Tips From the Police: Workplace Violence Mitigation Best Practices

April 06, 2017


The topic almost feels taboo, but like many things that scare us, not talking about it doesn’t keep it from happening. I’m talking about work place violence and active shooter incidents. Although some say that statistically speaking the incident rate of serious occurrences is low, but statistics are of little comfort when people or employees get hurt or killed.

The goal then is to work on prevention and mitigation, to deal with the less serious issues early on in order to prevent things from festering and/or escalating. Having policies and plans in place should be viewed as an investment in your business and employees, and it will pay dividends in employee confidence, safety, and lives saved if anything were to happen. Your employees know what to do in case of a fire, but are they prepared for these types of situations as well?  

WHERE TO START: First and foremost, develop a Workplace Violence Policy for your business. If you already have just such a policy on the books, make sure to regularly review its content to keep things current and ensure that it covers all the necessary details and scenarios. 

Best Practices for Creating a Workplace Violence Policy:

  • Create a clearly articulated definition of "workplace violence," which of course would define violent physical actions but also a wide range of verbal or even written actions that are deemed to be threatening or harassing in nature.

  • Take a zero tolerance approach, inform employees that incidents will be investigated, referred to law enforcement if necessary, and discipline, including termination, will be forthcoming on any validated complaint.

  • Outline Duty to Report standards that explain that all employees, including supervisors, are required to report any actions that would fit your workplace violence definition. This also involves developing an outlet for employees to express concerns anonymously, when they recognize what might be warning signs of a disturbed co-worker.

  • Develop an Action Plan covering both preventative measures, and procedures to be followed for all manner of incidents ranging from verbal harassment, to physical altercations, to active shooter situations.

Educate your employees so they have a better understanding of common issues, including recognizing warning signs, how and when to report, and what responsibilities they have when an incident occurs.

Workplace Violence Prevention, Assessment, and Training:

PREVENTION:  It's true that most incidents of workplace violence are not random and are typically preceded by “warning signs." That's why educating your employees to spot warning signs and understand importance of alerting supervisors to the situation is key to prevention. Typical warning signs might include:

  • Behavioral Changes like: poor personal hygiene, a developing obsession with firearms, a romantic obsession, anxiety, sadness, and or frequent absences.

  • Attitude Changes like: the inability to handle criticism, feeling constantly stressed at the workplace, and or a general unwillingness to follow directions for supervisors.

  • Instances of Acting Out like: frequent aggressive outbursts, bringing weapons into the workplace, and or making offensive “jokes” or statements related to violence in general and at the workplace. 

ASSESSMENT:  Examine, assess, and makes changes to the physical security of your workplace, and investigate what changes you can make to protect employees during an active shooter event.

TRAINING: This is probably the most important part of your plan and ensures that your employees, regardless of their role, know how to respond to particular situations. This would include supervisors knowing what actions to take when an employee is displaying “warning signs” all the way to employees knowing what to do during an active shooter event. 

Where to Get Help With Your Business' Policy 

As it relates to the action plan and education, the Michigan State Police can provide help. We have speciallytrained troopers who can assist in developing an action plan that covers prevention, physical assessments, and training.  

Because every business and situation is different, we take a tailored approach which allows you to pick the level of training. It could be as simple as a consultation with the owner, a power point presentation for upper management, a basic physical assessment of the facility, or all of that, plus active shooter training for every employee. 

If you would like further info, or have questions or comments, e-mail me at