A knife attack shouldn’t be the reminder to do something about workplace violence prevention

On Wednesday, , an employee of the IT Human Resources firm Ceridian in Toronto, Ontario, was allegedly being laid off during a meeting with the branch manager.   You can read about the story here.

Li Violently Attacks Others the Workplace

The details are not clearly known yet as a publication ban exists within the court, but the media reports at the time speak to Li attacking the branch manager and stabbing the 32 year old manager with a sharp instrument multiple times. He then attacked three other employees before finally being subdued by other employees in the area.
If those other employees had not responded the way that they did, the results may have been much worse than the horrible situation that it already was.
Li is facing three counts of attempted murder, four counts of aggravated assault and four counts of assault with a weapon. It appears at the time of this writing that all of the victims will recover from their injuries.
We do not know the precise details of how the termination meeting was arranged, however it would seem that many safety practices were implemented, including holding the meeting in the HR Department and having several professionally trained Human Resource managers and other staffers in the immediate vicinity. Yet still the attack occurred.
This terrible incident reinforces the fact that you never actually know how an employee will respond to situations. And these are even situations which the business knew about and planned for in advance. It has all of the hallmarks of the situation concerning Richard Anderson on the day he was fired from his British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection position in Kamloops on October 15th, 2002.

Workplace Violence Can Be the Result of Unknown Personal Issues

What about those situations which the business does not know about and therefore cannot plan for? A perfect example is a domestic situation at home that is causing an employee stress and anxiety which then manifests itself in angry and violent outbursts in the workplace.
And what about those situations which arrive in your workplace from outside and have nothing actually to do with the employees who work there, except that they are suddenly the innocent victims?
We have seen enough of those types of incidences that we should be more prepared than we are.
What we need to do is to start paying more attention to our employees because when you sit down and think about it, how well do we really know them? What do they think of their safety while they are at work?

Suggested Leadership Development Tool

One tool I have discovered that really assists me in understanding the depth (or limit) of my knowledge about a person is the . I was introduced to this while I was taking my Masters in Leadership and Training at Royal Roads University.
For now, think about your own workplace.  How safe is it?  Are you providing as many tools as possible to help your employees adjust to change and stress effectively?
Please don’t wait for the knife attack to find out.