From the Washington Navy Yard shooting to the multiple post office killings that occurred in the mid-90s, mass murder at the workplace by disgruntled current and former employees has been widely covered by the media. While dramatic incidents on this scale have immediate and drastic consequences for the businesses involved, they actually account for a very small number of workplace violence incidents.
The U.S. department defines workplace violence includes acts or threats that may include assault, domestic violence, stalking, intimidation, harassment and physical or emotional abuse according to the FBI. The majority of these workplace violence events fail to make headlines. In fact, many workers never even report them to their supervisors or managers. Regardless, steps must be taken to minimize this potential situation from happening.
Violence often starts with an unhappy employee. For example, a meeting between an employee and supervisor could result in the employee being angry, and he or she could decide to retaliate in some form. Your company should have a communication policy that allows an employee to speak openly and candidly with management without fear of retribution.
Whether you’re running a small business or a large corporation, your company personnel can prevent workplace violence by implementing proper pre-employment screening procedures with an employment background check company. While there are sometimes circumstances that cause individuals with no previous record of violent behavior to lash out, only a careful scrutiny of local, state and federal criminal records as part of a background check can identify those with violent pasts or prior convictions.
Other steps you can take to prevent workplace violence —in addition to partnering with appropriate employment background check companies—include:
- Establish a culture with zero-tolerance for violence. Make sure your employees know that this includes bullying, yelling, intimidation and harassment as well as actual physical altercations.
- Encourage employees to report all threats or violent acts immediately. Make it easy and comfortable for them to contact a supervisor, human resources representative or the company owner to talk about potential concerns.
- Create a policy for responding to workplace violence incidents. In a zero-tolerance company, you may elect to terminate any employee who is proven guilty of engaging in workplace violence. Other possible disciplinary actions include written warnings, demotions or suspension without pay. Distribute the policy to all employees so everyone understands the consequence of negative actions.