We are all held in disbelief when we hear about workplace violence. Our first thoughts often are grief for those involved, hurt, or killed. Then the questions surface. How could this happen – and keep happening – in the United States?
But these acts of workplace violence get caught up in our fast-paced news cycle. We hear about them, they make the headlines for two or three days, and then they are replaced with some other world event. Rarely does the media discuss what happens after an occurrence of workplace violence.
Let’s correct this situation and discuss how difficult it can be for some people and some organizations to get back to normalcy after a violent incident occurs.
Before we begin, let’s be clear about what workplace violence is. Its definition: someone, either connected with an organization or an outside perpetrator, commits an aggressive act against one or several people in the organization. In a worst-case scenario, this aggressive act involves guns, shootings, and deaths.
As to what happens after an incident, we now know there are at least three stages of coping that most healthy people grapple with. How long these stages last, when they start, and the seriousness of each stage can vary. However, most people experience all three stages. They are the following:
Stage One After Workplace Violence
Those witnessing, experiencing, or victimized by an incident first travel through a range of emotions, including shock, denial, and disbelief. If they have been physically harmed, they may be taken to a hospital. If not, they may be asked to stay at the workplace so authorities can investigate the situation and meet with each staffer.
Stage Two After Workplace Violence
This is when the reality of what happened settles in. According to Michael Mantell, a San Diego clinical psychologist and workplace violence consultant, stage two occurs within a few days to even a few weeks after the incident. With some people, the tragedy can remain dormant for surprisingly long periods. But when it does surface, there is typically a “cataclysm of emotion” that can involve a “roller coaster” of reactions, emotions, and anxieties, says Mantell.
Stage Three After Workplace Violence
For most healthy individuals, this is the healing stage. Mantell explains that most people come to terms with what happens and start to confront and deal with their own emotions and reactions to the incident. However, for less healthy people, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop. This can have long-term mental health implications that can linger for months, even years.
Traveling through the three stages does not mean organizations can put the incident behind them. Far from it. Repercussions can last for years. Worker productivity tends to go down after an incident of workplace violence. At the same time, absenteeism typically goes up.
Additionally, some staffers leave their jobs and do not return to the workplace. When this happens, employers may find it difficult to replace those workers for several months after the incident.
Picking Up the Pieces After Workplace Violence
So, what can employers do after an incident to help their staffers and get the organization back up and running? What is often recommended is a series of debriefings with trained clinicians. Wait until your staff is ready to begin the debriefings. However, most experts suggest these should start within 10 days after the incident. Some staffers may only need to meet once or twice with a clinician, others several times.
After this, there are several actions employers must take, starting out with investigating how the incident happened and, more important, how it could have been prevented. Such introspection can lead organizations to security improvements, and to make sure this happens, they need to call in another set of experts: those trained to analyze risks and conduct risk assessments. That is one of the key services provided by TAL Global. Click here or on the image below to find out more.