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Workplace Tragedy – Sandy Hooks Shooting

Question:

Ever since the shootings last week at Sandy Hook Elementary, there has been non-stop coverage of the events on the news. We have some employees that are understandably very upset to the point of not being able to function at work. What can we do as employers to help ease the fears of our employees after a very public crisis occurs such as the one in Newtown, Connecticut?

Answer:

Our hearts go out to the people of Newtown, Connecticut after a very horrific day last week.

Such a tragic event, that is made so public, can affect many people – the victims, the survivors, the community and the public at large. The degree of impact will vary greatly depending on the individual. You may find that some parents want to check in on their children more frequently this week and may even be anxious about having their children at school. For employees with older children, they will be attempting to manage their child’s anxiety and emotions surrounding the event (as well as their own).

As an employer it is important to recognize your employees’ anxiety. Often by acknowledging our fears and having the ability to speak of them openly we can resolve some of the angst. After a national tragedy occurs, it’s a good idea for the employer to openly acknowledge the event and set forth a plan of action regarding how the event will be handled at work.

  • Start by being aware of possible workplace tensions created by the extra stress. Some employees will be overly sensitive to references of the event while others will have no problems discussing their views openly which could create additional tensions, especially if discussions turn political or religious in nature. Remind employees to be sensitive to individual feelings regarding the event.
  • Let employees know where they can turn if they need someone to talk with or would like to do something as a group to cope. Encourage employees to make use of existing resources such as your employee assistance program, exercise rooms, additional community resources, in-house educational programs and human resources staff. Providing links to online resources is a great idea if you do not have anything internal to offer. Employees need to feel that their families are taken care of and are safe – providing these resources can help employees cope as well as educate them with concepts they can use with their family at home.
  • Decide how you will accept requests for schedule changes or additional breaks to make check-in phone calls with family – flexibility will be important in the first few days following the tragedy. Be aware that the emotions surrounding the event are not easily left at home or at the time clock.

With today’s easy access to 24 hour news it can be difficult for people to move throughout their daily lives and not be reminded of events that are disturbing. Since much of our day is spent at work it only makes sense that how we deal with such events will play out at work, and how we as employers respond to such events with our employees will greatly impact their ability to heal and move on.

The victims, families, rescue personnel, and community of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting will forever be in the thoughts and prayers of strategic HR inc.