crime scene

Tips to Mitigate and Respond to Workplace Violence

E. DeGasero/AP Photo

When workplace violence hits your company or community, statistics do not matter.  The community of Manchester, Connecticut and employees of Hartford Distributors probably know that all too well after yesterday’s tragedy

For the rest of us who follow these situations and wonder if lessons are evident, the statistics provide some context.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workplace homicides have fallen 52 percent between 1994 – 2008.  Yet, nearly 2 million U.S. workers still fall victim to workplace assaults.  And 70 percent of U.S. workplaces do not have a formal program or policy in place to address the problem.  (See page 14:  http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osch0033.pdf)   Thus, while most experts concede that workplace violence cannot always be prevented, there is clear room for improvement from the private sector. 

Eventually, the media cycle in Manchester will lead to questions on Hartford Distributors’ values, corporate environment (indeed, early reports suggest some racial intolerance directed at the suspect) and its overall focus on workplace safety.    Time will tell if the company had adequate measures to protect their employees.  Companies that do have best-practices to help minimize these situations typically:  

  • Approach violence prevention strategies through a multidisciplinary team approach
  • Conduct thorough background checks when making new hires
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for any threatening or harassment activities in the workplace
  • Provide diversity and sensitivity training
  • Conduct recurrent manager-as-communicator trainings
  • Treat employees in a humane manner during disciplinary actions and/or terminations
  • Consider personality testing  
  • Monitor employee misbehavior and address situations immediately when there are “caution flags” of concern
  • Take all threats seriously and respond appropriately

Despite all of those steps, workplace tragedies can still occur.  When they do, organizations must be ready to: 

  • Respond quickly and with genuine empathyto media and key audiences (Note:  when suspects are still at-large, this must be coordinated very closely with law-enforcement officials as not to impede the investigation)
  • Provide counseling for family members and employees
  • Organize/support  victim memorial services
  • Participate in hospital visits/memorial services, as appropriate
  • Work closely with community leaders and authorities
  • Provide appropriate vehicles to express condolences and information (coordinated closely with victims’ families)

Do you have any additional mitigation or response best-practices to share?  If so, please provide your thoughts in the comments section below.

Aug. 5 update:  Here’s a link to another article with steps HR can take to prevent workplace violence.

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