Workplace Violence Considerations for Businesses and Citizens


Due to how normal workplace violence has become in our society, we’ve become conditioned to quickly forget and move on. The “new” attack falls from the news cycle and headlines, taken over by the next big news story of the day. 

Take the recent shooting inside the King Soopers, in Boulder, Colorado, for example. This is a town I know all too well. I’ve shopped at this store. “This could never happen here” is the usual response from survivors, locals, and witnesses.

This week another act of workplace violence unfolded at a Kroger in Collierville, Tennessee, when a fired contractor walked back into the store shooting 15 people, killing one. Although the motive and modus operandi was different in these two attacks, the Boulder incident is more than likely terrorism inspired from my perspective, some similarities can be drawn.  

Safeguarding soft targets from acts of workplace violence 

Both locations were classic “soft targets” meaning they were open to the public, with minimal security in place. This is the norm for most grocery and retail stores across America. In some stores, off-duty police officers are present as a physical deterrent, but that isn’t the norm.  However, in our new “Days of Rage”, I would recommend that the off-duty officers hired as security be in off-duty attire.  

Proactive security begins with the mindset that bad things can and do happen. Even if you’re a company that has never experienced an instance of workplace violence, or any type of security breach for that matter, incidents will happen at some point. The issue is that most companies and executives don’t want to think this way even though in my experience staff are eager for guidance and training.

As a matter of fact, in the Ontic 2021 Mid-Year Outlook State of Protective Intelligence Report over one-quarter (26%) of those surveyed say their company has never addressed the potential for workplace violence and employees would not know what to do if an active shooter entered their facilities.

Protecting yourself 

When it comes to preparing yourself as a citizen, you must understand that the threat landscape is unique to your environment. As I’ve learned over the years as a police officer and special agent, when things begin to unfold, they happen quicker than most are prepared for. This is why it’s essential to have a plan. Take note of the emergency exits when you shop. Move and get off the X (out of harm’s way) when the first shot is fired. Increase your distance away from the threat. This may seem extreme but I also encourage you to carry a tourniquet. I do and keep one with me as part of my everyday carry. The chances of using one are far greater at home or while traveling than at work, but you’ll have one.  

Protecting your business

As a business, train your staff in situational awareness, conduct active shooter drills, emergency response, and learn how to “Stop the Bleed.” Issue tourniquets and have Stop the Bleed kits staged around the store. Create safe haven locations, such as breakrooms. If need be, harden the physical security of these places. Enhance your technology solutions (including the emergency PA system) and have a reporting system of record for suspicious events. 

As an employee, know where the hiding places are and get there quickly, the moment the first shot is fired. If you have problematic employees that need to be let go, work with HR and Legal and discuss the best ways to terminate that employee safely and have a system in place to keep track of them. Most companies believe that the threat dissipates once the terminated employee departs the workplace. As the recent shooting in Tennessee has shown, that is not the case.  

Let’s be frank, attacks like this won’t stop, so think about what you would do in a similar situation. Take ownership of your personal safety as a shopper and employee. As a company, recognize the risk and move towards training and awareness.  Having a proactive security and safety plan in place will decrease your liability if bad things happen.  And, think about what you would do in the event of an active shooter while shopping or in the workplace.   

There are few things more unsettling than learning that trust has been compromised between an employee or business partner and their company. Safeguard your company’s reputation with our checklist and guide to insider threat awareness to protect against malicious activity.