Facility Security

Culture and Complacency: A Security Expert Takes a Hard Look at Workplace Security

To many people, their office or workplace is a safe space, even if it may not be their favorite place to go 5 days a week. They may reconsider after a critical situation such as an active shooter makes headlines, but once the dust settles, complacency tends to set back in. For Greg Shaffer, one of the nation’s leading and respected policy experts in the prevention of domestic terrorism and active shooter events, complacency is not an option.

Businessman stressed from work at office desk holding a gun

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As founder and president of Shaffer Security Group, he is often called on to conduct security assessments for organizations of all sizes, including multiple Fortune 500 companies. Shaffer states that he is “always surprised at the lack of prior planning I find in conducting security assessments … firms which are ‘forward-leaning’ and do their due diligence on securing their facility, building, assets and people are the exception, not the rule.”

“It’s Not Going to Happen to Me”

Since founding the Shaffer Security Group in 2015, Shaffer has worked with many organizations not only to conduct security assessments but also to develop and implement security solutions through training in active shooter response and workplace violence prevention.

Shaffer notes that there are some clear distinctions in culture across industries that allow some to be better prepared for a violent situation in the workplace. He notes, “Most manufacturing facilities and large workshops do a fantastic job of making ‘Safety First.’ They often post large signs to remind their employees to ‘Think Safety’ as they count the number of days without a work-related injury. However, most non-manufacturing firms, such as corporate offices, law firms, [or] large data processing centers do not feel that safety is all that necessary, when in fact it is essential.”

There appears to be a pervasive attitude in industries without a baked-in safety and security culture, with both leadership and employees focusing on physical security only after a critical incident occurs. Shaffer frames this attitude simply: “Everyone thinks, ‘it’s not going to happen to me.’”

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that approximately 2 million people will be victims of nonfatal workplace violence each year, with about 1,000 people dying due to a violent incident at work. While these numbers suggest that a violent workplace event is unlikely, that unlikelihood does not excuse employers from prioritizing the security of their employees, regardless of industry. Shaffer says that “the safety and well-being of employees needs to become a communicated corporate value.”

Domestic Abuse Spillover

Recent instances of workplace shootings that have made news have all involved a single shooter, often with a grievance, choosing a high-profile target. The shootings at the UPS sorting facility in San Francisco, CA, and the YouTube campus in San Bruno, CA, come to mind. But these incidents do not reflect the majority of workplace violence events.

Rather, Shaffer points to “domestic spillover” as the “most common indicator for workplace violence.” Domestic spillover is a term used to describe a domestic abuse situation that begins in the home but then follows the victim into the workplace. He advises that “it is critical for every firm to have an established, effective means by which [its] employees can report domestic abuse.”

“Another hurdle employers have to overcome,” Shaffer states, “is the fact that their employees who are victims of domestic abuse are frequently reluctant to share their circumstances.” This reluctance is driven, in part, by the stigma associated with being a domestic abuse victim. Even worse, the victim may actually believe that their abuse is deserved.

Shaffer suggests that implementing a workplace violence policy that includes language addressing domestic spillover is a start. Regular review of this policy with employees can help to alleviate concerns.

What he states most firmly, though, is that “these policies must be endorsed and communicated from the top down.” For the policies to have real effect, there must not only be C-suite buy-in and implementation, but the employees must sincerely believe that their workplace is a safe haven.

Some questions for security leaders to ask themselves:

    • Does our organization have a mechanism by which the victim can report domestic abuse?
    • Are our reception, security, human resources, and legal staff aware of domestic spillover threats? Could they recognize those threats if they walked in the door?
    • Does our organization have intervention-capable employees trained to help diffuse conflicts or violence?
    • What are our legal requirements to protect our employees?


Greg ShafferSecurity Expert Greg Shaffer is the founder and President of Shaffer Security Group, a global security, risk management and tactical training specialty firm based in Dallas, Texas. Greg is recognized as one of the nations’ leading and respected policy experts in the prevention of domestic terrorism and active shooter events.

Prior to founding Shaffer Security Group, Greg served for over twenty years in the FBI, with positions including supervisor for the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force, Counter Terrorism Supervisor, and as a member of the elite Hostage Rescue Team.