In an article posted on the Society for Human Resources Management website, experts in the field provide suggestions about how to manage communication and recovery after an incident of workplace violence. The suggestions include:
- Coordinate a response to make sure that both internal and external messages and response efforts are consistent.
- Communicate with faculty, staff, students, families, and the community because they will be concerned. The organization should provide enough details so that stakeholders understand the organization’s response and what their role in the response and recovery will involve.
- Monitor the workplace environment because additional threat concerns will likely be raised.
- Monitor social media. “We have witnessed in recent responses to workplace shootings that some employees took pictures of the violence and posted them online while the incident was still unfolding. You may not be able to control social media interaction, but at least you can be prepared to respond,” said Hector Alvarez of Alvarez and Associates.
- Provide support. " Everybody responds differently to acts of violence. Watch for signs of post-traumatic stress in others and yourself. Contact the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FASAP) for on-site crisis response and support for critical incidents.
The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FASAP) and the Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program (JHSAP) provide professional and confidential counseling and support services to groups and are good resource during difficult times. FASAP and JHSAP can assist your work group/department in understanding the normal response to grief and traumatic stress, as well as how to adopt positive coping strategies and foster resiliency.
Human Resources is available to consult with you after a disruptive incident has been managed.
Supervisor/Manager Guide to Helping Employees Immediately After a Critical Incident
What to Provide Employees
- Remove all employees from the trauma scene and move to a safe areas as soon as feasible.
- Provide employees with necessities such as water, tissues, food, etc.
What Behaviors You May Observe
- Employees may be in a state of shock.
- Employees may be crying and perhaps unable to stop.
- Feelings of anger and frustration.
- Employees may withdraw and isolate.
How to Support Employees
- Be willing to say nothing. Just being there is often the most supportive thing you can do to help.
- Be aware that employees will be having mixed emotions. These are normal reactions to the critical incident.
- Allow all employees to express any reactions to the critical incident.
- Answer any questions employees may have.
Suggestions for What to Avoid
- Avoid statements like, “I know how you feel” or “Everything will be all right.” These statements make some people think their feelings are not understood.
- Do not attempt to explain why the incident happened. Your explanation may not be believed and may negatively impact your relationship with the employee.
Information for Employees
- Avoid any alcohol or caffeine; rest; relax with breathing exercises; increase support from family and loved ones; drink plenty of water.
- Give FASAP’s phone number (443-997-7000) for those employees who feel they need to speak with a counselor.
- Post FASAP’s phone number (443-997-7000) in a place where all employees can see it.
Suggested Management Responses after the Critical Incident
- A supervisor should be well aware and understanding of the normal reactions to trauma and stress.
- The supervisor should be alert to deteriorating behavioral changes, and should be aware of available sources for counseling via FASAP (443-997-7000).
- The supervisor may choose to be temporarily tolerant of reduced performance or increased time-off, but he or she must use such tolerance carefully and not create resentment in other employees.
- Although some employees may need time off to work through their problems, productive work is historically a "healer" of emotional damage.
- The supervisor can reduce the effect troubled employees have on others by structuring some time for "talking it out" via a defusing or debriefing from FASAP, eliminating the need some have to "dump" their troubles on other employees.
- Productivity is still the supervisor's key responsibility. Employees need to know the company expects the employee to continue to function, and to regain acceptable performance levels.
- The supervisor should respectfully confront employees with unacceptable work behavior, regardless of the cause.
- The supervisor should report all threats of violence to the authorities.
- The normal steps of good management govern such confrontations, even if trauma related.
- It may be difficult for managers to determine how long an individual will need to recover from a traumatic event. However, your job is still to manage outcomes and productivity.
If you find yourself struggling with an employee weeks to months after a workplace crisis, please call for consultation with the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program. FASAP has specially trained consultants who work with managers and human resources staff on these issues. Services are available, 24 hours, 7 days a week by calling 443-997-7000.
FASAP gratefully acknowledges Magellan for the content in this guide.