Workplace Violence Gets Personal

Christine L. Peterson, CPP, ISP Training, Workplace Violence, WPV Support, WPV Threat Assessment, WPV Training


Last night I had the opportunity to address the Raleigh Financial Executive Networking Group (FENG) and lead a presentation on Managing Aggressive Behavior & Workplace Violence (workplace violence). This particular opportunity to train industry leaders was especially meaningful to me as I was giving thanks for the safety of one of my nieces. She attends STEM School Highlands Ranch where a recent shooting occurred.

As a company, we at Protus3 work often with companies doing threat assessments and guiding them on the appropriate response to a perceived workplace violence threat. Archilochus, c. 645 BCE, once said, “We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training”. As security professionals, we absolutely know that this is accurate. We can cite countless stories and statistics to support the critical importance of training as the foundation for the best outcomes in a security event.

What is Security?

As a business leaders, communities, and families, we all have to understand that security events are deliberate actions by people to cause harm. They are not accidental, happenstance, or negligence.

People who are motivated to cause harm do so for many reasons, but they all share a common trait. They must have at least the perception that they will be successful. That is why all security programs are developed in layers with critical assets being located within multiple layers.  What are these layers?  Controlled entry, controlled access, policies and procedures, awareness, lighting and CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) and training, training, training…

Trained Responses and Untrained Responses

Security training prepares people to respond to the unexpected and – quite frankly – sometimes the unthinkable. It creates a heightened sense of situational awareness that supports best outcomes. It also starts conversations that bind groups of people together, builds relationships, and sheds light on anomalies that no one had noticed before. This applies to all aspects of an organization’s security program. These conversations allow organizations to address issues in a responsive rather than a reactive manner.

trained and untrained responses

There is no doubt in my mind that my niece is alive today because of the training and awareness programs that she and her fellow students, faculty, staff, and law enforcement received. As far as my niece goes, I know that training she had received at school was supported by conversations that she had with her parents and other family members. The training and awareness that each of these groups received allowed them to respond appropriately.

In a perfect world there would be no workplace violence events. As I shared in the training last night, policies, procedures, and communication training support better outcomes with workplace violence. Training increases awareness and supports solutions that keep emotions from escalating and growing into tragic events. For the unthinkable, Run-Hide-Fight saves lives.

run-hide-fight
Our Responsibility

“We don’t want to scare anyone.” As businesses and organizations, it’s time that we stop using this as an excuse for not addressing workplace violence. The OSHA General Duty Clause states that every employer “shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

As long as our organizations are made up of people, we are going to have workplace violence issues. They are foreseeable, and we have a responsibility to train our employees on the company’s workplace violence policies. “See Something, Say Something.” As an organization, how are we going to respond to events?

We also have a responsibility to give employees all the tools they will need to survive an active shooter event. The chances of it ever happening are very low, but the criticality is immense. We should treat it no differently than we do fire drills.

Yesterday brought a new normal for the STEM School Highlands Ranch community. As so many other communities and organizations who have experienced similar events know, they will carry a piece of this event with them for the rest of their lives. What do you take away? How can we learn from their experience to better protect ourselves, our families, and our professional organizations? You can make the difference.