The shooting on Friday in Aurora Illinois at a manufacturing plant brought the harsh reality of gun violence into sharp focus for employers of all sizes. Many are currently focusing on active shooter protocols, checking policies, and ensuring proper procedures are in place in case the unthinkable happens. The common training method of RUN HIDE FIGHT is being echoed through many offices this week. While these are incredibly important policies to have in place and training to provide, I would urge you to also look at your policies and procedures that may help stop these events from occurring. Active engaged managers, high employee morale and engagement, along with a comprehensive progressive disciplinary system that urges tolerance, understanding, and acceptance may help decrease acts of violence.

Along with ensuring a strong connection between you and your employees, there are often important warning signs that occur before a violent incident. However, just as often, these warning signs are only seen in hindsight. Being aware of changes in attitude and behavior can help stop a violent incident. Some warning signs may include (this is a non-inclusive list, for more information, this is an excellent source from the Department of Labor):

  • Pushing the limits of acceptable conduct or disregarding the health and safety of others.
  • Disrespect for authority.
  • Refusal to acknowledge job performance problems.
    Faulty decision making.
  • Testing the limits to see what they can get away with.
    Swearing or emotional language.
  • Complaints of unfair personal treatment.
  • Talking about the same problems repeatedly without resolving them.
  • Social isolation.
  • Holds grudges, especially against his or her supervisor.
    Verbalizes hope that something negative will happen to the person against whom he or she has the grudge.

If you notice a change in behavior patterns, a frequency or intensity that is disruptive to the work environment, or that the person is exhibiting multiple behaviors, it may be time to get help.

  1. Start by talking to the employee, find out how they are and if there is anything you can do.
  2. Offer a safe space for the person to express themselves. Including expressing their frustrations about work.
  3. Explore options with the employee, including time off of work to take care of personal problems or accommodations to make work more manageable.

When you feel like you can’t help, reach out to others that can. Your company EAP is a great place to start. OSHA also offers several resources for training, prevention, and assistance . And of course, if you ever feel you or your employees are in danger, 911 is always the right call.

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