In Roanoke Virginia at TV station WDBJ, it was a really, really, really bad week!

That week was absolutely awful.

Really awful.

The on-camera murder on Wednesday morning, August 26th, of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, both employees of Roanoke, Virginia, TV station WDBJ shocked everyone that day.

The pair were shot to death while doing a live report from a shopping district near Moneta, Virginia.

The suspect, a former employee of the TV station who wrote about a long-standing issue that he had had against the pair as well as many other unconnected allegations of persecution against him by a range of individuals stemming as far back as his Grade 1 , fatally shot himself as he was located by police.

This brings into sharp focus the issue of workplace violence.

I have written previously about the four sources of violence that workers can be exposed to at work and one of them refers to the threat that can come from the person with whom you are working right now. Or, as this case appears to highlight, an ex-employee who still holds a grudge.

From the numerous media reports about this tragedy, the suspect provided multiple examples of aggression while he was an employee at the TV station. Those acts led to his dismissal and a situation where he had to be escorted from the building by the local police.

Organizations need to be paying attention to the warning signs that are available to them to identify if they are paying attention.

What are the warning signs to identify potential threats a work?

  • A person displaying a change in behaviour
  • A demonstration of open hostility
  • Acting out behaviour
  • Disruptive or rowdy behaviour
  • Abusive language or threats
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Threatening or intimidating behaviour
  • Physical assaults and physical scuffles with coworkers

Are these isolated incidents or are they a pattern that we need to pay attention to?

They may be both, or either, but it doesn’t really matter.

We are going to do something about it.

Depending on the organization and the incident, the choices are these:

  • Contact the Human Resources office 
  • Contact security 
  • Contact police 
  • Contact someone via the confidential reporting number that has been set up by the company. 

DOING NOTHING is not an option.

I repeat: we are going to do something about it.

What is Zero Tolerance?

We hear the term ‘zero tolerance’ applied to those organizations who have robust Workplace Violence Prevention programs.

The term sounds as if it includes an absolute definition of unacceptable behaviour and the slightest transgression immediately is leapt upon from a great height with an unconditional response being the outcome. I think the approach can be useful in helping organizations create a culture of awareness and there will be a response, although every case must be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Having flexibility in how each case is handled and a range of responses that can be engaged is far better than waiting for that one nightmarish and dangerous situation to occur before anyone does anything.

But in order for any response to be considered, the organization has to be aware of its occurrence. This means everyone needs to recognize that they are all part of an effective Workplace Violence program because it is the reporting of the event (no matter how small or insignificant the person may feel it was or how much of an isolated incident it appeared to be) that counts.

Doing Nothing is Not an Option

I repeat: DOING NOTHING is not an option.

Remember, on Wednesday, August 25th everyone was shocked at the terrible event in Moneta, Virginia.

I want you to remain shocked and look at your own workplace through those glasses.

Only by paying attention will we make a difference since as far as I am concerned, if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

We need to do this for Alison and Adam.