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Marcum's New England Advisory Services Leader's Article "Finding A -New Normal' After Workplace Violence" Featured In The Hartford Business Journal

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The senseless act of violence carried out at The Hartford Distributors earlier this month will not easily be forgotten. While the community mourns the loss of the eight innocent victims, we must also remember the multitude of surviving victims as well.

This painful and tragic event has consequences well beyond those workers directly affected by the incident. Workers who witnessed the incident may suffer from emotional upset; they may become distracted and unable to concentrate on work; they may feel angry, guilty, or fearful; some may even feel that they could have done something to prevent it.

After-effects from workplace violence can be serious and can linger, disrupting the employee’s work and personal life, causing depression and poor sleep, and impeding work performance. Employees may become disillusioned about the workplace and their safety, and may ultimately seek other employment.

To expedite the recovery process, Hartford Distributors management and the Teamsters Union need to create a focused post-incident management plan that will enable them to evaluate and review their response, determine the availability of internal and external resources and conclude what actions might be appropriate. This should include the following steps:

  • Conduct a Damage and Impact Assessment — Management will need to continue to assess the damage and impact of the incident to individuals and the company. This includes documenting all the facts and response actions, including financial expenditures, related to the incident and may require any number of actions: gathering intelligence from local law enforcement and other sources (e.g. witnesses, union representatives) concerning the incident, assessing the degree of real and perceived harm to people, providing psychological support required for employees and involved parties after the incident, hiring outside consultants to conduct post-incident management, evaluating damage to buildings, grounds and facilities, and fulfilling other public information requirements. One objective of this step is to determine if any changes in workplace conditions, policies, or violence response procedures could help avoid similar incidents in the future, or manage them more effectively.
  • Develop a Post-Event Communications Plan — Another important step is for the company to develop a plan for ongoing communications with employees and others. In this case, internal and external media resources have been involved during the active phase of the incident. Those same media resources may be utilized to help ease the process by informing the employee community of the current situation and what to expect while also communicating with union leadership, public officials and customers, as appropriate.
  • Create a Monitoring System — After an incident of workplace violence, management must demonstrate to employees that the company has a willingness to consider the feelings and address the concerns of everyone related to the incident. While the workplace will never be the same, the management must now seek to bring the company to a “new normal.” This “new normal” creates the expectation that, while there may be changes and restructuring in the workplace, the company can move forward into productive work.

As part of this “new normal,” management should create a process to ensure the ongoing evaluation of the well-being of employees returning to the workplace. This monitoring system will require participation by managers, security professionals, human resources personnel, and others who provided care and support during the incident.

The tragedy of Aug. 3 has shown how sudden our lives can be forcibly changed. It also demonstrates how quickly a community will respond to support and care for those affected. The Hartford Distributors community has a long and challenging road to recovery ahead. But if they take these three post-incident management steps, the challenge will become easier.

 
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