A survey by SHRM (Society of HR Managers, a nonproft which represents 115 million workers) reports that 50% of workers feel affected by workplace violence.* This figure is up from 36% from eight years ago. Further, one in seven workers does not feel safe at work. One-third assert that they would not know what to do if violence occurred.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identified 392 workplace homicides in 2020. There were also 37,060 nonfatal workplace injuries in 2020 intentionally inflicted by another person.
Despite these statistics, there are these testimonials:
I work at a corporation in a large city. It has 120 employees and workplace violence has never been discussed. - Sherri
I have worked at a college for 38 years and workplace violence has never been broached.
I have worked at a nonprofit where we have a highly disgruntled employee who has filed a multiplicity of discrimination and harassment complaints. Yet, workplace violence has never been covered. We fear every day at work. - Derrick
*In this blog entry, workplace violence is defined as involving workplace present and past employees.
It seems as if most workplaces:
Hope and pray that they are not the site for violence.
Fear and hate conflict so they do not intervene at early stages.
Assume that theirs is a culture of effective communication and satisfied workers.
All three assumptions are erroneous and have led to the cited above statistics. The right approach is for workplaces to:
Take a prevention approach. Teach and train workers how to effectively communicate, how to manage emotions and how to handle differences.
Confront differences, conflicts, communication issues, harassments, bullying at the very beginning: aka “nip it in the bud.”
Plan for the unthinkable: active shooters and other violence.
One way to accomplish this is incorporating effective courses such as AMA’s (American Management Association) course Managing Emotions in the Workplace: Strategies for Success. What a valuable course! This course reminds participants the value of:
Managing (not eliminating) emotions in the workplace towards a productive end.
How to prevent conflict and workplace violence by effective communication and intervention.
How stress can affect our health. Some speculate that 70% of doctor visits can be related to stress.
Chesapeake, Virginia Walmart Shooter Kills 6, Injurs 4
A 31 year old Walmart worker named Andre Bing, who felt harassed, buys a pistol one morning and kills 6. Four others were injured, three of them by gunfire. Bing takes his own life. The resultant $50 million lawsuit describes the toxic environment at this Walmart Supercenter #1841 workplace. The following is described directly from the lawsuit:
- Plaintiff Donya Prioleau had been employed with Walmart as an overnight stock and trainer since May 26, 2021.
- The mass shooter, Andre Bing, was a team lead with Walmart and responsible for managing the overnight stocking crew, including Ms Prioleau.
- Walmart had employed Mr. Bing since 2010.
- Upon information and belief, Mr. Bing had been disciplined on several occasions during his employment with Walmart.
- Mr. Bing reinstated as team lead.
- Mr. Bing’s behavior prior to the shooting put Walmart on notice that Mr. Bing was violent and could harm others.
- Walmart’s management, including others, had received numerous reports that Mr. Bing was bullying, threatening and harassing, other employees.
- Prior to the shooting, Mr. Bing asked Ms Prioleau if she like guns.
-Prior to the shooting, Mr. Bing had told store employees, including managers, that if he was ever fired, he would retaliate and “people will remember my name.”
-Prior to the shooting, Mr. Bing repeatedly asked coworkers if they had received their active shooter training.
-Upon information and belief, Mr. Bing had a personal vendetta against several Walmart employees and kept “a kill list” of potential targets prior to the shooting.
-Upon information and belief, Walmart and its managers were aware of Mr. Bing’s behavior and threats, but kept employing him anyway.
-Despite Mr. Bing’s long-standing pattern of disturbing and threatening behavior, Walmart did not enact any preventative measures to keep Walmart customers and employees safe.
Walmart employee James Kelly filed a second $50 million lawsuit.
Kelly alleges in the lawsuit that Bing verbally harassed and badgered him during his employment. He also alleges that Bing “was known for being a mean and cruel supervisor,” and that Kelly complained to Walmart about Bing's behavior prior to the shooting.
Walmart responded to the lawsuit Tuesday:
“… We are focused on supporting all our associates with significant resources, including counseling. We are reviewing the complaint and will be responding as appropriate with the court.”
Walmart does have a well-being website. Maintaining a wellness website and contributing to nonprofits are helpful on a macro corporate public relations level. But, this situation seems to have fallen apart on a daily, substantive level.
Needed: A Comprehensive, Multi-Faceted Substantive Response.
Mentally and Physically Healthy Workers are Productive Workers
What causes stress? Just about everything. The workplace is surely one great source of stress. Stress causes many health ailments and exacerbates others. Everyone at the workplace has an interest in decreasing stress. So, how does a workplace manage stress?
First, identify the source. Is the source:
A poorly behaving boss or employee?
Communication among generations? (For example, some Older Workers refer to some new workers as “Youngsters.” These new workers probably will find this moniker demeaning and insensitive.)
Sometimes, it helps to keep notes (journal). It may surprise some folks what the actual source of stress is.
Second, try to eliminate or decrease the source. For example, are staff meetings necessary or could they be improved?
Third, if one cannot eliminate the source, try to reframe it. Stretch to find some positive aspects to the task.
Fourth, find coping mechanisms for the source that cannot be eliminated. Think about yoga, meditation, breaks, etc.
Some workers take great pride in never taking breaks including a lunch break. That is not wise according to doctors. Physiologically, people need workplace breaks. Taking a lunch break does not require eating. Instead, walk around the block, do stress relieving exercises, go to the gym, go one a drive. Research is clear that those workers who take breaks are more productive.
Balancing Personal and Work Life
What if your Doctor knew your full story, not just your symptoms? People need to be realistic. Health and family issues will invariably affect workplace performance.
Being Open and Sharing at Work
The JoHari Instrument and Exercise demonstrates that the happiest and most productive workers are those who are approximately about 80% open about their personal and professional lives.
Emotions and Personalities are Ever Present.
Keep emotions out of this!
Keep personalities out of this!
Workers will often hear these admonitions. What they really mean is that the specific worker should keep their emotions or personalities out of it.
The workplace needs to be realistic that emotions and personalities are a part of every workplace situation. Workers need to be constantly reminded that workers have various personalities. Occasionally taking the Myers-Briggs or Thomas Kilmann Conflict Management Instrument or D.O.P.E. (different personalities cataloged by the birds: Dove, Owl, Peacock and Eagle) instruments can be helpful. These personality types result in differing behaviors. So, workers tend to approach tasks differently. A good assumption is:
People do and say things that make sense for them at the time.
If it makes no sense to other workers, they need to put their heads on that person’s shoulder or simply ask them in a civil way: What’s the reason you did this task in this way? The answer may be surprising.
Example: Employee A kept asking Employee B to assist them with projects. This frustrated B because B thought A had had ample training to accomplish these tasks. Finally, B simply asked A. A said "I enjoy working with you and two heads are better than one. We, as a team, create a better result." Voila!
Part of this realism is that emotions can be motivating and relieving. For example, crying is a great stress reliever.
The Human Resources Department Needs to be Transformed from an Administrative Entity to a Vital Part of Management.
It is probably wise for HR to outsource administrative tasks to such groups as Paychex, HR Solutions, ADP, etc. A vital HR will be seated at the management table. They will be in the forefront of conflict prevention and management. They will spot problems in their genesis and intervene.
Management Should Make It Clear That Contacting the Police on Criminal Issues Will Not Jeopardize Their Jobs.
Workers should be encouraged to access the workplace conflict resolution system. At the same time, when it comes to crime or the possibility of a criminal act, workers should not feel hesitancy to approach the local police and law enforcement.
Workplace Security May Need to be More Empowered.
In today’s society when many think of security, they think of the CVS security guard standing and watching while folks run in, break glass and snatch and go. This is not the image workplaces want for security. Security should be empowered. Like HR, they should be spotting issues and problems from the beginning and actively intervening.
It seems as if present security is more form than substance. Think of the violence upon Paul Pelosi, husband of the U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. How did the perpetrator hop over the fence, break the glass door, and get at Pelosi when there was supposed to be top security?
At a local District of Columbia mall the security hide out in corners of the lobby. They symbolize no deterrent. They do not seem to be in great shape and one wonders what they could do if they have to intervene.
98% of Lawsuits are Negotiated Out of Court. Is that a good thing?
At first blush, this statistic seems to be a good thing, but what are the negative implications of this? Maybe the risk assessors need different metrics. Maybe this process of quickly and confidentially settling lawsuits at any cost is actually encouraging lawsuits or the threat of them. Maybe the present process sets the stage for HR and managers to be fearful of taking needed disciplinary actions.
Red Flag Laws Need to be Examined and Understood.
The workplace and workers need to be aware of their local red flag laws in case they may play a role.
According to Wikipedia:
In the United States, a red flag law is a gun control law that permits a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who they believe may present a danger to others or themselves. Nineteen states have such laws.
Action is needed, not fake but substantive. Employees have the right to feel safe and be safe. This needs to be priority number one.
Could workplaces have avoided Parkland, FL’s Marjory Stoneman High School shooting in 2018; Colorado’s Columbine High School (13 victims in 1999), Buffalo’s Tops Market (10 victims), El Paso Walmart (23 victims), Club Q Colorado Springs or Orlando’s Pulse Night Club? Possibly, if the workplace emphasized substance over form.
50% of the surveyed workers say they are more stressed now than 2 years ago. 59% blame the workplace. Stanford leadership professor Jeffrey Pfeffer claims the workplace is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. He cites “social pollution” or harmful practices such as long work hours, absence of job control, micromanaging.
Workplaces need to re-examine their priorities. Workplace violence needs to be more important than holiday parties, pats on the back, ceremonial plaques, dress codes, or being woke.
Finally workers need to know they are valued: that is, that they matter. Fifty-one percent of the employees who recently quit cited their lack of belonging as central. Mattering is not only good for the workers’ well being but for the company’s bottom line. Mattering means treating employees fairly, involving them in decision-making. This mattering has a spillover effect creating a culture of positivity.
Resources -SHRM - The Voice of All Things Work
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR association, with 300,000 members creating better workplaces. SHRM - The Voice of All Things Work
-Fairygodboss is a hiring platform for women designed to help employers attract and recruit female professionals in a variety of industries both in the U.S. and abroad. The platform aims to promote gender diversity in the workplace and offers employers a range of recruitment services to find top candidates.
-Workplace Violence - Overview | Occupational Safety and ...
Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.
-Workplace Violence | CISA
As defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, “a workplace violence incident is a verbal, written, or physically aggressive threat or attack intended to intimidate, cause injury or death to others in a place of employment”. The General Duty Clause, Section 5 (a) (1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act directs employers to provide a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm”.
-ARTICLE: Important need for "connection" before content.
Rich McLaughlin | 609-577-3072
Author: Tapping Team Intelligence, 2020; The Rules of Engagement, 2009
Certified in: MBTI,TMP, EQi - 2.0, CCL's Benchmarks, HBDI, Barrett Values, Experience Innovation
-“Mass Shooting Playbook” produced by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. The guide was created by the nonprofit Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University.