When Violence Impacts the Workplace

Lorrie Ray, Director, Membership Development

In light of the incident at the theater in Aurora, Colorado, it’s important to understand how employers can respond to employees who may be impacted by such a tragedy.

There are a number of steps to take:

1. Determine the extent to which the incident impacts employees who work at your organization.  Bad news tends to travel quickly, so you are likely to know soon after the incident.  At the same time, it’s important to gather as much information as possible by keeping lines of communication open.

2. Provide the needed support to an employee, depending on the level of impact.  This could involve a range of responses.  These types of tragedies have waves that ripple through workplaces in the area.  Many employees will likely know someone affected, either directly or indirectly.

3. Employees working where a tragedy occurs often need immediate medical support, followed by counseling.  Some employers have brought counselors on site after violent incidents to provide the emotional support necessary to all employees soon after the incident.  This type of intervention can be very effective.

4. Offer available options.  Employees who have lost loved ones or friends, or who are dealing with the injuries, shock, and fear of loved ones or friends may need a short-term or extended leave of absence.  A referral to an employee assistance program (EAP) or other counseling provided by health insurance may also be appropriate.

5. Create a calm environment at your workplace.  Even employees who did not know anyone impacted by the event will be distracted and upset.  To the extent possible, allow employees extra time to check in with their colleagues to make certain they are okay.  Also, encourage managers and supervisors to be calm and understanding, expressing concern for their subordinates.

While violence is not preventable, having a plan in place to help your employees is the first step on the road to recovery.  If you need assistance, please call us at 800.884.1328.