While the events in Parkland, Florida last month are devastating and leave us all quite shaken, the reality is, acts of violence are far too commonplace in our country and the workplace is no exception. Preventing them is important, and something we should continue to discuss. But in the meantime, we can take steps to prepare for a potential incident in our own spheres – including at the office.
The best plan for addressing workplace violence should be in place long before it’s needed, and may include the following:
- Have an intruder plan. Schools across the country now engage students and teachers in intruder drills and the workplace should as well. While the idea of playing out a violent incident can be disturbing for some, knowing what to do can help people remain calm and potentially save lives. Add intermittent training drills to your company calendar and stick to them.
- Don’t ignore warning signs. Most incidents of workplace violence involve a current employee or someone related to them. Keep up on potential threats and you may diffuse a situation before it’s too late. To start, use pre-employment background checks to avoid hiring someone with a recent history of aggression. Additionally, domestic disputes can find their way into the workplace, so take steps to minimize the risk. This may include a workplace aggression policy that requires current employees to notify HR or management of any personal incidents involving the law.
- Handle internal risks with care. Disgruntled or emotionally unstable employees can pose a threat to the workplace and co-workers should be comfortable addressing their concerns about them. Consider setting up an anonymous way for people report a potential threat so concerns are heard. In addition, when addressing the individual in question, do so with respect and consideration, but also make sure they know angry outbursts won’t be tolerated.
- Bring in backup. If an employee gives any indication that they mean to do harm to another employee such as a direct threat, it may be time to bring in law enforcement or additional security. While this can be disruptive and potentially expensive, creating a safe environment for everyone should be the priority.
Whether we like it or not, preparing for potential violence in the workplace is a reality today. When you are prepared, you’ll be more likely to escape alive – and help others do so in the process.