Work Place Violence: Looking Out for Each Other

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An article in InvestmentNews Daily on March 12 by Bruce Kelly describes the terror experienced by a company in the same building where a gunman shot two brokers (father and son): “My people were scared to death.” Apparently, the company employees, clients and owner heard about the incident by way of a television report and also public announcement in the building.

While we can’t eliminate the possibility of work place violence, we can certainly find ways to reduce the potential and also make our work place safe and enjoyable. Focus on observation and looking out for each other coupled with an environment that encourages communication.

It’s good to be an optimist! Let’s apply that optimism where it can best help others and our work place. I am sure you have talked with your clients and employees over the last year and a half regarding the economy and how to continue working together to reach the clients’ and the business’s financial goals. People have been part of this emotional and financial upheaval. Just as it seems things may be “looking up,” there still may be some emotional downturns affecting people. Let’s talk to our employees about how to be on the lookout for behaviors in others that could signal problems ahead.    

1. Use this current event to talk to employees about instituting a “watch out for each other” campaign that involves the clients as well. Instead of announcing a policy, talk about what you as the business owner want to achieve—a work place safe and enjoyable to come to. Talk about how it takes everyone’s work  and care to make that happen.

2. Ask employees for their  input on a work place policy (if you don’t have one already). Make sure employees understand that there is a safe and confidential process (beyond reproach or retribution) where they can come and talk about someone’s behavior or issues they are experiencing themselves.

Make sure the policy has accountability—that inappropriate behavior in the work place is addressed in a fair and immediate manner.

3. Find out what your local and state laws require for work place harassment and violence policies. Use your experts in the human resource and legal field to help you establish new policies or to review your current  policies and procedures.

4. Train employees, supervisors and yourself  to be aware of certain behaviors and comments from clients, employees and others who call in or visit the office. Here are some examples:

  • People who try to minimize a stressful, emotional event through denial or blaming others.
  • People who change behavior – coming late to work (related to emotional stress, etc.), lacking energy, seeming distracted, not participating or communicating as usual.  

Your employees are your best sources of information.

5. Whenever you have to escort a terminated employee off the premises, change locks and passwords immediately. Have a policy for terminated employees to contact you and for how they can arrive at the company property at a later date. Make that policy know to the remaining employees.

Have a policy for how employees should communicate when a disruptive person is on the premise—who communicates to this person and how emergency personnel are contacted.

If you would like a sample template to get you started (which requires review by human resource and legal consultants), please email me at

Mary Dunlap, CFP®
Mary Dunlap Consulting
Pottstown, Pa.

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