When the news first broke of the mass shooting on a crowded street in front of the Empire State Building last month, the first thought that went through most people’s heads was that another act of terror had occurred in Manhattan. Turns out though, it was an incident of workplace violence: Jeffrey Johnson, 58, who had been laid off by Hazan Imports, fatally shot an executive at Hazan, Steve Ercolino, against whom Johnson had earlier filed a harassment complaint. (Eleven bystanders were wounded by police gunfire when two officers shot Johnson, who reportedly turned and pointed his gun at them.)
It was the latest spasm of work-related violence in a country that all too often sees workplace disputes end in gunfire.
Philip Deming, an HR security consultant and principal of Philip Deming & Associates in King of Prussia, Pa., agrees that the risk of workplace violence may be on the rise again and says companies need to be proactive to avoid trouble.
“The key is to make sure you have all the components in place both to prevent violence, and to respond when a threat occurs,” Deming says. “That means you need HR, your legal team, security and communications people, as well as your top executives, all on board and prepared with an emergency action plan when there’s a threat.”