5 Steps to Follow if a Fight Takes Place in the Office

March 12, 2015

5 Steps to Follow if a Fight Takes Place in the Office

We’d love to pretend that fights never happen – especially in the office. And for many companies, that might be true. But one of life’s unfortunate truths is that people have differences; and sometimes, those differences clash.

In most environments, a physical scuff in the staff room is probably highly unlikely. But regardless of whether a fight has ever occurred at your workplace or not, it’s important that you know how to act if ever it does.

Here is a pretty easy-to-remember set of steps you should follow if a physical argument takes place at your workplace.

1. Get Facts Fast

Accurate memories fade very quickly, and before long, any witnesses may start to unknowingly replace their actual memories of what happened, with exaggerated stories that are being exchanged across desks and cubicle walls.

Have everybody who witnessed the event – yourself included – give a written account of what they saw.

2. Decide Your Approach

Depending on how serious the incident was, you should decide whether the matter requires formal or informal handling. For example, a stray paper plane probably doesn’t warrant formal action… but a broken nose probably does!

This can be a difficult judgement call to make, and should not be handled lightly – you could be legally obliged to follow a specific procedure. If you’re unsure, it’s wise to seek professional advice.

3. ‘Remove’ Possible Risks

If the situation requires formal action, and you think that your people or property might be at risk, then it might be appropriate to make a temporary suspension until you complete your investigation.

Remember that this suspension must be with full pay, because you have not yet reached a conclusion. Temporary suspension with full pay is a decision that you should not make without very careful consideration.

4. Explain Formal Sanctions

If you decide, after investigating the facts, that a formal sanction is necessary – such as a demotion or dismissal – then you need to arrange a meeting with the affected person(s) to discuss and explain these sanctions.

Remember that it takes gross misconduct to dismiss an employee who has not yet received their final written warning.

5. Allow For Appeal

If you decided on a formal sanction such as demotion or dismissal, then the affected people have the right to appeal your decision.

Take their reasons for appealing the decision into careful consideration, and ensure you follow the correct formal procedings.

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