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We’re a good company. We like each other. Do we really need to be concerned?

By Vaughn Baker President, Strategos International

First of all, if you have a happy and healthy workplace, congratulations! That’s no small feat.

Your upbeat environment probably makes the thought of someone showing up with a gun inconceivable. But this sentiment misunderstands the reality of on-the-job violence.

“In some ways, the phrase “workplace violence” could be considered a misnomer. It implies the violence is caused by or related to a job. Most of the time, however, the workplace is simply the location and not the cause.”

The majority of workplace shootings are motivated by factors outside the office – chiefly conflicts in personal relationships.

Domestic violence: It leaves home One in four women report being victims of domestic violence. An employee may have split from her domestic partner and moved to an unlisted address. But her ex knows where she works.

Numerous shootings start with this scenario. And when they happen, people outside the conflict are often caught in the crossfire.

In January, a Mississippi man pled guilty to first-degree murder for shooting his wife as she walked out of the pediatric clinic where she worked. According to the prosecution, he told her days earlier that “If I had a gun, I would blow your brains out.”

The U.S. Secret Service’s 2017 analysis of mass attacks reports that only one in five incidents stemmed from a workplace grievance.

That means that even if you could successfully address every in-house problem, 80 percent of the attacks would still be fueled by factors outside the office. And the majority of these have roots in personal and relational issues.

What to do? Workplaces, of course, must begin with a zero-tolerance policy for violence. But they must do more than this. Employees need a safe, confidential way to report threats to their well being that come from within and outside the workplace.

Why?

Because a victim of domestic violence is not only personally at risk. The entire workplace could face an attack.

Employees may initially be reluctant to share such things at work. But, when given proper education about risks and assurances about confidentiality, they will be more likely to speak up.

And lives may be saved because of it.

Other attackers In addition to assaults related to domestic violence, other outside attacks could come from:

  • Criminals with no connection to your workplace. If an employee discovers a burglary in process, she could be injured or killed.

  • Disgruntled customers or vendors.

  • Ideological attackers (political, religious, anti-religious).

And we can never rule out an “inside job.” When it comes to people – even our own employees – things are often not what they seem. That was the case with Professor Amy Bishop, a Harvard-trained neurobiologist and mother of four. At a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, she pulled out a pistol and starting blowing her colleagues away one by one.

So, why would anyone attack your workplace? The short answer is that we live in an evil world where anything is possible. But courageous and noble actions are possible, too.

Forewarned is forearmed.

If you have a great workplace, then work hard to keep it that way. Start by making plans to improve security. Today.


Vaughn Baker is the president of Strategos International and the co-author, with Mark Warren, of “Active Threat: Workplace 911.”