What ‘The Office’ Taught Us About Workplace Safety – Domestic Violence (pt. 1)

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First airing in 2005, ‘The Office’ is an NBC television series that depicts the everyday lives of office employees of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

Image: https://www.nbc.com/the-office

Although Michael Scott (Regional Manager) believes he’s the World’s Best Boss, he and his employees exemplified a few ‘not-so-HR-appropriate’ actions during the nine-season series. Written as a comedy, the script writers highlight workplace issues employers must be aware of in their own offices.

Apart from random facts quoted by thee Dwight K. Schrute (Assistant [to the] Regional Manager), what has The Office taught us?

What Happens at Home Doesn’t Stay At Home

In the beginning of the series, Dunder Mifflin receptionist, Pam Beesley is engaged to Dunder Mifflin warehouse employee, Roy Anderson. Roy exhibits a few outbursts of jealousy and hostility, including towards his fiancé’s friendship with salesman, Jim Halpert. He’s depicted as a hot head with a short temper at times. Fans watch as Pam and Jim’s friendship grows and her relationship with Roy deteriorates; ultimately leading to the couple’s broken engagement.

The drama peaks during The Negotiation episode (Season 3, Episode 19). Roy learned Pam and Jim kissed after an office party and is angry. In the clip below, we see Roy pacing the parking lot before entering the office to confront Jim. Upon entering the office, Roy lunges at Jim. The situation is diffused when Dwight uses his pepper spray. Roy is terminated due to the outburst and is later seen picking up his last pay check, escorted by two members of security.

As a disclaimer, we do not condone Dwight’s pepper spray tactic in the workplace (or any of his other confiscated weapons). Stay tuned for an article about what Dwight has taught us about workplace safety – the use of weapons in the workplace.

Domestic Violence in the Workplace

Acts of violence in the workplace rarely come as a surprise, and are perpetrated by current and former employees, domestic partners of employees or, in rare cases, total strangers. Roy Anderson was both an employee of Dunder Mifflin and a domestic partner of a fellow employee. He exhibited behaviors of concern and was seen pacing the parking lot prior to the incident. His relationship problems spilled over into the office, putting employees at risk.

Although The Office writers added a comedic twist on the situation, domestic violence (in and out of the workplace) is a serious issue.

According to the CDC, nearly eight million days of paid work each year is lost due to domestic violence issues – the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs. Additionally, the Firestorm 7th Annual Event Impact Management Report revealed 16 percent of respondents activated their crisis plans in 2017 due to a gun scare/disgruntled employee.

Apart from the hours lost and activated plans, lives are lost and changed forever when violence enters the workplace. A simple Google search yields instances of domestic violence spilling over into places of work:

You may not know what problems employees are facing at home, but identifying changed behavior at work is imperative. It is critical that organizations do all they can to identify employees who need help, and intervene with trained resources that will provide the counseling and case management the individual needs. By intervening when warning signs are exhibited, even before an act of violence occurs in the office, a serious episode of violence can be mitigated.

Keep in mind:

  • Many individuals who commit acts of violence exhibit warning signs before doing so; like work performance deterioration. Individuals who are victims of domestic violence also show signs like: increased fear, emotional episodes, and signs of physical injury.
  • Many individuals who commit acts of violence tell at least one, and sometimes up to three people, before doing so.
  • Many acts are committed by individuals with a relationship of some kind to the workplace.

Every day, we see more and more instances of violence entering the workplace; whether from domestic violence carrying over onto the workplace property, or disgruntled employees post-termination. Our ability to keep our employees, customers, visitors, and ourselves safe depends upon identifying potential behaviors of concern before they enter the workplace.

As quoted by Michael Scott, “The most sacred thing I can do is care and provide for my workers, my family.” Be aware of behavior changes in your employees. If you notice an employee is becoming easily agitated, secludes themselves, or acts differently, do something. Don’t say, ‘they could be having a bad day,’ and brush it off your shoulder. Michael Scott may not have been the most productive or hardworking boss of Dunder Mifflin, but he cared about his employees. And you should, too.

Firestorm has spent ten years creating a program to reduce the chance of violence in the office. Learn more about our Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment program for the workplace. Join us on May 17th from 12-12:45 p.m. for a special webinar. Firestorm Chief Security Officer and Former U.S. Secret Service, Jason Russell, will discuss violence in the workplace. Register here.

Firestorm May Webinar Invitation -Business focus

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