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Weekly Toolbox Talk: Fighting

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In any company, whether differences among members are great or small, functioning as a team is critical to success.

In today’s meeting, we want to focus on behaviors that violate these principles in the worst way. We are speaking of verbal and physical confrontations, more commonly known as "having words” and fighting.

Our company’s response to fighting is simple: if you get into a fight on the job or while on company property, you will be disciplined. At the very least, all parties involved will be suspended immediately without pay until a full investigation is completed. If you are found to be an aggressor that is doing anything more than protecting yourself, your discipline will likely be termination. Each incident is unique and therefore each one is investigated fully. Discipline is then administered fairly based on that specific episode and the factors surrounding it. However, make no mistake about it, fights, even minor altercations, are dealt with harshly.

Most employees understand where the line is drawn on fighting. Less clear, though, is knowing when you have crossed the line verbally – that is when your words will get you into as much trouble as your actions. First, you must understand that exchanging harsh words or arguing violates the company’s principle of teamwork and almost always has an adverse effect on productivity. You may find yourself being held accountable for these. Most importantly, however, you need to know this -- that any time your words violate the company’s harassment policy or rise to the level that you would reasonably expect another person to retaliate based on those words, you have crossed the line and can expect disciplinary action as if you had thrown a punch yourself.

Employees often use the defense that things started out innocently and that they were merely joking or engaged in “horseplay.” Verbal and physical fights often begin at this level and escalate when one person has had enough or is more sensitive to it today than before. In the end, it usually doesn’t matter how it started – only where it led. 

As an employee, how can you steer clear from trouble in these areas?

  • First, practice the Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated.
  • Second, refrain from getting drawn into taunting, teasing, or insult exchanges. A good principle to follow is the old adage “ if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
  • Third, avoid horseplay. It’s simply counter-productive.
  • Next, be aware of potential confrontations and report them to your supervisor before they escalate and cost people their jobs.
  • If you are confronted on the job – simply walk away. Let your foreman handle the dispute.
  • Be aware that working in the heat and getting tired serves to heighten everyone’s sensitivity. Tempers are on a short fuse.
  • Finally, know the company’s policies in these areas and abide by them.
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