Monday, September 13, 2010

Workplace Shootings - Did we do Enough - What is Enough?

If you are working in human resources you are undoubtedly familiar with bullying in the workplace. When bullying graduates, it can turn into violence in the workplace – beatings, shooting and killings. We saw this play out again on 9/9/2010 in a Kraft Plant in Philadelphia,

This comes on the heels of nine fatalities  8/3/2010 shooting near Hartford, CT

Not to be brazen but these are the most two recent events that come to mind when I think about Violence in the Workplace (VITW). There are many more of these if you care to do a Google search  or two. When this happens there is someone who has committed a crime- a felony, and if the perpetrator isn’t killed, they will go to jail.

Sadly the a human resource staffer or office is targeted in these attacks, and then are assailed after the fact, by the media and local government officials for not having resolved these conditions which may have caused this employee to go berserk. HR is supposed to fix societal ills. Well that's where I think we need some guidance and assistance.

The H.R. community needs SHRM or OHSA or some leadership or government agency to step up and provide guidance on this matter. What is a reasonable level of due diligence? That is the question we need answered. Once answered then it needs to be codified of adopted or somehow put in place so that each employer or industry segment has the same cost to bear. For example if all office buildings are required to have an armed guard, then all offices will have the same cost to bear. If all retailers are required to have four video cameras in their parking lot, then that cost will be born by all those in that industry – thus keeping the playing field level and providing the employer with some feeling that they have done thier due diligence.

Employers will do what is required of them, and most will do it at a reasonable level, but after our people get shot at we sure don’t need someone in the media to assail our workplaces which they say may drive people to violent acts. We need guidance on what is reasonable.

-Dave Ryan IL SHRM Director of Socail Media


  1. The problem is the continued reliance on external guidance and leadership when the solution is an engaging proactive corporate commitment to addressing the threat of workplace violence. The problem continues to be a lack of C-Suite commitment to dedicate resources. Years earlier, OSHA identified the collaboration of resources and recommended proactive strategies to help reduce and manage the threat of violence. Instead of implementing multiple interdiction strategies companies relied on training as the solution.

  2. Why has it become a sudden discussion when major surveys conducted by prominent organizations dating back to 1989 identified workplace violence as a major workplace threat. In a 2003 Pinkerton Survey and Report of Fortune 500 companies, workplace violence was ranked as the number 1, 2 or 3 workplace threat 10 years in a row, and ranked the number one threat in 7 of those years.

  3. Thanks for you comments Felix. Your points all support my position that someone needs to lead or show business the way on this issue. It has been identified, now let's try to fix it. - Dave

  4. The status quo on this issue will continue until the perpetrators KNOW they will be held responsible to those who are sickened and traumatized (PTSD!) by the outcomes. To do this, we have an urgent need for policy, practices, and personal accountability for those who do the bullying. Global research points to this over and over. We have been working with the Illinois Assembly to get this done for the good of our State, our workers, and their families. The business community has not only withheld their help, they have fought us for doing what is right. We want to save jobs, not kill them as many are led to believe. In the meantime, innocent HR workers are not only being blamed: They, too, are being traumatized by the work abuse they witness and are powerless to stop.

    Remember when spousal abuse, animal abuse, child abuse and sexual harassment, were legal? Work abuse still is. Only 20% of harassment at work is presently considered illegal because it can be pinned on illegal discrimination. (WBI-Zogby International) The bullies know this!

  5. The fixing challenge is in the realm of the lack of accountability. Until those responsible for packaging the evidence show how it affects their workplaces, it seems apparent to most that absent an incident nothing will motivate change.

    Following September 11, 2001, workplace violence was still a major workplace security threat. In their 2004 Workplace Violence Survey conducted by the American Society of Safety Engineers reported that workplace violence was the number one workplace security threat, as it was reported in their 1989 survey. There is no rationale or justification for the lack of accountable leadership in properly adopting policies and programs in the face of these revealing statistics. In fact, in 2005 a Department of Labor Survey reported that 70% of American
    businesses do not have a workplace violence policy or program in place. Therein lies the evidence for having the commitment discussion. We can't argue that it takes leadership and commitment, when we can't motivate our CEOs to see the problem from their perches.