Workplace Rights

Weekly (4/27/09)

Topic of the Week  Staying Alive - Strategies for surviving workplace violence

• DO plan ahead.
• DO stay calm.
• DO get help
• DON’T argue.

Your Rant: There was a workplace shooting in my city recently. Is there anything I can do to reduce the odds of it happening to me?

911 Repair,
Given the recession and layoffs we’re facing today, it shouldn’t be a surprise that workplace violence is consistently in the headlines. But we don’t have to be powerless, there are things we can do to reduce the odds of being victimized. Which reminds me of the greatest move I ever made on a basketball court. Really. I’d seen it in an NBA game and it lodged in my mind. Then suddenly on a fast break I pulled it off by driving toward the lone defender and spinning around him for a wide-open layup.

What does my layup have to do with violence at work? Everything. I was able to pull off that spin because I’d practiced it in my head many times. And you need to do the same in terms of a workplace crisis, anticipating problems so you’ve thought through your options in advance. Ask yourself, what would I do if someone had a gun, if there was a fire, an explosion, hostages, etc.? The three Do’s and one Don’t below should help you come up with a strategy. For more, check out Jane’s Workplace Security Handbook (Jane’s Information Group, 2002).

DO plan ahead. Look around your workplace. Take note of all the ways that you could make a quick exit. Take the time to check out stairwells and back exits. Know what conference rooms have doors that lock, janitor’s closets and other places where you could take refuge during a crisis. Study your facility and you’ll have more options if the worst happens.

DO stay calm. You’ll have plenty of time to freak out once the crisis has ended, but during it you’ve got to remain calm. Your ability to think clearly and quickly requires your 100% attention. Keep breathing and maintain a laser focus on everything that is going on around you. Listen intently. And keep running scenarios and options through your head.

DO get help. In a crisis you don’t want your cell phone to be in your desk or in a purse, always carry it with you. We all know how important it is to contact 911 during a crisis. But you’ve got to be careful to not put yourself at greater risk, wait until you are removed from direct danger to call. And don’t forget to turn off your ringer!

DON’T argue. Everything that I’ve read says that you should avoid trying to be a hero, you need to do what you’re told. Sure we’ve all read about the guys who tackle a person holding a gun and who saves the day. What works great in the movies might create a disaster in real life.

The last thing most people want to think about is creating a plan to respond to violence where they work. Yes, you can spin out of trouble too, but only if you plan ahead.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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–Martin Luther

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