Keeping Workplace Violence Away

Over the last month, the debate around gun control has been front and center, amplified by social media and media coverage. While your employees’ values and interests may range across the spectrum, questions around security, crisis management, and workplace resources might be top of mind for your workforce in the current climate.

To be proactive and address employee concerns, companies should consider implementing best practices along with providing tools, resources, and training to mitigate workplace violence and reduce costly liabilities.

Understanding Disruptive Behavior

Most employees, guests, or vendors do not turn violent overnight. However, one in six violent crimes happen at work. (source) Employers miss the signs because our idea of violence is too limited. In some situations, the aggressor is not directly connected to the Company (i.e. domestic partners).

One of the best defenses a company can use in combating workplace violence is early detection of disruptive behavior or changes. Some of the telltale signs include:

  1. A pattern of tardiness, absenteeism
  2. Disconnection from job functions or lack of focus
  3. Changes in attitude (i.e. isolated or aggressive towards co-workers)
  4. A decline in self-care (i.e. hygiene, appearance)
  5. An expressed interest in weapons

Note: Determining if an employee is a threat should be separate from progressive discipline.

ReminderThe greatest predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Has the employee acted out in an aggressive manner in the past?

Planning Ahead


Managers should be coached on how to manage workplace bullying, harassment, and tracking changes in behavior. Ensure all employees are aware of ways in which they can escalate concerns, admissions of depression or traumas, domestic violence, and/or threats. Having a broad workplace violence policy can provide clear guidelines.

Reminder: Some states and localities allow individuals to carry a concealed weapon. However, employers are entitled to prohibit employees from bringing weapons into work. Companies can communicate these policies via signage outside their workplace. Employers should review their building’s policy guidelines to ensure it aligns with their concealed carry policy.

Open Communication

Create an environment where employees and managers can report concerning behavior or interactions, which will allow HR or on-site management to intervene and ask questions such as “How are you doing?”. With early detection, HR can provide guidance on company resources available and determine the crux of behavior change.


If you don’t have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), reach out to your health care broker about adding this benefit. EAPs offer employees the ability to meet with counselors anonymously about issues going on inside and outside work. Some programs provide on site assessment of threat levels. Providing access to an HR hotline or posting Suicide Prevention information in high traffic areas can encourage employees to reach out for help.

Act Quickly

Once a situation is identified, immediately evaluate to determine validity, assess the information gathered and move forward with managing the situation. Every situation will be unique, so the method for moving forward should be analyzed throughout the process.

Partner with Local Law Enforcement

Police and fire officials are trained in de-escalation as well as implementing escape plans. Some departments will come to your location and train staff on these plans. Don’t rely on your HR expertise to complete this difficult task; lean on the experts.

While it is unclear how the federal and state governments will affect change on this topic, companies can mitigate damages by implementing policies and procedures designed to respond to and manage disruptive behavior. Providing employees with necessary resources, along with open channels of communication and clear guidelines around workplace violence, will help solidify the company’s commitment to the prevention of workplace violence.