These Deaths Were Easily Preventable
I was about halfway through my third book a couple of months ago when my publisher called me and asked me what I know about single-shooter events in the workplace, and I told her that I knew quite a lot, having worked at three places that were the scene of such tragedies (two of the three had multiple events and I had to write and conduct training on how to prevent this from happening again, She told me that she wanted me to shelve the book on which I was working and immediately get to work on a book about preventing workplace prevention,
I didn’t want to write the book that ultimately was published as Lone Gunman: Rewriting The Handbook On Workplace Violence and I certainly didn’t want to plug it on my blog, so if you see this as a crass attempt to use recent events to promote the book you probably already know where I think and want you to stick it. But a couple of things have happened since I was out sick: 1) two weeks ago a lone gunman entered his workplace, armed, and gunned down five people and 2) yesterday my abstract On Preventing Workplace Violence for the National Safety Council was soundly and unceremoniously rejected.
Neither of these points surprised me, workplace violence begets workplace violence and we are in for a firestorm of these kinds of attacks. These attacks are real, and they are as different from mass shootings are as serial killers are from people who shoot people in robberies. Workplace violence tends to be either what we saw in Aura, or the one exactly one month earlier in New Jersey was a lover’s quarrel turned deadly. These are predictable and preventable but no one, not the least of which the National Safety Council wants to talk about, or more accurately, they don’t want ME to talk about it—it would appear that the NSC holds me in contempt with which I hold it.
I suppose this begs the question, is this a Safety issue or a Security issue. Homicides are the 9th cause of workplace fatalities overall and is the #1 cause of workplace deaths for women, but this is a topic that is routinely overlooked in Fatality Prevention Programs. Of women murdered in the workplace, 42% are killed by a domestic partner or family member whereas only 2% of men who are murdered at work are killed by this demographic. These are statistics that are routinely ignored and for the life of me I can’t figure out why,
As I read the accounts in sundry outlets I was disheartened. The company had basically ignored one of the most basic tenets of my book: preventing workplace violence begins at recruiting.
What they missed
- The shooter had a lengthy arrest record. He was arrested six times.
- He also had a felony conviction in Mississippi
- He was fired but then allowed to later reenter the premises
- He faced charges of domestic abuse
- They took no precautions after he was fired despite reports that he became agitated because there was a Human Resource intern in the room.
So let’s take these one at a time:
- The shooter had a lengthy arrest record. He was arrested six times. The company claimed that they had done a background check on him before he was hired. That may be, it’s unclear if his six arrests happened after he was hired. But as I warn in my book, a background check only tells you what the person has done BEFORE he or she gets the job, and you have to monitor the person’s behavior for signs of instability AFTER the hiring. Too often that is ignored and it ends in violence.
- He also had a felony conviction in Mississippi. I’m all about second chances, but either this was missed on the background check or ignored. Even someone who has been convicted and served time for a non-violent offense can be indoctrinated into a culture of violence simply by living in a correctional facility. There are people who are reformed, and people who are not. If you hire an ex-con it is prudent to monitor him or her for violent tendencies.
- He was fired but then allowed to later reenter the premises. Several reports said it was unclear whether or not the assailant had the gun on him or went home to retrieve it, which tells me that at very least he didn’t just pull a pistol and start shooting as the words, “you’re fired” left the lips of the HR Manager. Immediately after his dismissal, he should have been escorted out of the building and off the premises. Law enforcement should have been alerted given his criminal history; under no circumstances should he have been allowed to reenter the building once he had left it.
- He faced charges of domestic abuse. Here is a red flag if ever there was one. Given that domestic abuse is a leading contributor of women murdered at work this should have tipped HR off right away. There is a national domestic abuse database that makes it simple to find people arrested for domestic abuse. When the decision was made to fire this individual HR should have done some research to see if he was a violence risk. It might have saved their lives.
- They took no precautions after he was fired despite reports that he became agitated because there was a Human Resource intern in the room. There is a simple fix to this situation, remove the intern from the room. There were four other people in the room and the intern a) added no value and b) clearly made the situation worse. They may have seen it as a learning opportunity but if the poor kid learned anything he took it to his grave.
- We don’t know the events that lead up to the firing of the assailant, but typically, it isn’t just one incident. Workplace shooters tend to be in a downward spiral. In this case, his home life wasn’t the greatest (domestic abuse charges) and there were likely changes in his appearance, behavior, attitude, and work performance, that could have been handled in such a way that the assailant could have been given some sense of choice and compassion. Killing your boss is the last act of a person who feels like they are out of options, interceding early and advocating instead of throwing the person out with the garbage might have prevented this.
To be clear, I have no sympathy for the assailant, killing the boss is almost NEVER the answer, but in this case, the gross stupidity in how this was handled is staggering.
And I want you to think about this, somewhere out there is a man (statistically it is almost always a man) with a gun (and I am not taking a side here because someone who wants to kill can think of a thousand different ways to do it, but statistically in the U.S. 89% of these cases involve firearms) and feels like his life is going down the drain, is considering if not planning, a workplace homicide, How sure are you that it won’t be at your company?
I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. While homicide accounts for 10% of workplace fatalities this is a problem that can be easily prevented. Victims of domestic violence are disproportionately affected. Of women murdered in the workplace, 48% will be killed by a family member or domestic partner, while only 2% of men are killed this way. I wrote this book at the request of my publisher, as there are growing numbers of “experts” who are treating random mass shootings (where the goal is usually a high body count) the same as single shooter events in the workplace (which tend to target a specific individual.) The research I did was eye-opening for me as I expect it will be for you too. This is one of the most powerful things I have ever written so I hope you will find it useful.
It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon (US and Canada) or Barnes & Nobel (as it stands now B&N is only listing the hardcover but I’m told the paperback will be on sale this Monday. It’s an important book on a serious topic as seen through my bleary-eyed lens.)
Of course, my first book is still for sale…
Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com.
Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.
The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).
In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.