How a Company Can Recover after Workplace Violence

Employment expert, Rob Wilson, explains HR procedure after an act of violence at the office

In the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, Americans are yet again reeling from the effects of a mass shooting.  And, much like the WDBJ-TV shooting in late August of 2015 which occurred on live television, workplace violence is now becoming a hot button topic for people across the country.

“The reality is that workplace violence is a growing concern for many people,” says Rob Wilson, CEO of Employco USA, “People deserve the right to feel safe at their workplaces, and when acts of senseless violence like this occur, it robs us of a sense of security.”

Here, Wilson outlines the steps that an employer should take in the event of workplace violence:

  1. Put emergency guidelines in your handbook. “Make sure that your employee handbook offers procedures on how to handle the unthinkable. We have everything from fire drills to tornado drills.  We should also have steps in place for how to handle a mass shooting. If possible, you can even discuss these steps with a local law enforcement officer to help ensure that the best procedures are given to your employees.”
  2. Offer grief counseling if appropriate. “For workers in the San Bernardino area, heading back to work on Monday morning was probably frightening and a bit unreal. It can be hard to forget the aftermath of the tragedy and switch back into work mode. For those companies in the nearby area that are most affected, a grief counselor can really be an invaluable resource.”
  3. Consider offering a limited work schedule. “Where possible, allow employees to personalize their own schedules in the week following a tragedy. Maybe it is advisable for some staff to work from home, or for the workday to be short and limited. Look for ways to cut stress from employees’ plates, such as letting them commute to work a little later so that they miss the heavy traffic and clean-up that could be required due to the shooting.”
  4. Try to find a silver lining. “The holiday season is an especially hard time to grapple with grief and terror, but it also offers many opportunities to make the world a better place. Try to bring cheer and a sense of office camaraderie to your workplace again by hosting a toy drive for a local charity or by inviting your staff to pitch in at a local homeless shelter. You can also remember victims through offering donations to the family.”
  5. Keep political talk of out of the office—and off social media. “This is an important time to remind staff that the office is not the place for political debate, and neither are their social media pages if they interact with clients and other coworkers on these sites. It’s not the time to post gun control memes or the time to debate how the President should handle terrorism. Focus on healing and unity, not on divisive debates.”
  6. Lastly, ask employees to follow the “see something, say something” motto. “Ask your employees to keep their eyes and ears open for anything that might be a sign of trouble,” says Wilson, “Have an open door policy and let employees know that they will not be penalized for sharing their fears, even if that fear turns out to be unfounded. We all need to be responsible for keeping our workplaces violence-free.”

Keep an eye out for warning signs, some of which may include:

  1. Sudden and frequent absences from the workplace
  2. Erratic Behavior
    • Complaints of unfair treatment
    • Disruptive to the work environment
    • Disrespect of management/supervisors
    • Frequent outbursts of anger
    • Depression
  3. Be aware of social postings.  Many companies implement tracking of employees’ social postings.
  4. History of violence
    • Fascinated with incidence of workplace violence
    • Shows an extreme interest in weaponry
  5. Personal/family issues.  Frequent talk about a troubled family life.

For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at rwilson@thewilsoncompanies.com.