Workplace violence is an important threat; it also demonstrates how much security departments can add value to the company, rather than simply be a cost. While corporate security departments are often seen as a necessary evil cost center with little to contribute but managing the gate guards – manned by knuckle-dragging former law enforcement and military personnel without a clue about “real business” – they actually can be an important part of the company’s self perception and management and a critical source of time-sensitive information and analysis.
Workplace violence, like information operations, is an area where corporate security departments can materially affect the prospects of the business. Security departments see the world through a different lens, bringing not only a unique perspective but potentially the tools to affect the success of the business. However, because many security departments don’t speak the same language as the rest of the company – like the IT people down the corridor – their contributions and potential to add value are underestimated, including by themselves.
Workplace violence has taken a back seat in corporate concerns for many over the past 12 months, yet it poses a very real threat to company personnel, operations, reputation and profitability. Recent active shooter events have returned workplace violence to the forefront of corporate security concerns and media attention, albeit with some very worrying thought processes coming to the fore.
My favorite insight into corporate and consultant culture is the advocacy of preventing belittling people and bullying because they may contribute to workplace violence. Companies managing belittling and bullying because they wish to manage the risk of workplace violence are fundamentally flawed; belittling and bullying undermine corporate cohesion and morale, doing far more damage in terms of actual productivity lost than the expected loss (cost of damage multiplied by likelihood) than an incident of workplace violence – they also demonstrate a critical failure of duty of care and leadership.
Information operations are a critical part of the security department’s role. Depending on the size of the business, the department monitors the news 24/7, tracks employees around the world, ensures that business continuity plans are in place and that they are sufficiently informed to understand how those plans may be affected by current events. They are the department that takes a serious interest in active shooter incidents because one incident inevitably will lead to more (for a good explanation why, see Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point), and who seek to understand the physical threats to the company because it is their responsibility to manage those threats.
All that information they gather and the analysis they see and do has value, much of it not only to them but to the rest of the company. Somewhere else in the company is someone who really is interested in the daily security analysis on Indian politics because they’re thinking of outsourcing a critical component there, while a snap announcement of an OPEC price change is critical to one of the business units because they’re finalizing pricing new products and this will affect that process.
Security departments will be as relevant as they want to be; often the critical event is understanding their real value to the company, and ensuring that the rest of the company also understands. While security departments are unlikely to be revenue centers, they should be adding significant intangible value that increases the return on investment, a return that is far beyond the cost of managing guards and gates.