If I Were Running A Company…Roanoke

Normally at this time, this would be reserved for the #HRBlogs Weekly Reads, but after what happened in Moneta, VA yesterday, I’m going to discuss that in length. The Weekly Reads will return on Monday.

After another senseless tragedy involving journalists doing their job on live TV, people will question many things from mental health, gun control, social media, and other topics. However, there was one that struck me:

The shooter was a “disgruntled employee” not only at WDBJ, but at other stations he worked and was very difficult to work with and was under-performing. Normal HR books would insist to fire the guy, for which almost all the stations. What we did not anticipate was the shooter had a plan, but we had no idea what that plan was. We found out yesterday.

Why the “disgruntled employee” label sticks because after knowing the details, the shooter was narcissistic, selfish egomaniac. Taping your own killing spree and updating your status about your spree is asking for the spotlight that he wanted and wanted all along. My question is, could this have been prevented? That’s a difficult question to answer.

There are many tips of how to handle disgruntled employees in or out of the workplace, but would that actually help out the shooter? Let’s be honest, the process of firing people it more about litigation than helping the person out. Looking at what the news stations did to him, they did their due diligence, even offering EAPs, but the shooter didn’t want to seek help. It is also telling that he was going after the rising stars of TV news, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Was it jealously seeing them in TV that drove him over the top? Racism? We don’t know the real answer.

Here’s the scary part HR and companies need to know: there has been a number of people killed, in a mass murder, for nearly every day this year and in the Virginia and D.C. areas, there have been 2 prominent mass murders in the last two years (Roanoke this year, Navy Yard two years ago). What we’re seeing is not a blimp in the radar, but the normalcy in our country that won’t do anything to limit gun control, provide limited care for the mentally ill, and create fanatical niches (think Donald Trump) to drive support for the base, but not the best for the country. Let’s also remember this: the shooter was fired by WDBJ in 2013 and waited two years to make his move. This is a warning that although the people don’t work there anymore, they are still part of the company’s history, either they were good, bad, or average.

So, back to the question: could this have been prevented? Yes, but it would take major steps for companies, governments, health care providers, lobbyists, and individuals to make that happen, but it looks like we are still in step one of a 10,000 step program to prevent violence at the workplace. I know HR is being proactive on this, but sometimes, this is out of HR’s control. I think that’s the scariest part of them all; even when we think we have a bulletproof system to handle violence or securing computers, there is someone to figure it out. Sadly, this might be becoming the norm and we have to get used to it. Then again, when we think humanity is down, it rises up.


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