The Empire State Building & NJ Supermarket Shootings: An HR Wake Up Call
The horrific shootings that took place at an Old Bridge, NJ, supermarket last week and in front of the Empire State Building in Manhattan a the week before that are grim reminders to all of us in the human resources community not to take safety at work for granted. We need to make sure that we address the complex and important issues of workplace violence in preventive, responsive and responsible ways.
As these stories continue to unfold in the media, we will get a better picture of what transpired prior to each of these crimes. In the case of the Empire State Building shootings, the victim had previously filed a complaint against the shooter, a former employee whom he believed might try to kill him because of unresolved job issues. In the case of the New Jersey grocery store tragedy, the shooter’s Twitter account allegedly had troubling posts describing his thoughts of killing co-workers.
Of course hindsight is always 20-20, but managers and employers can still take steps to help reduce the risks of workplace violence. Things like:
- Performing good, solid background checks when hiring, whenever possible and appropriateCarefully listening to references for job candidates being considered for positions, and taking note of exactly what is said, how something is said and what is left unsaid
- Creating emergency plans that include clear communication and evacuation strategies
- Instituting a workplace violence policy and putting it in employee handbooks
- Establishing a means of reporting issues for employees (and if need be customers) that they would feel comfortable enough to actually use
- Prohibiting weapons and firearms on all company property for non-security personnel, whenever possible by law
- Training managers on how to detect, circumvent and deal with intimidating, threatening or violent behaviors
“Training managers on how to manage with empathy and compassion is a something that oftentimes gets overlooked, but is an important part of workplace violence prevention,” says Tina Hamilton, president and CEO of hireVision. There are cases where workplace conflicts arise and managers, for whatever reason, don’t attempt to understand why employees are acting the way they do. “When managers try to figure out why an employee feels it is acceptable to perform in a particular manner, instead of just focusing on just what he or she is doing wrong, that’s huge. Making an effort to do that can prevent so much trouble down the line.”
Hamilton suggests that managers get quality training on how to relate and communicate with their employees. “I like to ask myself questions like ‘Does this employee think this behavior is ok? Can I figure out why?’ You get much better results when you work from that premise,” says Hamilton. And in the case of workplace bullying or tension, that might just mean defusing a potential time bomb before the unthinkable occurs.
Outsourcing Can Help Make a Better Workplace
hireVision’s HR DirectLink services are targeted outsourced HR processes that help companies provide more of what employers and employees need to help keep workplaces productive, positive and safe. This includes employee retention and support needs. HR DirectLink is not a hotline or call center, but a customized human resources service that’s so integrated into your environment that you’ll think we’re sitting in the office next door—and, if that’s what you need, we can be sitting right there, too.
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