HR Management & Compliance

‘Back in the Lobby’ Article Draws Reader Fire

By Steve Bruce, Editor, HR Daily Advisor
Just My E-Pinion

Our headline in a recent issue of HR Daily Advisor—"He’s back … in the lobby … with a gun"—was calculated to attract attention; that’s what headlines do. But not the kind of attention we attracted. A number of readers were upset by the headline and wrote to tell us so.

The headline was taken from number 7 in a list of "things HR managers don’t want to hear." I think it was appropriate there; however, taken out of that context and put as the headline, it disturbed readers, and that’s not good.

Promoting concern about workplace violence is certainly a worthy objective, but as one observer reminded us, you don’t want to go shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater just to promote the message that people should always be aware of the location of emergency exits.

So we apologize for stepping over the line. Here’s our new headline:

What HR Managers Can Do About Workplace Violence

Here are some violence prevention tips from an earlier issue of HR Daily Advisor. Expert Dennis A. Davis, Ph.D., believes that employers can be successful at preventing workplace violence because most people follow the rules and because most violent people give ample signs before they act.

Davis, director of client training for Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., in Torrance, California, delivered his comments at the SHRM Employment Law & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Davis identifies five keys for violence prevention:

  • Screening/Selection
  • Policy
  • Crisis Management Team
  • Supervisor/Greeter Training
  • Compliance Campaign

See what everyone’s talking about! Check out BLR’s remarkable everything-you-need-for-HR website,, at no cost or risk, and get a complimentary special report! Get more info.

1. Screening/Selection

The best chance an employer has to avoid employee violence is during selection and screening, says Davis. Just keep those violent people out of your company. He recommends requiring two letters of reference—one professional and one personal.

Many of the people you’d like to screen out will not be able to get someone to vouch for them, and their applications will die on the vine.

"Interviews are essential,” says Davis. They are an effective way to determine if the description of the applicant on paper is reflected in the presentation in person. For example, he says, track interaction with office staff during scheduling. Is the person respectful? Professional? On time? Well-groomed and appropriately attired?

In general, remember that the person presumably is on his or her best behavior.

2. Violence Policy

Ninety percent or more of the population will acquiesce to expectations when they are made clear, says Davis, so you have to lay out the rules. Your policy, he says:

  • Should be a standalone policy
  • Must state “there is zero tolerance”
  • Must specify that “threats of violence are considered acts of violence”
  • Must address the issue of weapons at work

3. Crisis Management Team

HR can’t deal with violence alone, Davis says. You need a crisis management team (CMT). Typical CMT members might be:

  • HR
  • Legal
  • Safety/Security
  • EAP
  • Executive Management
  • Psych/Medical

Typical CMT responsibilities would include:

  • Program development and management
  • Information campaign
  • Participate in threat assessment process
  • Coach managers/supervisors on workplace violence threats/incidents
  • Serve as liaison to relevant external organizations
  • Trauma response

Have you road-tested the biggest bargain in HR? Try at no cost or risk and receive a special report that’s yours to keep no matter what you decide. Get the details.

The most vital function of the CMT is tracking, Davis says. Potentially violent employees tend to move around often. Because they may be obnoxious or disruptive, managers and supervisors are only too glad to be rid of them. The CMT tracks incidents and individuals to be certain of appropriate intervention.

4.  First-Level Supervisor/Greeter Training

Supervisors (particularly first-level supervisors) and managers need training in violence prevention. They serve as your eyes and ears, and they are more likely to notice potential threats.

It’s also important to conduct training for greeters, Davis notes. They interact most with employees, visitors, and clients, so they are in a unique position to identify and diffuse threats.

5. Compliance Campaign

Finally, says Davis, you need a campaign. That might include:

  • Publicizing your policy in newsletter articles, bulletin boards, or on your intranet
  • Posting signs
  • Installing mirrors (You don’t want the office to look like the honeymoon suite, says Davis, but when people see themselves in a mirror, they sometimes recognize that their behavior is over the top and pull back.)
  • Hiring security guards
  • Requiring ID badges
  • Having sign-in logs

Again, we apologize for a headline that stepped over the line. As always, we value your comments. Write me at or use the comments button below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *