about the second scenario, which is a physical threat scenario, um, which involves primarily more so a specialized risk assessment, but I really want to, um, take a bit of a journey on that one to show how, um, whilst there is a sort of specialized component there, when you look to what, um, the type of controls were and also how the different aspects of management unfolded with that, you'll see how, how much these things are grounded in just good quality business as usual and effective communication.
And really trying to also, um, sometimes have a strong support role, even when the behaviours might be quite confronting for people too, which does afford often a sense of, you know, uh, procedural fairness or justice for people, um, which can be really, really important. So, um, let's dive into the first one.
So psychosocial risk in hazards. Um, this is borrowing from our people at work, uh, psychosocial hazards and factors are anything in the design or management of work that increases the risk of psychological or physical harm. And so, the example you've got here is work related stress. Um, so if someone, you know, feels their work demands, the type of, um, things they've got to do in their job, there's too many of them and they maybe don't have the knowledge to undertake them, um, or the amount of resources to undertake them in the time that's been afforded. Um, that can be quite challenging that disconnect and people can develop a stress response in respect to that. And some of the common symptoms of those sorts of responses that stress response, there are often things like depressive symptoms or anxiety symptoms, or sometimes other types of physiological stress symptoms as well.
Um, and you can have things like, you know, difficulties concentrating as well as changes to your mood and, you know, a sense of, um, you know, your, uh, agitation even, or the opposite where, you know, you're kind of having that sense of withdrawal as well. So, it is a, um, probably the area that most of us have the greatest familiarity to nowadays. And, um, so that's one example. And in this case, um, where looking at a, a scenario where there's roughly a 25 member professional services team, um, there was a, you know, quite long history of concerns where there was stuff to do with promotion and recruitment processes. And also, there'd been changes in senior leadership. Um, and indeed the, the leadership at a senior level had, um, changed, um, almost 50% greater than 50%. There was a, a litany of complaints coming through human resources on conduct, not, uh, the vast majority of those weren't formal there, you know, people ringing up seeking support from human resources where they're asking about, you know, well, how do I manage this?
What do I do about that? And the type of conduct concerns is emerging were very, very firmly falling into that, um, in, you know, un, uncivil, if you like, or that sense of incivility, but there were also examples that were starting to emerge that were, um, falling more into the space of what you would describe as unlawful. And so, you were starting to see, you know, fairly normal responses to that sort of environment at work, where there were increases in sick leave, um, and staff were starting to turn over. And so, we, um, in this case, took an approach, um, to use the people at work because, uh, it's valid, it's reliable, it's our gold standard in Australia. And, um, you know, it's a very, very useful tool to be able to provide a lens into what's going on, and then to look at whether there's relationships between some aspects of this and other things that you can also measure as well.
So, it's a great, um, introduction to really exploring things. So, what we had then here, for example, in this, um, uh, situation. So what you've got is the, the, uh, actual, uh, overview of the response to bullying behaviours being experienced, um, and the two that sort of jump out there, if you can see the graph of the blue line on exclusion and isolation, um, which is sort of getting up close to the average score of four, um, which shows that its frequency was getting reported as more frequent than the others. Um, but you've also got, uh, one of the others that's, um, also nudging up above three there, which is the subject of gossip or false or malicious rumours. So those are the sort of two standout ones there, but you can see that, um, across the board on the sort of standard areas that are covered off in often a lot of, of, um, policy documents around definitions of workplace bullying or examples, um, you know, verbal abuse being an example, um, threat of punishment, ridicule, or being put down one of the really good things about the poor is it allows though these things to be, um, you know, reported on in the sense of the experiences that are getting described either by people, themselves having experienced it, or by the context of where they've, they've witnessed it.
And so, the definition that's used, uh, in the poor, which is very, um, consistent with the fair work one nowadays, which is the repeated inappropriate behaviour causing risk to health and safety. So, you might remember back to that engagement model that we talked about inappropriate was that sort of second box, um, below the line. So, you had uncivil, then you had inappropriate, then you're getting down to unlawful. So, it's this framing piece where if you have repeated examples of that inappropriate behaviour and people are getting, say distressed, for example, that's starting to look a lot more like, um, you know, that sense of bullying. And in this, um, particular case, we had, you know, some really high levels of people saying they were experiencing this perceived sense of bullying and also witnessing it as well. So quite a distress team, when you look at those areas.
So, then we move into, um, what start, some of our analysis started to sort of show in this space. And so, one of the important things that we tend to measure nowadays is this idea of psychological safety and that's, um, you know, can you take an interpersonal risk where you feel that others have your back, will they give you the benefit of the doubt? Can you put yourself out there and will they support you? Or is it something where you feel that you can't do that? It's a type of blame culture. It's something where you might feel that you are feeling vilified or, um, it's really hard to have a voice. And so, um, again, that reminder of the definition of bullying in the people at work, and what we found is that the more bullying that was present in this particular case, um, the lower, that sense of psychological safety, and indeed it was quite a strong relationship there.
You can see that it's a negative 0.82 correlation. So, the more that we saw bullying going up, the lower that we saw, psychological safety, you know, going down and, and also vice versa. So that's really helpful because we're starting to then understand that if we can do things that help people feel perhaps more psychologically safe, that might also start to help with that sense and experience of, um, you know, either experiencing or witnessing that, that bullying that, uh, was reported on the poor. So, what that then translated into, if you, who do a deeper dive with the poor is, um, these critical areas that are covered on the right, in terms of benchmarks, which are in the sort of pinky colour, and then the results, which are in the sort of blue, and this particular one that stands out on the far right, is group relationship conflict.
So, this is when folks have interpersonal disagreements frictions with their colleagues, you know, that's about differences in personal style, values, or norms, and you see that it's, you know, twice, um, what it should be in terms of the benchmark. And we found through running this more fine grain statistical analysis, that it was strongly negatively associated with this idea of procedural justice. And so, what does that mean? So procedural justice, um, we are the perceptions of the fairness of policies, procedures, and processes that are used to arrive at decisions and achieve end goals. And so, one of the things that we of course have operating in these environments are codes of conduct, um, you know, and other types of things to try and help regulate behaviours in the workplace. Um, and so what we have there is that, um, uh, particularly with the addition of some of the other interviews that we were undertaking, which is the bottom dot point on the left of the slide there, they were starting to talk about communication strain in meetings and a feel or authoritarian leadership styles, and this idea of very clearly not following the code of conduct or team charter and the like, and so, um, you know, the more relationship conflict was going up the, the more, that sense of confidence if you like, or the, the, the, the, you know, the, the value of that procedural justice being effective for people in the workplace.
So again, this is really helpful in the spirit of, you know, what do we need to think about as controls? Um, you know, it's starting us to, uh, allow us to be more efficient to what we would start to then see in the control space. So, um, to run that example through, um, so you of course have our levels of, um, lowest to highest, um, you know, kind of hierarchy of controls here. So, what you want to try and do in this sort of, um, in particular situation, can you eliminate the hazards? Um, I, uh, you know, think that that's extremely hard to do. It might be that there are situations where through, you know, workplace investigation, there are things substantiated that someone then can be disciplined for. And, you know, if those things are sufficiently severe enough, the person might be able to be, you know, moved on or separated from the workplace.
That's arguably one thing that could happen, but the vast majority of these cases, that's not what usually happens. And the workplace is left, you know, with, with having to manage things at more of a level two or three. And so we looked at then trying to think about the controls with group relationship conflict, and then started to say, okay, well, some of these things are happening in meetings as we'd looked at before. And so, what can we do about meetings? We have the processes here where we could start to look at decision making process can remember we've got procedural justice that was coming up as an area of concern as well. And so, you can do score carding with meetings where you have, um, measures of things like dynamic and effectiveness. You can do moderators and rotating chairs. You can start to vary things through meetings, being conducted over video, instead of being in person.
Um, you could start to also look at having vote based decision making, um, perhaps even reducing the meetings, um, coaching and video reviews to try and help people have their, uh, you know, a greater sense of awareness around how their behaviour might be affecting others as well. And what are the things that they can do? That's helpful? What are things that might be, you know, a little bit more problematic in the experiences with people. And then of course you have, you know, relatively standard types of responses around conflict resolution training, and a refresh on the mandatory code of conduct. So one advantage of being able to measure things through the poor, um, is that you can start to examine, you know, the relationships between some of these, either job demands or job resources, and then start to become more and more specific about the type of recommendations, particularly if you marry up some of that data that comes out of the poor with some interview, contextual information as well, which is quite important.
So that really feeds into one of the really critical parts of say using tools like psychosocial risk tools, like the poor, which is about that idea of how do you get that context granularity on some of these results. And the only way to do that is to get feedback from staff, provide the feedback to them, engage with them, you know, try and get a sense of understanding through the results or doing interviews upstream in combination with the, um, poor, for example, or focus groups. So, you're getting that sense of context that helps understand some of the different results. Now, what I also wanted to just briefly highlight, which is on the bottom left of this slide, we also found in this particular, um, situation, the more group task conflict, um, the lower, again, the sense that you had of that procedural justice. So, when folks were, you know, fighting over different tasks, or there was a lack of clarity about some of that sort of thing that was also producing, you know, some strain as well.
And, um, we also had, um, just the, again, those reminders around, um, if we're able to do something about people having, um, a feeling of meetings being better controlled and more voice, which is that sense of psychological safety, it might also start to, um, affect that area around how people are, um, able to experience perhaps a perceived less, um, sense of bullying or witnessing bullying as well. So, it's an example of how you can kind of tailor those things more. So, let's move onto the second scenario. So, this one, uh, is a physical threat scenario. And again, um, we'll go into a little bit of detail about how we can sort of work through some different key components that might be relevant with the, um, assessment process, or just some overview of some of the, um, ways we can try and understand physical threat. And then what does that then mean around how these things were managed and controls that were in place?
So, some basic, um, uh, overview here, the same way, um, that we did some framing with the earlier stuff. Most folks are probably familiar with this idea that there might be a grouping of say, impulsive or emotional violence with the idea of something being quite predatory. Um, and so you've got that, uh, that feeling with the impulsive sort of violence or affective violence, where people have a sense of this intense anger, you know, it might be in response to, you know, fear being fearful of something. There's a lot of arousal, um, in part of the nervous system. And, you know, we have a lot more of the brain where, you know, our, our emotional kind of recipe is getting cooked up that, um, that start to light up with this sort of type of violence. That's probably the stuff we see most in, you know, movies as well.
And, uh, but what you can also have, um, is this idea of, you know, the, the, the sort of the, the cat stalking, um, which is that predatory type of, or targeted, um, sort of violence. And, and that's not necessarily one that has that same high level of, you know, emotion of anger and a frustration. Um, it, those emotions might still be present, but there may not be, um, at that level, um, that, you know, other people would look at them and say, oh, they're really angry. Um, and it tends to involve a lot more planning, um, and rehearsal of things as well. So when we're starting to look at, you know, this idea of the physical threat, um, context in this particular, um, case that we're going to look at, one of the things that we've got in the back of our mind is, you know, well, what type of, you know, um, thing are we talking about here is that, does there seem to be something where it's just this range of impulsive behaviours, or is it something where there is this kind of clear, you know, predatory type of, or planned, you know, type of violence, and there's a particular way of unpacking that that will talk about, um, shortly.
So, um, just a very brief introduction again, with the violence and threats. Um, we don't actually have a lot of research on, um, uh, threats being translated into violence. There, there is certainly research around, um, and one of the better pieces in Australia that was done, um, by, uh, Lisa Warren and folks some time ago, did note some relatively high rates of subsequent violence following some threats to kill or criminal level threats. Now that was in a very particular, um, sample. Um, but it's important to note that, um, yeah, we do have some evidence of this being a problem. And of course, you know, context does vary where it might be in relationships or, you know, a method of controlling, say a third party, a way of conflict resolution. It could be during other crimes, or it could be just, you know, explicit intent to harm others, but, you know, it's important to take threats seriously.
Um, and sometimes, uh, you know, the people that are undertaking them can indeed be some of the more habitual folks and, uh, in this space and they can, um, target those around them in daily interactions. And what we've also seen from a communication perspective, uh, nowadays, particularly with the rise of social media, is you have also seen a rise in the amount of anonymous, threatening communications where, you know, people can, um, obviously take on certain personas online now and perhaps say things that if they were otherwise perhaps identifiable and could be held accountable, they may not do. Um, and so that's becoming increasingly common and that's a particularly challenging space because there isn't a lot of, um, uh, if you like specific validated risk assessment tools for, um, anonymous, threatening communications, yet there's a couple around that are more, um, for identifiable threatening communications. And indeed, we have a robust set of tools for assessing different types of violence risk as well, but not as it stands, uh, today with anonymous threatening communications, it's a little bit more of an art than a science at the moment, that part.
So, um, in this particular case, we've got a 25 year old male who's on sick leave from the workplace due to conduct and performance management that was ongoing. And there was certainly forecasting starting to occur with him around saying, look, this is likely to end up in separation, um, meaning that, you know, he would lose his job. And some of the things that had been of concern to the workplace, um, you know, he was yelling at his manager. Um, he was turning up unannounced to wait outside meetings and different locations banging on a meeting window room. Um, he'd also made a range of statements, you know, things varying from, you know, I'll get you to, you made this happen. There was a lot of foul language. Um, there was some personalized attacks in, you know, uh, communications around the competency of, uh, the manager. Um, there was also a, um, posting on the work social media account of a picture of grim Reaper.
And there were human resource reports of, you know, um, a threat to attend the workplace and, um, light, um, his manager up, um, which was being interpreted as a type of, um, fire based attack. Um, and there was also, um, references to things like only I can fix this situation, you know, I hate him, I'm the manager, um, you know, some further, uh, swearing and, and sort of depersonalizing of the manager, you know, um, he's filth, he knows nothing. He needs to be gone. Um, you know, I, he couldn't take it anymore. So, this had sort of reached a certain point of distress for this young man. Um, and there was this really strong focus of blame on the manager as well. Um, and he was going on to describe things as being, you know, unacceptable and unfair, you know, what does he know? You know, no one likes him, and no one likes his type.
So, he's, this is a very distressed young man where the workplace is trying to juggle, you know, a number of things here. There's both someone who's on sick leave, um, where, where you're also of course concerned about wellbeing of this person, um, as well as the wellbeing of the manager himself too, um, which is critical, but you've also got the fact that you've got a process industrially rolling on as well, um, to do with, uh, how things are getting managed in terms of the actual, um, you know, performance management and that sort of disciplinary front as well. Um, so it is a complicated scenario that's unfolding here. And so, one of the things that we can start to look at in this case is that there are certain emotions that when they're sort of put together, they can give us a lens into how things, um, can be more risky.
And so, this is where I'm starting to talk a bit more about the specialized risk assessment that in this case was undertaken. Um, and there's a particular, um, set of research out of, um, a gentleman called Maximoto and his colleagues that looked at the combination of anger, contempt and discussed around outgroups or an out person in terms of the, you know, them being an out from this other individual. Um, and how that might in the case of certain types of rhetoric translate into different types of violence. Um, and there might be warning indicators of what they describe as a pathway to violence. Like, is this a thing that's starting to emerge as a sort of more predatory plan thing? Um, and also, um, you know, are there types of emotions that we're starting to see here that might be particularly relevant for the health professionals involved, um, in terms of, um, treatment or intervention, or indeed, you know, return to work aspects.
So, we're going to just quickly unpack some of these things. So, I guess the first thing is this idea of Anne Cody. Um, and this is where there's a set of indicators in political rhetoric that then, um, have tended to, you know, provide some measure of forecasting, um, of actual violent events. And we have an example of this, for example, with, um, January the sixth. Um, so you've got outrage based on anger over what an out group did. Um, so in this example, we're talking about with, um, this young man he's got outrage based on anger, you know, directed towards his manager. Um, there's this idea of having moral superiority based on contempt. Um, and then there's this idea of, you know, discussed, you know, and that as a result, things need to be eliminated. And so those, that type of set of factors, if you like, um, could be important in trying to understand someone's, um, you know, components in some of their risk, you know, both from a, uh, areas of opportunity, perhaps for intervention, but also in how that might increase or decrease risk.
It provides an opportunity for monitoring too, um, and early warnings. So what you have, if you have the combination of those three things, which is that sort of, um, you know, uh, uh, arrow that I've got up there on the right, you know, someone might have a grievance that things aren't right there might fuel a sense of injustice. It's not fair. And then they might target someone and, you know, that can involve also some distancing themselves of that sense of someone being evil, um, really depersonalizing. So, it can kind of justify some violence. And so that might be a process that's more, um, consistent with the idea of a planned or predatory approach to things, but, you know, people can cycle through that. It's not right. It's not fair. It's your fault, your evil very quickly with that emotional, um, effective violence as well.
So, it's just highlighting how these three components, the anger, contempt, and discussed. If you're seeing those sorts of things in presentations with individuals, it is really helpful to try and understand those and to try and get a sense of what sort of support needs there might be. And indeed, particularly if that's in the context of, um, uh, you know, some type of violence or, or threats related to violence. And so where, um, some of these emotions have also been taken is the idea of warning behaviours or things that might indicate that someone is on an actual pathway to violence. And the next slide I'll, um, show you what that means in terms of, uh, a rough guide that's used in sort of managing various types of formal physical threats. Um, and that's also been used with, uh, things like, um, some of the mass, um, you know, killings in the United States as well, but the two things that I want to draw people's attention to here, that could be potential warning behaviours for the idea of, um, someone, you know, getting into the place of planning, something that's kind of violent, um, or, um, acting on a physical threat.
One is this idea of just how fixated is someone and the other is, you know, are they sort of getting to a point where they feel like things are sort of at a last resort, you know, that there's nothing more they can do. Everything's become very intolerable. And, you know, it's really the sort of last things before there is something that actually happens or an attack. And so, what you see in this diagram here is the characteristics of, uh, an individual, um, that might involve some of these other things that we've been talking about. Then you might have some warning behaviours like these fixation indicator, last resort indicator, and then there's an attack. So those things all sort of fit together to try and help understand where is someone on this idea of a pathway to violence towards physical, um, physically acting on a physical threat.
So, um, this particular model, um, has been around for some time and, uh, it's, uh, it's been, um, a real, uh, pillar for, um, trying to understand, um, a pathway, um, of targeted violence. Um, and so what you see here is the idea of the grievance, um, starting at the bottom of this diagram, and then it goes up to the top where you have the attack at the top, um, and things can escalate or deescalate as you see with the arrows underneath this wave line pathway, um, based again on intervention or control strategies or management. And so, this particular pathway to an actual physical violence kind of targeted way, you know, there'll be a grievance about someone maybe, um, or some people or an organisation. Um, they'll have violent ideas about, you know, from that grievance, they'll start to research and plan the attack. They'll do some preparations just before it, they might even test the actual environment, um, them, you know, before undertaking the attack and then there's the attack.
And so, this, um, type of model really helps those things get broken down and it can really help, um, unpack where someone is and some of these, um, aspects of the process that might be of worry or concern to people, and, you know, the vast majority of these types of, of course, um, situations don't end up in these sorts of attacks. So, it's a really helpful way of understanding more about it, um, and useful in the area of specialized risk assessment of this. So what you have with warning behaviours, you have fixation, um, as we mentioned earlier, any behaviour that indicates increasing, you know, preoccupation with a person or a cause, and you see that some of the elements there are angry overtone, you know, the opinions are getting more strident, the object, you know, or person is getting more focused and fixated, and there it's a lot more negative kind of characterizations of things.
Um, and we often see that in, you know, uh, types of social media content nowadays, um, you know, you can often have a measure of all of those things where you have angry, emotional overtone or undertone, you know, the opinion's getting more strident. Um, and then, you know, there's this strong focus of negative characterization. Then we also have the idea of last resort, and this is where there's a sort of action imperative, um, where the, you know, the individual feels, you know, they've be getting distressed, they're really kind of starting to get a sense of despair. Um, and there's no other alternative, um, than justified violence. They're sort of trapped. They're really kind of, you know, we need to do something now to help reduce this distress. And so, um, what you have, uh, sorry, just to go back is the combination of those sorts of things can add quite a, um, challenging environment for, um, you know, understanding someone's risk, but also provide opportunities for where things might be able to be intervened with.
So just to sort of jump ahead, what are we then going do about it? So what happened in this particular scenario, particularly in the context of the type of controls that were able to be engaged, you had an external return to work consultant engaged. There was still a robust pattern of verbal abuse operating between this individual and that return to work consultant, but nonetheless there was a, um, useful engaged and, um, still engaged. Uh, despite the abuse consultant working with this gentleman, there was a workplace investigation undertaken into conduct. Um, there was EAP repeatedly offered. This gentleman actually was accessing, um, a general practitioner, which was really helpful and there was also an external risk assessor engaged to, um, and the key part that was obviously driving the, um, external, um, risk assessor was the fact that there had been that statement around, uh, well, a couple of statements, but also that one that was in particular about, um, you know, the, the risk of perhaps a fire based assault.
Um, so the team was interviewed, um, there was a range of factors that then started to come out of that risk assessment process. Um, some of them were things like fixation, um, where there was a focus on the manager, there was harassing behaviours, this angry tone, and it appeared to be increasing over time. There was also that sense of last resort where, you know, only he can fix the situation, you know, things were that sense of trapped, you know, couldn't take it anymore. There was anger towards the manager, contempt towards the manager, discussed towards the manager as highlighted in some of those earlier statements, um, that we saw, and there was this possible lethal threat to attend the workplace. And we'd seen a spectrum of behaviours from uncivil to possibly, you know, getting into the category of unlawful and then possibly getting into the category of, you know, are we starting to meet some of these areas of criminal conduct and threat, so quite a complex situation.
So, what did that then look like in terms of some really specific controls? And so, one of the critical things that was deployed early on was how do you get with the health of this gentleman and the other people involved? So, it was EAP, there was a return to work process, engaging the GP, and also what was, um, successful with his partner as well. We did discover over time through, um, a drug screen result that wasn't initially available that did become available later on during the course of, um, you know, interviews and assessments. There had been a positive, um, drug test as well, which did help explain some of the conduct and what we saw with the, um, GP, um, and partner eventually over time and more focused treatment is the conduct resolved entirely, um, which was really good for both him and also for the workplace.
And the specialised risk assessment really helped feed into the type of advice around what was, um, operating both on the health front, but also on the risk front. Um, and that, uh, translated into things like very particular types of support plans and safety plans. And some of those also had a bearing on things like of work design, you know, how, um, were, how were we able to keep people safe, how we able to keep him safe. Um, and also, you know, what were the best ways to sort of try and communicate, um, uh, in this really complex environment where things were moving and also for someone that was then placed on paid leave after the sick leave period. So those, um, are, I guess the type of controls that were really important, um, to help reduce the risk in this situation and, you know, the good news story in this particular example, despite it being, I suppose, in a lot of cases where people might have progressed very rapidly to removing him from the workplace, um, terminating, we were able to get to a position where this man was successfully returned to work. Um, and there was some advantages to, um, the whole experience for people around understanding some of the other broader aspects of, um, you know, mental health and substance use and things like that for the workplace too. So, um, I'm pretty sure that is close to being the last slide.
Thanks, David. Uh, we do have a few questions from our audience, but before, um, before we go to the audience questions, I just have a question, firstly, and that is, I'm just conscious. You run a small business, you have employees that, um, may work in some emotionally challenging situations and may be exposed to emotionally challenging content as well. I just wonder what controls you have in place for your own staff.
So that's something that's changed over time, and we've certainly had periods where there was more work that there might have been a sort of higher level of objectionable content, but we are lucky in that we don't have a lot of interfaces with that. Um, but what we've had has been things like, um, uh, regular peer supervision, uh, regular team days, um, sometimes those are on monthly frequencies. Sometimes there've been, um, more or less depending on what's been needed. Um, we've also had, uh, for a period of time focus, supervision around things too, where we might, uh, get a external supervisor to come in and, um, uh, provide support on some very specific areas. Uh, and we also have the opportunity for people to access, um, a general practitioner or a psychologist of their choice and do that, you know, from a proactive perspective, um, not just from a reactive where someone might have had something happening, um, and then, you know, they're sort of distressed and needing to access things.
So, I think we've probably got as a rough summary, the prevention things tend to be, you know, monthly one on ones. Um, when we're working on jobs, talking about how that's sort of operating, is there anything that someone's worried about, um, through to peer supervision sessions, um, in some cases, team supervision sessions, if you go back earlier into the history of our business, when we were doing more work, um, around, um, you know, sort of complicated environments overseas, um, and, uh, we also have had, um, periods of time where we've also run, um, before people at work, we've also run the HSE. Um, we, we had used that for a while as well. Um, so we've actually tried to measure those things too. Um, so that's probably the, uh, the main thing I, I guess for myself, who would probably be more exposed to some of the sort of, uh, unpleasant content than, than the rest of the team. I think what I've found, um, helpful is definitely the value of, of supervision, um, and having good mentors. And I've certainly got people that I would talk to on a regular basis around a lot of those sorts of things, uh, including people have subject matter expertise and the type of, you know, content that I might be getting exposed to. Um, and, you know, without kind of getting into the weeds of it all, probably trying to, you know, eat well and, um, remain physically fit, which is still a journey. Yeah. Thanks. No worries.
We do have some questions coming through. Uh, the first one Kate has asked, are there differences across industries and how work related violence looks and do they need different controls?
Yeah, that's a, that's a good question. I think there are some areas where you might have specialized types of controls, um, depending on the type of violence, but I think this is where, um, it's really helpful to try and understand, um, you know, what is the type of violence? Um, does it need more specialized assessment because you are dealing, say for example, with a lot of harassment or stalking type of cases, which is a, you know, specialized type of violence or is it a lot more to do with customer aggression? So, I do think with some of the specialized types of violence, there are, um, areas where you might end up with specialized assessment tools and specialized controls, but it's, it's really going to depend on the work, um, the type of event and the work environment. Yeah. Yeah.
Thanks David. So interesting one from Zach. Yes. So, Zach would like to know what is the difference between work related aggression and bullying?
So, um, look, it, it's a little bit of, even the definitions of work related bullying have changed a bit over time and depending on where you go, there's, there's different definitions here and internationally, but the general view is sort of work related. Aggression might be, um, uh, something that's, you know, external to the organisation, say from a client or a customer that comes into the organisation. Whereas when it's things like aggression, uh, bullying, um, often the view is that that's more of an internal thing that people are experiencing, um, from other staff. Um, but you know, you still have those terms getting used interchangeably. So, um, it's, it's a bit complicated.
Yeah. Thanks, David. So, Kean ask, can sexual harassment be considered a form of work related violence and aggression? If so, under what circumstances?
Well, um, it is a specialised type of violence and harassment suggests that it's repeated, but sexual harassment can also be a one off, um, as well. Um, sorry, just take me back to the question if that's okay. The scrolling. Yep. Um, so yes, I would say it is a form of work or could be a form of work related violence if it happens in the workplace. Um, and I guess the circumstances are going to be, you know, they could be quite variable from, um, people making offensive comments, um, through to actual physical contact. It can quite quickly get into potential criminal, um, liability if there is physical contact, for example, um, as well. So that's something that's really important to recognise that, um, it, it both has the civil unlawful components, but if it's, if it's significant enough or severe enough, it can become something that has, um, you know, the attention of, um, the police. Yeah.
So ,we have a question from Julie. Julie would like to know what do you do when your workplace complaint policy has a six month time limit with which to report and then refuse to accept and therefore act and investigate and resolvable in complaints?
Okay. just scroll back to that. Yep. Top. Yeah. So, I guess it it's, um, if, if I was sitting there giving advice to the organisation saying that you're choosing to not take a, um, complaint because it's outside the timeline, um, they're holding a fair bit of risk around, um, you know, what was it still ongoing? Is it, uh, being re you know, resolved? And so, I'd probably ask for review, um, of the decision and, um, and I guess there are options if you can't get any joy internally to look at, you know, um, getting some advice from one of the regulators and, you know, talking about how that could get resolved, but yeah, it it's complicated. I would courage you to report these things indeed.
So, it might not happen straight away.
Yeah, that's right. And, and there might be the right circumstances for people to feel psychologically safe enough to talk.
So, we do have a question from another question from Joy. Yeah. Um, joy would like to know how to handle workplace aggression. Okay. So, this is about different nationalities.
Yeah. So, yeah this might be, um, assisting someone that's experiencing this, where there might be, uh, people who are not English speaking. So, I think it's really important to pay attention across cultural sensitivities. Um, and there are some, um, you know, uh, places and experiences where people have come from where there's things like torture and trauma that can really significantly contribute to people's distress, um, as well. But I think, um, in the question of who to handle that, I think, you know, it doesn't, it, it obviously you'd want to have someone that has some measure of, um, perhaps, you know, uh, subject matter expertise, but, you know, it's really around some of those core attributes of people that have good empathy, um, can really encourage a sense of support that know the resources out there, or at least be able to be prepared, to invest time, to try and find the resources because there are, um, there are organisations, there are not for profits. There are also in some cases, depending on what type of thing we're talking about here, um, people might be able to access resources through, um, you know, some of the regulatory bodies and, uh, the like, but, um, it would be important to try and, you know, have, uh, you know, people that are caring, compassionate, you know, um, with a good sense of empathy to provide some support in the first instance, and some places have contact offices or, um, uh, things like that that can be really helpful where they might have some specific expertise. And sometimes you can even, uh, you know, of course get, um, translators or interpreters where that's needed as well, make sure you have those key documents in different languages and that sort of thing.
Yeah. So, this is our last question. Uh, Jen asks, do you have any advice regarding obligations when managing worker safety when being exposed to violent and aggressive behaviours from others in the workplace such as healthcare, justice, corrections, emergency services, et cetera?
Regarding obligations? Um, I think I would probably take the view that it's really important to collect data on what's happening around, um, you know, these areas, uh, and that will help you understand perhaps where you're getting the most exposure with certain types of violence. And also, whether there's any sort of trends or patterns to things over time, you know, do you see every Thursday or every Wednesday because, um, you know, of, of, uh, you know, a patent related to access to funds that people might come in and be, um, you know, more aggressive or more intoxicated. So, I think really, you know, one of the important things is, you know, what, what are you trying to gather information on? And of course, your staff can be a really valuable source of information there, but also, uh, you know, there are these really valuable tools nowadays, like people at work, for example, that, um, you can have a lens into this, that then you can supplement with other tools or specialised assessments to sort of bring that more to life. Um, because there is a, these, you know, duty care and also to, you know, try and control the risk as, as much as, um, reasonably practical as well. So, thank you.
Thank you, David. And thank you everyone for joining us today. We hope you're able to take David's information and implement it in your workplace. Today's presentation. Recording will also be available on our website, keep an eye out for it in the coming weeks. Don't forget we have four more presentations as part of the Work Well 365 Speaker Series in September here from Greg Tonner, who will be discussing how technology can help you manage work health and safety and injury recovery. There's also a full range of industry and topic specific video case studies, podcasts, speaker recordings, webinars, and films. To help you take action to improve your WHS and return to work outcomes. These resources are free to download and share. So, I encourage you to share them with your staff and networks. Have a good day, everybody. And thanks again for joining us.