Friday, January 30, 2015

Corporate anti-violence policies: a primer

Those of you who are professionals working at large corporations probably already know this, but just to be sure:

As long-time readers know, I used to work at an S&P-listed engineering consultant. Anyway, every HR and Legal department in Canada (and maybe at least the more enlightened parts of the US, I'm not sure) has been spending the past few years churning out document after document of policies and practices meant to stop the company from getting their honky ass sued.

In my corporation's case, all we had to do was sign a form saying that we read them - that was a big sticking point with me, because (after consulting with my brother, who's been a senior managing engineer himself) I knew that simply having an employee's signature on a form is worth nothing: you have to have proof that he's read and understood it. (In my office, I had to spend about 2 weeks just to read through all the forms.)

One that we had was a corporate anti-violence policy. It addressed all the usual stuff - threatening behaviour, racism, sexism, bullying, dealing with the public e.g. at demonstrations, violence outside the office, and so on.

Well, one section that I remembered dealt with "violence" (term always broadly used in this policy) from clients.

I remembered it because we had a project where we were a subconsultant to an American engineering company whose lead project manager (let's just call him "Steve") was threatening and rude to staff at our office. He never hit anyone, he'd only call over the phone, but he was definitely one of those bosses whose behaviour was well over the line. One of our staff quit partially because of him, and there was also a secretary who disappeared from our office after the project ended who was said (I got this from the boss) to have thereafter brought a suit against us (I wasn't told the reason).

So I was very interested when a couple years later I saw that our corporate anti-violence policy said the following (not quoting verbatim, remember they laid me off):

When any employee is faced with violent, aggressive, discriminatory or threatening behaviour from a client, it must be reported immediately. Our company's management shall:

1) immediately stop all work on the project,
2) inform that threatening person's supervisor that our company will no longer perform any work for that client unless they immediately remove that individual from any contact with our company.

Now this is engineering. You do not stop work on a project, period. But, I guess there had been sufficient problems with clients - or at least enough lawsuits, cos you know it's the lawyers that ultimately draft policy documents - that my company felt they had to institute this policy.

Given the recent newsflow, I'd just like to remind all the banksters reading this blog that they do, most likely, have a corporate anti-violence policy, they signed off on it, and they should go familiarize themselves with the damn thing in case, y'know, they get punched by a client.

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