Workplace violence is not isolated to specific industries or locations, but it can happen in any work setting. However, some industrial workplaces are more susceptible to workplace violence, especially retail outlets, and healthcare establishments. Consequently, the news media are rife with accounts of acts of violence, documenting violent workplace incidents from the past, besides the provision of real-life coverage and immediate aftermaths of such happenings. The workplace case study covered in the paper involves a shooting incident at the Capital Gazette in Maryland, resulting in the death of five journalists and injuring others.
Summary of the Incident
The shooting represented one of the most notable events of workplace violence, but it was one among many. It was on June 28, 2018 when a man, armed with a gun, stormed Capital Gazette’s newsroom and selectively shot five journalists and injuring others (Jacobs). The attack, which took place in Annapolis, MD, was chaotic because the attacker used smoke grenades to cause panic in the newsroom, culminating in the massacre of the five victims and injury to two more, who were rushed to the hospital for medical attention. Authorities described the shooter as a man in his late thirties, and court records published in the media revealed that he had been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, before the shooting incident in the newsroom.
Notably, the cause of the shooting was both historical and vengeful. The records showed the shooter was a long-time antagonist of the Capital Gazette and had sued several editors for defamation (Jacobs). Nevertheless, he lost both the suit and the appeal, but the shooting revealed a long-standing grudge, which had held for over seven years before the shooting. The shooting raised questions because it proved the extent attackers can go to cause harm.
Lessons that Employers can learn from the Incident
The incident showed that employers can learn a lot from the aspects of workplace violence.
Firstly, workplace violence has about four categories necessary for documenting by employers, as listed below:
Violence by strangers: The attacker has no business relations or prior knowledge of anyone in the organization. Notably, first-time robbers fall in this category.
Workplace violence by clients: The attacker is usually a client, new or known, to the business. Prisoners, students, patients, passengers or criminal suspects are probable attackers in this category.
Violence by co-workers: The attacker has an employment-related association in the workplace. Although violence by co-workers can cause fatalities, they account for a small proportion of violence, compared to violence by strangers.
Workplace violence by personal relations: The perpetrator must have a personal relationship with the victim outside the workplace, but commits the crime at the victim’s workplace. The culprits are usually former or current spouses, lovers, acquaintances or friend. Psychosocial factors are usually the causes of attacks by personal relations, where the attacker perceives the difficulties in the relationship (Bowie, Fisher, and Cooper 10).
Documenting the types of workplace violence is helpful to the understanding of the risk factors associated with each category. Employers should understand that workplace violence is not an isolated activity, but some industries are more susceptible to incidents of violence, according to the four categories elaborated above. While the incidents may cause fatalities and injuries, they are preventable using professional services or through acts of common sense. Additionally, the knowledge of the type of violence alone is not enough to prevent future incidents. For instance, the shooting incident at Capital Gazette shows that the victims of an attack may not have had differences with the attacker, but with the organization in general. The attacker in the Gazette had foreknowledge that the journalist who had defamed him left the organization. The dead and the injured were innocent victims of a crime they did not commit. In light of this, it is important to note that organizations should be meticulous while dealing with issues that might both its internal and external environment.
Additionally, employers are responsible for the identification of risk factors, which are specific to each workplace violence. Risk factors are implying conditions, which have the potential to increase the probability of the occurrence of violence in the workplace (Bratton and Gold 329). For example, handling cash in retail stores predisposes such settings to robbery. For instance, the Capital Gazette shooting was workplace violence by a stranger, which had the following risk factors:
Lack of control of access to the office or premises. Capital Gazette shooting resulted from inadequate control of access to the newsroom (Kerr and King 49). Although, such a security lapse did not prevent the killings in the Capital Gazette newsroom, but realizing that lack of accessibility to a workplace setting may make the difference between life and death.
Inadequate lighting outside of the workplace environment
Businesses operating in high crime regions
Best Practices to Reduce Workplace Violence
Institute a training program aimed at de-escalating potential workplace incidences. The training techniques should be specific to the industry of operation.
Institute limited access to the premises so that only authorized personnel can gain entry.
Install adequate lighting outside the premises, aided by security electronics such as CCTV cameras.
All employees should be trained to identify the risk factors inherent in each of the four types of workplace violence.
Examine and address any signs of employee isolation which could lead to violence in the workplace.
Institute a 24-hour communication method for the immediate alert of the police during an attack.
- Bowie, Vaughan, Bonnie S. Fisher, and Cary Cooper, Eds. Workplace violence. Routledge, 2012.
- Bratton, John, and Jeff Gold. Human resource management: theory and practice. Palgrave, 2017.
- Jacobs, Ben. “Capital Gazette Shooting: Suspect Charged After Attack Kills Five People.” The Guardian, 29 June 2018, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/28/annapolis-shooting-reports-latest-updates-today-capital-gazette. Accessed 27 Nov. 2018.
- Kerr, Mary Margaret, and Garry King. School crisis prevention and intervention. Waveland Press, 2018.