It sounds almost embarrassingly cliche -- if not downright naive -- to say it out loud, but the news is full of scary stuff these days.
We've got nut jobs shooting up a movie theater (in our own backyard, no less) to record-breaking, and sometimes fatal, heat this summer to some-hated filled loon blasting away at a place of worship.
What do any of these grave stories have to do with benefits, employees or human resources in general?
Well, on one level, you've some people actually nervous about going to work. In fact, you've got Department of Labor data from 2010 that lists "homicide was the fourth leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States." And for women, it's actually the leading cause of death at the office. Overall, the Labor Department study reveals nearly 2 million people experience workplace violence of some kind every single year. And, of course, this doesn't include those who never report it.
The most likely targets? Delivery people, health care professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, and people who work alone or in smaller groups. And the culprits -- all too often -- are co-workers with guns. The FBI reports that just last year nearly a quarter of workplace "homicides were committed by work associates and overall, shootings accounted for 80 percent of workplace homicides." It's become so prevalent, in fact, there's even a website solely dedicated to covering workplace violence news.
But even if you've got the safest office in the county, these horrible headline-screaming stories remain a distraction for otherwise productive employees.
So, aside from the stand zero-tolerance policies, what in the world can HR do? Well -- and again, this sounds hopelessly cliche -- talking about it helps. Use these occasions to discuss that zero tolerance policy, going over the details, while also offering EAPs and voluntary legal plans for employers. These direct, proactive steps not only helps your work force in a practical way, it lets them know you're an aware and sympathetic employer.
But there are also dozens of other smaller, but equally significant steps you can take. For example, the people at my wife's office are hosting a blood drive for victims of the shooting here in Colorado. The employer looks like a champ, employers can feel like they're doing something to help and it allows everyone to band together as a work force, boosting morale and providing an effective, subtle group therapy.
It's a harsh world we live in. The office doesn't have to be.