Some Thoughts About How to Prevent Gun Violence in the Workplace
Although it did not happen in the workplace, the recent mass shooting in
Las Vegas is a fresh reminder of a serious problem that faces employers in the
United States. How do you protect your employees from gun violence?
Starting with the obvious, many employers have developed policies that
prohibit employees from possessing firearms in the workplace, although in many
states they cannot prohibit employees from storing firearms in their vehicles
or in company parking lots. Beefing up the physical security of the workplace
can also make your employees safer: better lighting and alarms and minimizing
access by outsiders through badges and electronic keys.
Unfortunately, while effective against certain threats, these
traditional precautionary measures for preventing gun violence in the workplace
are unlikely to discourage an employee who is intent on harming his coworkers. So
what are some other things that an employer can do?
For one, companies should establish a zero-tolerance policy toward
workplace violence and harassment and encourage employees to report any person
(coworker, contractor, or customer) who acts aggressively or in an antisocial
manner, even if there is no actual violence involved. Supervisors and human
resources managers, in turn, should not ignore any behaviors that come to their
attention. Such behaviors need to be addressed even if they are not the type of
behaviors that would typically result in discipline. Remember, however, that
some supervisors may be better than others at counseling employees who have
difficulties dealing with stress in the workplace — HR should be mindful of who
takes the lead in these sometimes difficult conversations.
Finally, every time I read about a mass shooter, I wonder if things
might have been different if they had been able to talk to a professional about
what was happening in their lives. What would have happened if they had called
their company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? Unfortunately, the
information about most companies’ EAP is often hidden somewhere on the company
intranet. For this reason, I urge you to continually remind your employees that
this benefit exists to help them and that they should not hesitate to use this
benefit even when dealing with minor stresses. While there is only so much an
employer can do, these steps might prevent a problem before it even becomes