I recently had the unfortunate privilege of serving two different organizations with disturbingly similar problems.

It was a privilege because I’m a helper by nature, and I derive satisfaction from supporting others in times of crisis. It was unfortunate because these critical incident responses stem from misfortune: A death in the workplace, a serious accident, an act of violence.

FEI supports victims and survivors when traumatic incidents overwhelm their ability to cope and interfere with how they perceive their workplace. While many of these events occur at the jobsite, many others occur outside of work. In some cases, they involve the shocking loss of a valued co-worker, which is devastating for the workforce and disruptive for business.

The first incident involved a workplace that had experienced the death of one of its long-term employees. They’d been involved in a minor car accident that had quickly escalated, with the other driver drawing a gun and using fatal force.

I met individually with some of the employee’s co-workers who were trying to process this senseless violence. Some cried. Many were angry. All had questions. A common theme among them was, why is it so easy for people to use a gun to take the life of an innocent person?

This is a complicated issue and it offers no easy answers. I mostly listened and helped those I met focus on what they could do to take care of themselves and their co-workers. But their questions, sadness and frustration stayed with me.

When I returned to my office later that day, I received a call from another organization that needed help and their request was distressingly similar: An employee had not returned to work because they, too, had been shot and killed over the weekend.

Because this murder occurred out of state, I arranged for another counselor to support the employee’s co-workers. But as I was finalizing the request, I couldn’t help but wonder how many others throughout our nation would not be returning to work for this reason. It was a depressing and frustrating thought because our country’s gun violence is completely unnecessary.

Much has been said about the need for common-sense gun legislation and limited access to military-style weapons and ammunition, including from FEI’s own parent company the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. I echo these goals. I would also like to point out the need to study gun violence as a public health and safety issue. Even though our country’s gun violence is regularly described as an epidemic—killing almost 40,000 Americans a year—no federal funding has been earmarked for public health research on how to stop it.

Most conflicts, especially those in the workplace, do not turn violent. But they can be a constant source of frustration and anger. One approach I use with the organizations I support is to promote the benefits of healthy conflict resolution. It’s based on good communication, listening and learning compassion, not just for our co-workers, but for everyone we encounter. If this approach could be more broadly applied, it might ease some of the anger and suffering that fuel this violent epidemic.

If or when I get more calls like this, I’ll be ready to help—and so will many others in positions like mine. But as I’m sure we’d all agree, we’d rather not have to.

If your organization is interested in learning more about conflict resolution training, contact us.