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Business/Economy

When safety at work is an issue, management needs to step up

  • Author: Lynne Curry
    | The Workplace
  • Updated: November 5
  • Published November 5

Q: Until last week, I worked for a local property management firm. In recent years, as crime spiked in Anchorage, I became increasingly frightened at work.

When I asked my manager how my company could help protect me, he joked, "Handling tricky situations is just one of the perks of the job," and said nothing else. That joke, which made it clear I was on my own without even sympathy if something happened to me at work, was the last straw. I gave my firm seven years of hard work and loyalty and this was the first time I asked for something in return.

I'd love you to run a column that tells my manager what he should have said and done.

A: He should have said your safety was important and followed his words with action. A caring, involved management develops policies, procedures and plans to make sure their employees go home safely at the end of every workday.

According to Department of Justice and other sources, nearly 2 million American workers have been the victims of workplace assault, homicide, stalking, harassment, domestic violence and verbal abuse. These numbers represent the tip of an iceberg, as many injured make no report.

While every employer needs to take precautions to protect their employees, those in the real estate industry need to take special precautions because many rental agents, maintenance workers, property managers and real estate agents face unique safety challenges. According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, property management employees, who often work alone and during early morning and late-night hours, are especially vulnerable.

Every employer needs to identify risks. In real estate, this includes screening potential tenants, employees and contractors for past criminal offenses. It includes training you and other employees in early recognition of warning signs and strategies for mitigating escalating, volatile behavior. In some workplaces, it means installing security cameras, bright lighting and alarm systems. Your employer can arm you with a PDA you can use to send a coded distress signal, along with self-defense training that enables you to act instead of choking in panic if you face true danger.

Finally, if you mail this column to your manager's manager, you can help your senior management mitigate a serious internal risk, that of a manager who recently cost his company a good employee.

Q: When my company promoted me to supervisor, my best friend took me out for a drink. That night he and I chatted about the women in the office, ranking them on a 0 to 10 scale. I didn't think anything of it. I was on my own time in a bar and with a good friend.

Apparently, he went home and shared my comments in pillow talk to a woman he was sleeping with, and she passed them on to her women friends, my employees. I received a tongue-lashing and have been placed on probation. My friend, however, escaped punishment.

I get that I was stupid, though I feel like my friend should have kept his mouth shut. What feels unfair is that my job is in jeopardy for something said on my own time.

A: You cannot expect your friend to keep his mouth shut when yours flies open. Even though it was after hours, you were a supervisor grading your employees on appearance. Your ratings came back into the workplace via the ears of other employees. Your words carry more weight now as a supervisor, which means you merit harsher discipline when you exercise poor judgment.

Instead of complaining about unfairness, spend some time thinking about what your supervisory status means. Do you want respect from your employees? If so, you need to change how you act.

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