Chair: Martin Gill

Sandy Cowie – Retired Director Global Security (US)
Bill Fox – Chairman at Maybo Limited (UK)
Dr. Claire Lawrence – Director at Lawrence PsychAdvisory (UK)
Joe McDonald – Manager at Wilson-McDonald LLC (US)

Sponsored by Maybo

Key points

Dr Claire Lawrence notes that although there is a tendency to think about violence as irrational, most often it isn’t; putting aside individual problems most people who act aggressively do so for a purpose. Looking at violence via a Covid-19 lens one can see people under additional pressure and living in fear adding to any existing problems, therein rests a recipe for violence. Moreover, in this time of upheaval there are different ideas about for example, wearing or not wearing a mask, inequalities of resources, different types of employee on employee conflicts and these sorts of issues mean clashes. The one positive is that where actions are rational than can be pre-empted, and that is the opportunity.  But Claire warns that responses vary with the specific environment and context in which they occur although creating a positive culture is always a positive.

Joe McDonald discusses a very different type of security environment more common in places in the US than say the UK, where organisations have a paramilitary type force to protect them. The point Joe makes is that one can prepare security staff for crises of all sorts, but the key is to prepare. The security staff he oversaw engage with tasks such as critical thinking and tactical decision games to enable them to deal with whatever problems they encounter, and this could be more widely considered in dealing with Covid-19 related issues. Joe reminds us that a security approach should always start with being about customer service, and to work back from there.

Sandy Cowie notes that widescale working from home has blurred the boundaries between work and domestic life, and in so doing has blurred the lines of corporate responsibilities, she warns of the dangers of corporations caring less. Most are designed to make money and that does not always sit comfortably with being caring. In this context she highlights the possibility that organisations will subcontract more going forward, it avoids the burden of new responsibilities that are emerging; they are transferred to suppliers. This of course can be good for contract security but it may come with new responsibilities attached. And for organisations she questions whether many staff working away from the office may lead to a loss of identity; it is a danger to be watched. Sandy interestingly questions whether anything that is happening is really new, suggesting that parallel issues can be found in history, for example, working from home is not new, security assessments for those at home is not new, the learnings may already be there.

Bill Fox has been actively supporting organisations at the forefront in dealing with Covid-19 in different countries. Echoing a previous point he notes that there are many regional differences; laws, cultures, problems vary and responses have to be tailored. He discusses different examples but one point he makes, highlighting how different this crisis is, concerns how the wearing of masks has had the consequence of reducing inhibitions; people are generally less identifiable and accountable. Bill reminds us that Covid-19 may pose a range of problems, but there are solutions available, accepting these vary by context he illustrates his point with examples; engaging customers, reading contexts and pre-empting them, understanding staff by being close to them and their issues and their understanding of customers. Crucially organisations need to be clear in their approach and there is never a substitute for having a good corporate culture; most good things start with and feed off that. And don’t forget about supervisors and managers, many do to their cost; engaging and training them is key.

All of the panelists make the point that experience of Covid-19 has witnessed a shift in violent incidents and so then there is a need to think differently about how best to respond. But there is much confidence that it is possible to do this well. Understanding the challenges, being clear on the response and preparing all those involved properly, including managers and supervisors were emphasised. But don’t change the old ways too quickly, there are learning to be made from them too.

Martin Gill
4th August 2020

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