our office showed a disturbing safety video, am I a mentor now, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Our office showed a disturbing safety video

Warning: The following question discusses violent imagery. 

Recently we were assigned our annual corporate mandatory trainings, which included a workplace safety training on what to do in case of an active shooter. I know this is something companies need to plan and train on nowadays, as terrifying as that may be. I understand why we need to take the training. However, I fear the way it was presented was a little over the top and could be downright traumatic for some people.

Our training was a module with a link to a video produced by the city of Houston called Run.Hide.Fight. It uses actors going over scenarios you can try when faced with an active shooter. It’s not one of those “everybody is calm and collected in an emergency” videos like you sometimes see during an airline safety presentation. It starts off with statistics of recent shootings and the number of people killed. Then the film begins with a scene where you watch the shooter kill several people in a lobby. The rest of the video deals with the surviving (and terrified) coworkers trying to make their way to safety or, when faced with no other options, fighting back. There are also several shots of dead bodies on the ground.

Is this appropriate for mandatory corporate trainings? The video is violent and you have to watch it to get credit for completing the course. I imagine some of the images of people being shot would be very disturbing to people, especially those who may have suffered gun-related trauma in the past. I also have one or two coworkers who get extremely anxious at the thought of a workplace shooting and I am afraid this video could really upset them. Is this worth bringing to the attention of HR or it is one of those “this is the way the world works now” kind of things? (For reference, I work at a large international company with thousands of employees and HR is outsourced).

If you found the video upsetting, you absolutely can bring that to HR’s attention. It’s useful for them to hear that kind of feedback.

I mentioned your question to my father-in-law, a former Secret Service agent who now does security consulting and trains people to spot and get out of dangerous situations. I wanted his opinion on whether people might learn less from this kind of video because they’re so bothered by how graphic is that they don’t absorb as much as they otherwise might.

He said often the idea behind showing that kind of imagery is so your brain knows what to expect and is less likely to freeze up if you encounter it in real life (not that a video is at all the same thing, of course) and that without it, the video often won’t get through in the way it needs to. (Interestingly, he also said that the video you saw is one of the most commonly used — but that it should have been accompanied by someone talking you through it.)

So that might be the reasoning behind it. At a minimum, though, I’d hope your company would consider warning people about its content ahead of time, explaining why they’re using it, and letting people opt out if they choose to.

2. I still feel junior — but new hires ask me for guidance

I’ve been working at my company for three years now. I got hired here right out of college so I’ve always been the most junior person on whatever team I’m on in age, experience, and title. Two months ago, I got transitioned to a new team, which is great so far.

The only thing that I’m not sure how to handle is that I’m not the most junior person on the team anymore. In fact, I’m one of the most senior people. After I started on the team, we hired two new college grads and they’ve been coming to me with all sorts of questions from work-related things to where to find people in the office and even just how-to-be-an-adult questions. Other than my manager, there’s only one other person on the team who’s older and more experienced than me.

I guess I still think of myself as pretty new, considering some people have been at the company for 30+ years, but I obviously know a lot more than when I started three years ago and I’ve even been promoted. I just find myself surprised when new hires come to me with their questions instead of the team veteran or our manager. Are they coming to me because they feel more comfortable since I’m way closer to their age? Should I redirect them to someone more experienced? I don’t mind answering their questions to the best of my ability (sometimes it is something beyond my scope), but I really just want to make sure that they’re getting everything they need. Do I actually qualify as an Experienced Coworker now and how do I take on this new mentor-like role?

Yep, you’ve been there three years, which is a solid chunk of time. You’re not a new grad anymore; you know what you’re doing and you have a pretty good sense of the company.

It’s also very likely that that those new grads are coming to you rather than more experienced people because you’re closer in age to them. You’re them in a couple of years. And you were very recently in their shoes. So you’re less intimidating, and they figure you’re familiar with the sorts of things they’re trying to figure out because you probably had similar questions yourself not that long ago, and probably won’t judge them for what they don’t know. You’re the perfect blend of approachable and knowledgeable!

As for how to navigate this, stay approachable! Let them know you’re happy to help, check in on them occasionally, and keep answering questions. Also, tell them when you’re not the best person to talk to. If you ever feel out of your depth, let them know that (that’s a lot better than guessing and getting it wrong). You can say, “You know, I’m not sure, let me connect you with Jane, who can talk about that with more nuance” or “I approached it this way but I’m honestly not sure if that was the best way to do it — feel free to look for a better way, and let me know if you find one.”

3. Can I put my personal mail in our office’s outgoing mailbox?

I work at a university, and we have a general outgoing mailbox and an inter-departmental mailbox in our department. The other day, I went to put an addressed, stamped envelope that was my personal mail in the mailbox. I figured, why not treat it like a regular mailbox? I used my own stamp and envelope, not university resources.

The office admin stopped me and told me that it was unprofessional to put personal mail in an office mailbox. She said people might assume I was using university resources for my personal mail.

I’m not looking to push back or anything, but I was genuinely curious if this is an etiquette no-no that I had never considered before. (I can’t imagine this is relevant, but I can’t use my mailbox at my house because my mailman doesn’t pick up my outgoing mail. So every time I mail a letter I have to go find a mailbox.)

In most offices, it’s absolutely fine to put the occasional personal envelope in the outgoing mail as long as you pay for your own postage. It would be typically frowned on if you were regularly putting enormous stacks of your own mail in there, but the occasional single envelope? It’s been normal and unremarkable at every office I’ve ever known.

But are you by chance at a public university? Government employees have much more stringent rules around any personal use of work resources so that taxpayers don’t get upset that their tax dollars are funding things like coffee or other completely normal work amenities. So if you’re publicly funded, that might be the issue. It still wouldn’t be unprofessional though, just against your employer’s rules.

4. Is this travel policy for remote employees weird?

I have a question for you regarding some policies that my company has in place for employees who have requested to work remotely. Basically, the remote employee would be required to travel to an office one to two times/year. I get that. My question is about the second part of this policy, which says that for the first two years, the employee is responsible for hotel and meal costs when they travel to an office. Is this typical for employers to require travel, then not cover the full cost of it?

Ultimately, I am going to have to agree to the policy, as I am relocating and they need my answer soon, but I’m curious if I should say something or just let it lie because once I agree, I’m locked in.

The key part of this policy is that it’s for employees who are asking to be remote. Assuming these are people situations similar to yours — working at a company office, decided to move, and asked if they can work remotely once they do — your company is basically saying, “Yes, we’ll let you go remote, but you’ll need to cover some of the extra expenses that will result from your decision to do that.” They’re not looking for remote employees; they’re letting you do it as a perk, and they’re saying they don’t want to shoulder all the additional costs that result from it.

5. How many candidates usually get interviewed in a multi-step hiring process?

I recently had a first interview (after phone interview) that seemed to go well. During the interview, when we talked about timeline, he was very up-front that they have a pretty long process. It is four steps, which would be three to four in-person meetings. I very much appreciate his honesty, but I have never gone through a process with that many steps. He says that they really want to be sure that its a good fit on both sides, and the person they hire knows exactly what they are getting into, all of which makes total sense.

How far along do they usually go in these long processes while still considering other applicants? While I understand that at any time, they could realize they don’t want to hire a person, I also can’t imagine them bringing too many people through each of these steps. So by say, the third step, how many applicants are they usually still considering? Also, I admit, I would look a lot less favorably on a company who made me take time off work four times only to not offer me the job. I understand you should always kind of assume you won’t get the job, so you don’t stress about it, but this seems pretty intensive for a non-C-level job and I think going through that much would be hard to not stress about it and to not be bitter if I didn’t get it.

It depends. Some companies interview people on a rolling basis, moving forward anyone who seems promising — which can mean a lot of people go through those later stages if it’s a hard-to-fill position. Other companies move only a set number of people forward to each step, usually around the same time. In that case, it’s typical to do the late stages with three to five candidates. By the last step, it’s often only one or two.

For what it’s worth, three interviews isn’t weird or uncommon, as long as the process is structured well (meaning there’s a clear purpose for each step, you’re not meeting with the same people over and over, and they’re not making it up as they go). Four is pushing it unless they have a compelling explanation for doing it that way.

But if you’re going to be bitter if you don’t get the job, I wouldn’t move forward — because in any hiring process, the vast majority of the people interviewed aren’t going to get the job and you could indeed be rejected after a fourth interview. But if the issue is really about having to take off work that many times, try saying something like, “It would be tough for me to take off from work four separate times. Is it possible to combine any of the steps or schedule for before or after my work hours? Or do any of the steps by phone or video conference?”

{ 647 comments… read them below }

  1. ChemistryChick*

    Ugh, #1 gives me anxiety just reading it. I have PTSD due to a high profile mass shooting and I absolutely would not be able to handle that. It makes me wonder if the employer considered possible ADA violations related to making that a mandatory thing…or would there be any?

    I’m sorry you had to deal with that, OP.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The ADA is probably not the right “tool” for addressing concerns related to the mandatory nature of this training. But it could be helpful for them to disclose that the video is very graphic ahead of time. That way, people who are highly likely to suffer significant health consequences (e.g., PTSD flashbacks, panic attacks, etc.) from viewing the video without any trigger warnings can prepare or speak to HR.

      (I’m really sorry that you went through a high-profile mass shooting. I can’t imagine how it must feel to then read about vivid active shooter videos.)

      1. Semi-Regular Commenter Going Anon*

        Yeah, we just went through active shooter training, and a couple of us who had already dealt with shooting situations didn’t have a great time, to say the least. We did wind up talking to HR about it, and it honestly had never occurred to them that any of us (small company) employees would have gone through an active shooter situation before. Being able to step out for a small portion of the training, or even being able to watch it captioned on a small screen instead of with full sound in a theater, would have been helpful.

        I will say, though, that the specific video mentioned by the OP is considered the recommended option by most police agencies, so don’t be too hard on the company for using it. (Not directed at PCBH, just a general mention!)

        1. Door Guy*

          My last company had active shooter training after there was an incident (no shots fired) with a disgruntled worker at one of our offices in another state. Our actual office was relatively small (under 20) so it through us for a loop when we had to watch that video, especially as we hadn’t (yet) been notified of anything happening at that other location (we have ~30 locations nationwide).

          It sounds like it might have been the same video, or a very similar one. Very dramatic, the Run.Hide.Fight, the people not being calm and collected.

        2. pleaset*

          “We did wind up talking to HR about it, and it honestly had never occurred to them that any of us (small company) employees would have gone through an active shooter situation before.”

          IOW – they think the problem is common enough that we are going to force everyone to watch traumatic video, but not common enough that we’d think anyone had actually experienced that trauma.

          Tha’s real sharp “reasoning” there by HR.

          I am glad you talked to them.

          I’ll add that just because police recommend something should not be criteria that we do it.

          Fire safety, which is a well-developed area involving multiple professions to determine response and training is one thing. Dealing with active shooter situations is a new thing, and I do not trust police to have a holistic understanding of the whole thing – including responses by people to training. There are emotional costs to that training, to say nothing of the fact that there not clear evidence that shocking laypeople actually helps them overall deal with an incident.

          1. Quill*

            And honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if this is extremely harmful to people who haven’t been in an active shooter situation – from everything I’ve been reading, people can develop a lot of stress and anxiety just from the threat of this happening, which does seem to match up with anecdotal evidence from when I was growing up.

          2. MintLavendar*

            FWIW, I’ve attended a training that used this video – 90% sure it’s the same one – and it’s good for a lot of reasons. People will panic around you, part of the training is learning how to prevent that in yourself and help others who are experiencing it. If it happens, it’ll be a chaotic, scary situation, and yeah, people are much less likely to freeze up when they’re more familiar with what’s happening. It’s not about shocking people, it’s about preventing the freeze-up, which is a *huge* factor that has considerable science behind it. It’s about helping people be aware of their surroundings and keep a clear head while loud, dangerous, scary things are happening around them.

            I also want to push back on the idea that dealing with active shooters is a new thing… we feel like we’re in an era of mass shootings, sure, but Columbine happened in 1999, just about 20 years ago. And it’s not like that was the first time a shooter ever entered a workplace. And some of it is based on learnings from people on a war battlefield for the first time, which of course has been happening for centuries.

            1. OpsAmanda*

              It sounds like this video doesn’t consider the possible negative consequences of watching something so violent. While I understand the point of trying to help people prepare for an event, is there any proof that this actually helps prevent people from freezing? Freezing is a natural response to a traumatic event, people don’t just choose to freeze. And it doesn’t help to shame people for a natural response.

        3. TootsNYC*

          it honestly had never occurred to them that any of us (small company) employees would have gone through an active shooter situation before.

          There have been so many (and not just the high-profile ones!) that there are now people who have survived TWO!

          That’s a little pollyanna-ish of them.

          1. yala*

            Friend of mine was in the Aurora theater shooting. Then she was biking past the theater here when our shooting happened. Wasn’t in it, thank goodness, but just that sudden proximity was enough to trigger her PTSD and bad.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          I think most HR departments should just start assuming that yes, someone in their company probably has either gone through a shooting or knows/knew someone who has.

          That particular video is a decent resource, but I agree with Alison re having someone there to talk about it before and after it’s shown.

        5. Melissa D.*

          I work in a government facility, and we have active shooter training every year. We’ve had to watch videos more graphic than this one unfortunately. One year we did an actual active shooter exercise and partnered with our local PD for it. We were trained extensively beforehand on Run/Hide/Fight, briefed multiple times, and warned explicitly that it would be a very realistic event. We were allowed to stay home that morning if desired.

          I thought since I knew exactly what could happen, around what time it would start, and have a general “no fear” attitude about a lot of things that I’d be fine. Let me tell you- it was SCARY. I was in the bathroom when I heard the first shot (using blanks) and all the training I had had went out the window. Since the bathroom doors don’t lock and there was nothing I could use as a weapon, I chose to run…and opened the door to the shooter 30 feet away, who chased me while firing blanks (I probably would have been dead in real life). I managed to run to a nearby office and close/barricade the door, but the police officer acting as the shooter tried to ram it down. I was TERRIFIED. I logically knew it was all “pretend”, but was shaking all over, and even ripped a fingernail off completely in my haste to barricade the door.

          Despite this I’m really glad we went through it because now I know exactly how well you can panic, even when the circumstances are spelled out beforehand. I can’t imagine how terrifying it could be to be involved in a real event. I would definitely speak to HR about getting excused from further training like this, but I highly recommend it for folks that don’t have experience in an active shooter situation and think that they’d respond perfectly.

      2. Amber*

        I actually work for the same company in another state, and the OP failed to mention (or their trainer skipped that part, which would be irresponsible) that the video DOES have a graphic warning at the start. Our trainers also were supposed to bring that up (mine did), and further, if employees felt that it would still be too uncomfortable for them, they had the option of not watching it, but they needed to let their trainer know they wanted to. My class actually had our Loss Prevention staff on hand to talk about the situation before we watched anything, and then he asked if any of us would like to step out and not watch, but I know that’s not the norm.

        I’m sorry that OP felt they needed to stay and watch it, or was perhaps too shy to speak up (a common problem in group training, and one I have never liked), but the video itself is what I call “obfuscated violence”. No blood, no shots of gaping wounds, although the rest of the description is fairly accurate.

        If their trainer skipped the graphic violence warning and didn’t warn the class in advance, I would recommend bringing that up to whichever manager they feel most comfortable with. That’s an irresponsible or uneducated trainer (sadly another common problem in our environment), and would be the more pressing issue, as a properly educated trainer could have potentially made the entire situation a non-issue.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s possible that someone could get an exemption from the requirement as an ADA accommodation — but they’d need to request it. It wouldn’t be an ADA violation to just start by asking everyone to watch it. (It’s the same way that it’s not an ADA issue to, say, expect cashiers to stand all day, as long as you make accommodations for people who tell you they need them.)

      1. ChemistryChick*

        Makes sense. I would say I’m surprised that employers don’t realize that more of their employees might have mental health issues related to this given the increase in incidents…but I’ve read this site since before liver boss soooo.

        1. Daisy*

          But why would it necessarily be about ‘not realising’? People with issues related to this are just as likely to face it, they don’t need training any less. If the video is necessary then it’s necessary for everyone. If it’s not then it’s not necessary for anyone.

            1. Daisy*

              Right, possibly, I personally have no idea, but this is widely seen as a particularly effective video, so clearly a lot of people think the graphic component *is* best. It just seems weird to eyeroll at this as some thoughtless, ‘HR does the darnedest things’, like the comment I was replying to. They’re showing the government recommended video, it’s not some wacky idea they’ve come up with. And if it’s effective, people being upset is beside the point.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Right, I’m assuming/hoping there’s some method to it. But I also think they should be warning people ahead of time and contextualizing it in some way.

                1. EPLawyer*

                  That was key in what your father-in-law said “Someone should be walking them through it.” Just watching the video 1) doesn’t teach much without context of best way to handle things and 2) a facilitator of some kind can warn people AND watch for signs of distress so it can be handled.
                  This company cheaped out by having everyone do it on their own and watch the video without expert instruction.

                2. Thr fix it up chappie*

                  I’m pretty certain I saw the same video in a training session. We were told beforehand that it was very graphic and if you wanted to leave the presenter understood. If it was the same video I saw it should come with a content warning.

                3. A. Lovelace*

                  EPLawyer is correct on this point, based on my understanding and experience with this type of training. The key is to experience these situations in a *safe and supported* environment, so that the brain can develop a healthier reaction. If watching the video causes stress and an inability to function, then that reaction will likely be present and worse in the moment (untreated PTSD and OSIs are cumulative with more exposure, so I expect that smaller situations would be too), not better.

                  Militaries do training in controlled environments so that the right reactions are developed. This can include many weeks of physical outdoor training, with little sleep and awful food. Why would any organisation bother to ‘train’ for sleeplessness and food rations, when it is more of an experience? Because the people having the experience are doing it with others whom they know well, and are being supervised by others in a controlled environment, and everyone knows that there is a time limit (“I just need to get through 3 weeks of this”). That feeling of ‘my buddies and superiors have my back, and this will eventually be over’ apparently translates into real-life situations, and results in better coping skills in the moment.

                  Based on this, the problem seems much more likely to lie in the company’s decision to do this individually and without any support. In the cases where the military does training, it is usually known well in advance and everyone experiences it together. I can easily imagine a bad situation where someone watches this shooting video, and then has a client meeting or something, and is quite rattled but unable to discuss it.

                4. antigone_ks*

                  This video or something extremely similar (shows the shooting, dead bodies, etc) was shown as part of faculty in-service on my campus, but with no contextualizing. Campus police went to a training, then came back and showed the video. There was no contextualizing; they told us to keep our classroom doors locked at all times (most faculty don’t have keys). A month later, they sent out an active-shooter alert text to all faculty & staff without making sure everyone knew it was coming and was just for training.

                  There was . . . a lot of rage.

              2. Jackalope*

                On the other hand…. A few years ago I had some training that was also super graphic (not related to an active shooter, but similar idea). I chose to go through it willingly but didn’t know what it would be like. I don’t regret it per se but I did have nightmares for years afterward. I ended up deciding that that was the price I paid for volunteering for this training, and overall feel like it would be helpful (although haven’t been in the related situation), but if it had been forced on me I would tend to be much more upset.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  I think the “forced on” as well as the no warning ahead if time thing is an issue or issueS.

                  Not that it isn’t a good tool… it totally makes sense to have people know what to expect/not be shocked into inaction.

                  I think that personally I would like a heads up and a way to opt out without it being held against me.

                  I have been in an active shooter/hostage situation. I was 15 years old. It took a major toll on my life and just reading about the video makes me hyperventilate.

                  TBH…not being allowed to opt out would have me considering a resignation.

                  Not everyone would/could do that of course, but some, like me can and/or would. It’s really about consent. Of course a shooter isn’t going to ask consent…so there’s that.

              3. Videosmakemecry*

                There is a logic to having people go through training while eliciting similar emotions they would have when using the content. And since we really don’t want to role play or practice this, the video is one way to do that.

                That being said, people also need to feel safe to learn. So content warnings and the ability to skip are absolutely necessary for this video.

                We use this video and when I first watched it, I struggled. Luckily, I was part of the feedback process and could ask for these things to be added. And they were.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  That’s not really how training works, though. You teach people what to do when they’re calm and the situation is not real, so that they can learn effectively and so that those lessons are firmly in place for the potential day when they may actually be in a distressing and stressful situation. Throwing them straight into the high stress will decrease their ability to absorb new lessons.

                2. Not A Morning Person*

                  Does anyone remember the post from the bank employee whose employer chose to do a simulation of a robbery as a “training” exercise but didn’t inform every employee that it was not a real robbery? Then the bank managers were surprised by the reactions of the employees who were terrified and needed time off to recover from the experience? That’s why information is needed up front and I’m not sure the OP from that scenario learned much other than not to trust her managers.

                3. Autumnheart*

                  Yeah, I don’t necessarily agree with the logic. That would be like accompanying the safety announcement before each flight with a video of the plane crash sequence from “Alive”. I can’t imagine how that would actually help in any way, you’re not teaching anything, and it just pre-emptively fills people with dread and fear.

              4. Japan anon*

                I want to push back on this idea anyone has anywhere that training must/should be graphic and show the harrowing aspect of an emergency in order to be effective, and that this is “how it is” or “how it should be”.

                I work in Japan which has a long and infamous history of devastating earthquakes (and the fires/tsunami/etc. that accompany them). As many of you know we had one of the worst on record in 2011. 3/11 is said with the same level of collective national trauma as 9/11 in the US. Not only were people affected by the actual earthquakeS and tsunami, but in Tokyo trains stopped running and stranded millions of commuters on a Friday. Many people had to make their hour-plus (by train) commutes on foot. For months afterwards there were scheduled power outages to reduce the load. This is for backstory.

                We have earthquake emergency drills twice a year at my company (I’m not sure what the legal requirement frequency is). We practice taking cover, evacuating via stairs, using those cloth stretchers, and listen to presentations afterwards about things like how to use the bathroom if the water is shut off and where emergency food is stored in the office.

                We don’t watch video footage of 3/11. We don’t have someone walking us through previous disasters step by step, reveling in the disaster like it’s a movie. We all know what happened and continues to happen, and we can seek out that footage if a visual would be helpful. There are earthquake simulator trucks if you want to experience what a strong earthquake feels like, but it’s not mandatory for everyone. Simulating the terror of being in an emergency situation is not a necessary part of being prepared for one. We’re office grunts, not emergency responders. Instead the office can focus on what it’s doing to prevent disasters and protect employees in the event of one.

                I’m sharing this experience because even across the water I see how often mass shootings happen in the US. If viewing footage of it and learning what happened was helpful, then you folks are getting trained constantly every time you watch the news. I wonder if becoming inured to that level of violence through training doesn’t make part of your brain start to think of it as a little more normal than it is. We have lots of disaster training here and it’s nothing like what OP describes.

                1. Mockingbird 2*

                  I agree. When we do weather-related drills we practice the practical steps like evacuating as quickly as possible (fire drill) or moving to the lowest level and assuming the correct position (tornado drill). We had a shooter drill once at my high school years ago which involved closing/barricading the door and sheltering quietly in place. It was not traumatic at all but taught us what to do. I would think going over the steps +/- simple practical application is adequate enough.

                  Now I personally have been in a fire house where they create fake smoke and hazards and you have to escape. But I think that is an extra step like your earthquake simulator and doesn’t need to be for everyone.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Just the fact that it keeps happening so regularly and our media covers it extensively is enough to inure people. Or traumatize them–a lot of people have been talking lately about how they’re scared to go to the store or to a movie.

                  I’m in favor of the training, but I agree that people should be able to opt out of watching the video. They can practice evacuation procedures (you should practice these, for everything) and read a transcript or other accompanying material and then sign off that they read it.

                3. Artemesia*

                  I am cynical about these consultant driven trainings that wallow in graphic gore. I doubt there is any research that shows this stuff is effective and you have people in love with guns and power who love to put others through this process. The scaring people is probably not necessary, but it is fun for those who put on these shows.

                4. Code Monkey, the SQL*

                  Yes, this. Emergency training is meant to lay the guidelines down in your brain so that when you are in a true emergency situation, you run a subroutine, independent of emotion.

                  You don’t pipe the smell of smoke in and set off all the alarms when you are running fire drills. You teach people: “When X signal is given, head to the nearest exit without panicking,” and you drill that over and over. That way, in the middle of the smoke and the alarms, when higher reasoning is locked up, the survival part of the brain has something to go on.

                5. Quill*

                  I’ve been in plenty of tornado drills, fire drills, and a few shooter drills / school lockdowns that weren’t at all a problem… and in shooter drills that were, because someone decided that calm practice wasn’t “serious” enough to prepare us.

                  Just speaking from my school experience, the only thing you get by shocking people is people abruptly having panic attacks and a lot of resentment from the people you’re pushing around.

                6. twig*

                  My dad was a first-responder (fire fighter/EMT). He spent most of my childhood going to various trainings. They drilled on safety in calm conditions so that when they were dealing with actual emergencies, they’d be able to do so in a calm, rote manner. That way when they’re cutting someone out of a car accident in the middle of a blizzard, they have their routines and methods to stick to so that they aren’t thrown off by the blinding snow storm or any gore.

                  I don’t see why civilians shouldn’t be trained in the same way.

                7. AKchic*

                  I agree. I’m in Alaska and the majority of our citizens either have repressed, minimized, or weren’t here for the 1964 quake. Those that were here and do remember: many have serious trauma.
                  Then we had a big one in the last year. Every aftershock is another panic from many.

                  For years we’ve had an annual statewide earthquake drill. Most companies don’t participate. Most people don’t even know about it. I can guarantee that when this year’s event comes – more companies will sign up and more people will participate.
                  Schools already do at least 2 earthquake drills a year (it used to be 4x a year, but they got complacent and cut back).

                8. Pickles*

                  We do virtual and live simulated training both. One year it went badly wrong and accidentally went “live” because someone didn’t get the message training was over, real cops responded, etc.

                  I’d rather do the live training because it highlights things you won’t get from a video – for instance, if that hallway you always use gets closed or barricaded during drill, now you know it’ll be a literal dead end if you run down it during a real event – but it winds up being more nervewracking than a video.

                9. Not Me*

                  I think a very big difference is that earthquakes and weather emergencies are not a “new” thing in most parts of the world. The active shooter drills and training are new to the US. There aren’t decades and decades of everyone expecting to be involved in an active shooter situation to the point where it’s routine. We’re still grappling with the fact that it has become routine, and rightfully so.

                  Also, and possibly more importantly, the psychological piece of human on human violence is unlike anything else we encounter, and it cannot be diminished as unimportant.

                  Clearly there is still a lot of work to do on which type of training works best and what should/shouldn’t be included in them. It’s impossible to compare them to weather emergencies though.

                10. Japan anon*

                  Not Me, I disagree that active shooter drills are fundamentally different to natural disaster emergency drills because the threat is newer or somehow fundamentally different. Natural disasters are different every time and there are new and different issues as time goes on. For example, the 1995 Kobe earthquake had severe fires break out afterwards, and now we have updated safety procedures so gas stoves, etc. shut off to prevent fire. After 3/11 in Tokyo we have new laws requiring companies in Tokyo to provide for employees who are stranded at work when transportation shuts down. There are more extensive backup plans for when cell phone networks are overloaded. These are new threats that have evolved and our training has changed to compensate. And though earthquakes are an expected part of life in Japan, major earthquakes are certainly not routine and are still harrowing and traumatic. I invite you to read stories of survivors if it seems too “routine” to be relevant.

                  So here is my question to you: You say “We’re still grappling with the fact that it has become routine, and rightfully so….Also, and possibly more importantly, the psychological piece of human on human violence is unlike anything else we encounter, and it cannot be diminished as unimportant.”

                  If human-on-human violence is so uniquely psychologically horrifying, is it right to subject people to glimpses of that even as training?
                  And if we train people with the goal of inuring them to this horror so they think of it as inevitable and routine, what effect does that have on how society thinks about gun violence and prevention?

              5. ChemistryChick*

                I was trying to give people the benefit of the doubt by assuming they just may not realize they have employees with PTSD or other mental health issues related to mass shootings and that those people may need advance warning/the ability to opt out/a different way to do this type of training.

                Regardless of whether it’s deemed effective or not, I and others like me do get to be upset about this kind of thing.

              6. JSPA*

                Respectfully disagree. This is slightly analogous to type 1 vs type 2 error in statistics.

                If you’re only asking, “does this make people at least marginally better at handling a workplace shooting,” you’re not asking the right question.

                If you’re creating a situation where there more direct and indirect deaths and injuries from insomnia, depression, anxiety (etc) than you are saving (both from shootings themselves and from reduction in insomnia, depression, anxiety (etc)…you’re doing people a disservice, not a service, and you’re hurting, not helping, your corporation.

                That goes double if your only metric is, “do you feel the training was helpful” or “did you learn something.” (Especially if there’s no, “did you feel the training was harmful” question, or if you ask the questions same-day.)

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, excellent points. If you’re doing an ROI calculation, you have to factor in collateral losses as well as any advantages (and I suspect that the advantages may be only theorized at this point anyway).

                  Not saying it couldn’t be a net gain to show the video, but you can’t just claim it’s a win without counting the damage.

                2. Artemesia*

                  FWIW More people have died because there is oxygen on planes than have been saved by decompression and oxygen being available. Oxygen containers spontaneously combusted and crashed and killed a planeload of people. Many safety measure have unintended consequences and do more harm in the long run than good.

                3. fposte*

                  @Artemesia–I don’t think the numbers bear that out. The Valujet flight killed 110 people. Flights where loss of pressure required oxygen masks to be used are estimated at about 10 per year.

                4. acmx*

                  @Artemesia if you are referring to the incident fposte mentions, the oxygen generators were not installed in the aircraft; they were being transported (improperly) as cargo.

                5. Koala dreams*

                  That’s what I was thinking, but you explained it much better than I could have. You need to weigh the risks of negative health effects of watching the video and the increased probability of surviving a shooting incident and compare it. And with mental health problems being wide-spread, I’m not sure the benefits of watching the video would outweigh the risks. It’s pretty common to under-value the risks when they are not spectacular (decreased quality of life, worse mental health) and over-value risks from spectacular horror incident (shootings, plane crashes).

                6. JSPA*

                  @ Koala dreams, yes, it’s the opposite of the many things that have huge, fairly silent benefits that accrue to the vast, vast majority of people who do them (e.g. the many benefits riding a bike, walking to work, hiking, ocean swimming) but occasional high-profile risks (hit by a car, attacked, bears, sharks).

              7. Yorick*

                Is there research on whether this makes a training more effective? I’m not aware of any, but that’s not my area. I can see this being one of those things where people believe something and spread it like a fact when it’s wrong.

              8. pleaset*

                “but this is widely seen as a particularly effective video,”

                It might be seen that way, but I am doubtful. Police in particular say all sorts of stuff that is not-well considered.

                And in a briefing I had with a veteran of the fire department in my city about emergency response, he said that there is a lack of understanding of dealing with active shooters in general, and that while the NYPD/NYFD recommend ABC (abandon, barricade, confront) that is simply a best guess of what to do.

                1. Artemesia*

                  There is ZERO evidence that this prancing about in body armor and scaring people with gory videos does any good at all. There isn’t evidence that these strategies will help when deployed although they seem like they might. Police saying ‘it is effective’ to inflict fear based training? Based on what evidence?

                2. Cranky Neighbot*

                  Artemesia: You’re saying that there’s no evidence, but is that so? I participated in an active shooter training led by a researcher who had reviewed hundreds of cases (case studies being the only resource available then). There has been research since then, too.

              9. Anna*

                Recommended doesn’t mean useful. There’s been a lot of information around active shooting training recently. About how it’s not really standardized, there’s no oversight, and how security companies tout themselves as “experts” in active shooting training but are using incredibly bad methods that don’t necessarily offer anything useful in an active shooter situation.

            2. Squid*

              Ohio State University has a “run, hide, fight” video (about 8 minutes) that shows ways to perform the strategies without being graphic. It’s set in a university context, but most of the information would apply in lots of settings. Maybe the OP could mention an alternative like this when speaking up. The organization could even offer two options: “this video is effective but graphic; here’s a similar alternative if you don’t want to see simulated shootings.”

            3. Sharon*

              I learned from working about a decade in animal rescue that the second you shock or offend people with graphic images, they tune you out and don’t receive whatever message you’re trying to communicate.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Yes, confirm. I stopped watching most broadcast channels because of the animal rescue commercials.

              2. Sharrbe*

                Hence the reason we change the station when those ASPCA commercials come on? I can’t get to the remote fast enough. And then I feel bad for changing the channel.

              3. Code Monkey, the SQL*

                We had a cop come and do some sort of “don’t be a stupid teen driver” talk, and his whole modus operandi seemed to be “horrify them as you please.”

                I can’t recall what he was even warning us not to do – I got hung up on his description of somebody’s body that was pulled out of a burning car, and had a good week of insomnia afterwards.

                Graphic images shock and appall, but as part of a PSA, they aren’t a great teaching tool.

                1. Quill*

                  My driving instructor showed us a very awful video of a real motorcycle fatality, to this day I have extreme discomfort about how it was used (did the next of kin consent to it, etc.)

                  The entire point seemed to be him trying to convince us that we shouldn’t ride motorcycles.

                2. Nerdling*

                  I agree. I actually instruct a segment of training that covers accessing resources to cope with exposure to traumatic media on the job; when TPTB first put that training together, one slide included a massive picture of a tarantula when talking about frequency of exposure. The discussion of that slide meant the image stayed up for what felt like ages, and I didn’t get anything out of that slide at all. Why? Because I’m terrified of spiders and spent most of the time it was up staring at my desk (I think I eventually stepped out of the room altogether because my brain just went “Nope”). I ALWAYS removed that picture when I taught. Today, the training no longer includes that sort of imagery or anything else that falls under the umbrella of constituting traumatic media. Why? Because exposure is cumulative, and it makes no sense to traumatize people in the process of explaining how to get help for being traumatized.

                3. Koala dreams*

                  When I took a driving course, I had a similar experience. I expected to have a discussion about risks in traffic, possibly based on the book we bought (it didn’t have any scary pictures), and was surprised when the teacher showed us videos of real accidents. I started crying and don’t remember anything from the rest of the lesson. Luckily I went to lunch and then took public transport home, and had a couple of days before I had to go to work, so I didn’t have any lasting ill effects. In a work context, I think it would be awful to suddenly be showed that kind of video and then need to work or drive a car home after that.

                4. PersephoneUnderground*

                  Yep, I don’t think I saw anything that bad, but my sister and I both commented that a lot of the safety videos seemed to be just saying “don’t drive” rather than teaching how to drive well. Quotes like “she was just a new driver, she was too inexperienced” with a girl that died in a car crash. Like, what were we supposed to do with that?

              4. kelmarander*

                Exactly. We saw this exact video from the Houston PD on Day 2 of a week-long orientation for new employees at my U.S. government agency. Sandwiched right in between the video on the scary things the bad guys do when you use your government laptop on public WiFi and the discussion with Security on the consequences of losing your ID badge.

                Stressful to say the least. This kind of training can’t be a check-the-box exercise.

        2. Anax*

          Speaking from experience, even PTSD totally unrelated to mass shootings can make these videos really upsetting and triggering.

          Mine is totally unrelated, but I have trouble with hypervigilance, and the “alertness” these videos try to produce triggers that symptom for me. When I had to watch a similar video, I think I spent the rest of the day compulsively mapping exit routes – window, door, door, back to window, door, door…

          1. Quill*

            I can’t even have a cubicle where people are walking behind my back, this video would have been a bad day/week for me.

            1. Zephy*

              I sit in a cubicle right by the door to my department office suite. In an active shooter situation, if I have any warning, I might be able to hide under my desk or lock myself in a private office. If the shooter heads straight for my department? That’s it for Zephy. S’been nice knowing y’all. I know that without even needing to go through “run hide fight” training.

          2. Mamunia*

            We had to watch this video at my job too. I don’t have PTSD, but I do have anxiety, and I could totally see how it is triggering. The ironic thing for my location is that we’re a satellite office in a small space, and so none of the video tips were relevant to us. We already talk all the time about how there’s only one door, and no hiding places, and how if someone came in they could get us all in a matter of 2 minutes. (Not to mention if a fire breaks out by the door, we’re toast.) Then they made us watch that disturbing training. Thanks, HQ!

            1. TardyTardis*

              I worked in an open plan office for tax work with only one entrance/exit. And you know how people love the IRS.

            2. yala*

              “(Not to mention if a fire breaks out by the door, we’re toast.)”

              that…sounds…illegal? Like, Triangle Shirtwaist illegal

    3. Amazed*

      “not being able to handle that” is why the training is given in a controlled environment ahead of time though, so that even failure to deal carries minimal consequence.

      Though in your case, I’d be surprised if the boss didn’t take “I’ve already been through [incident]” for an answer! Holy god, I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

    4. Chaordic One*

      My employer recently showed such a video as part of a workplace training. The video came with a trigger warning and no one was required to watch it, but I suppose that anyone who felt really uncomfortable about it was probably too intimidated to object, because as far as I know everyone watched it.

      Although the video it did not feature any blood (just people crumpling to the ground after being shot), and while it was probably no more violent than your run-of-the-mill police TV show, it did seem to just go on and on and on, and for that reason it was disturbing. The video ended with the shooter preparing to walk into a meeting room in which a group of people had barricaded themselves and where several employees were hiding behind the door ready to beat the shooter with large objects (including a table lamp).

      I’m actually more upset now, thinking about it, than I was at the time I watched it.

      1. Carolyn Keene*

        We watched the same video as the OP at my work just last week. Honestly, I didn’t find it that graphic — and I tend to be super-sensitive about these things. I don’t like violent or gory movies/TV, I cover my eyes if there’s a scene I wasn’t expecting, etc… I didn’t feel the need to cover my eyes with this one, and I felt much less anxiety than in some other trainings. BUT! the safety expert showing it did talk us through the action as it was happening, pointing out the strategies of the characters involved etc., and I think that made a big difference!

        1. Perse's Mom*

          My employer uses the same video. There’s no one walking us through it and no one talking to us about it before or after. It’s part of our annual “safety” checklist. The first year, a bunch of us watched it together (because it was a youtube link and our company intranet had youtube blocked for most of us in the office!) which had the end result of people being uncomfortable and cracking jokes as a response.

        2. Green Kangaroo*

          I came here to post this as well. We didn’t have anyone to talk us through it, and while I didn’t find the video very upsetting, I appreciate the perspectives others are sharing that it could be traumatic. I’m going to suggest some of these ideas for our next training.

        3. Chatterby*

          My place of work shows the Houston video during orientations (it’s pretty easy to find online for those who want to see it). I don’t think most people would be triggered by it; it’s less gory/violent than most tv shows. We did not have anyone walk us through it when I went through orientation. They basically show it on a large screen to the entire room of 100 our so people, then we move on to info on using the company gym.
          I will say it is a weird combination of cheesey (the shooter is kind of dressed like the Terminator and it has a made in house feel) and hard core (Run! Hide! Fight! With really dramatic music) which can leave a strange taste. You’re not sure if you’re supposed to laugh or take it seriously.
          I’ve never heard of anyone having a literal panic attack from it, and requesting to opt out of the short, kind of dorky, video without a really, really good reason (like combat PTSD, or having been in a shooting incident) would probably flag you as a “special snowflake” though they’d probably let you sit in the hall.

          Now I can see people being seriously traumatized by the active shooter training my brother, the public school teacher, has to go through.
          They don’t warn anyone. The teachers are there for a multi day training in other things. They pull one or two aside, give them a nerf gun, and tell them to jump up and start shooting people during lunch or a specific training class. Or they have a member of the police force walk into the building with a nerf gun and start shooting teachers without warning. Teachers then have to scatter and hide.
          It’s really messed up. He’s told me people freak out, start screaming and crying, wet themselves, it’s not good.
          But going through it is required for their jobs.
          They also have to practice this with students present.

          1. Baru Cormorant*

            That is uniquely horrible. They might as well start a fake fire in the building or sexually harass people to test how they’ll react.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          Exjob had it too, no one walked us through it, and we were all required to watch it. I had already seen it–in fact, I wrote a blog post about it (and included a content warning).

          Again, I stand with the opinion that it’s useful but it shouldn’t just be left to people to watch on their own. I think supervised drills (without simulations!) would also be a good addition to it, as they are for natural disasters and fires.

        5. tink*

          I think that’s the big thing. We also had a safety and security expert talking us through it a few years ago when we were required to watch it, and he’d pause to talk about things that had happened, other suggestions for things the characters could’ve used, etc. It was still kinda disturbing to watch (especially since I hadn’t even been at my job 3 months yet), but it wasn’t a shock jock level gore fest.

          When I had to watch it again as part of my city job training, we weren’t given any of that walkthrough, which is a huge shame imo.

      2. pleaset*

        “I suppose that anyone who felt really uncomfortable about it was probably too intimidated to object, because as far as I know everyone watched it.”

        I’d leave, if only to make others who are upset by this sort of thing more comfortable with objecting/leaving themselves.

      3. DJ*

        My workplace used to show the same video until they created their own tailored to our workplace, which is slightly weird because now it’s old coworkers doing the “shooting”. I don’t mind the video, but they take it a step further and do actual drills afterwards where we go to an area and wait around until we hear fake gunfire from a “shooter”. Then you have to respond (run or hide basically). It’s not horrible because everyone kind of jokes around about it and no one really enjoys it, but it’s still the part I dread and it really gets your adrenaline going. I can’t imagine how anyone who’s actually been through something like that would feel about it.

        1. DJ*

          Adding, we do have campus police there. They talk us through everything, so at least there are trained people and it’s not just a bunch of untrained people trying to scare everyone.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Campuses seem to be a focal point for this kind of thing, so it does (to me) make sense to give campus employees a lot of training. I do not know the best kind of training for shootings, but I know lifeguard training had a combination of videos and real practice, and the real practice helped when I have had emergency situations. There’s a certain way of thinking that clicks on.

            I hope you never have to use it.

            1. DJ*

              For sure, I definitely think it’s made me better prepared. It’s definitely hard to discern where the line is in terms of what helps more than it hurts. And I think having trained professionals there to dissect the video and real practice is key. I can’t imagine just showing the video and that’s it would do very much good for most people.

      4. NotAFedReally*

        The video is from the Houston Office of Emergency Management and was funded by a DHS grant, which is why it is so widely used. It’s not a police video, but an emergency response video, so the general idea is to support Preparedness and Response parts of the National Response Framework. We had the training at a federal facility, and it seemed to be pretty thoughtful.

          1. NotAFedReally*

            Yeah, we had someone go through the whole workshop with us. The context is important! The facilitator needs to be there!

        1. Cranky Neighbot*

          Thank you for explaining that – really helps to know what’s being talked about here without assumptions.

    5. Massmatt*

      IMO these sorts of videos and “trainings” have little to do with preparedness and much more to do with increasing fear and paranoia. I know we try to steer clear of politics here but they definitely fit an agenda.

      Your anxiety is not an unfortunate by-product, it’s the business model. Many companies and agencies are mongering fear.

      1. Lee*

        No, not at all. In the military, we used such training techniques not to teach, but to condition. You want someone able to function after witnessing horror, so you desensitize them to horror. Ideally, this training will prevent individuals from freezing in place due to stimulus overload.

        1. JSPA*

          Non-ideally, however, it also desensitizes the small percentage of individuals who become shooters. Or have a psychotic break.

          In the context of military readiness, especially if you ignore the knock-on effects of your soldiers people having a lifelong role in the real world, outside the military, it may make very good sense, yet still not be an overall social benefit.

          I’m thinking, here, among other things, of the number of older people with dementia; dementia-associated paranoia; and potential passing access to guns.

          So far as I know, we don’t crunch the numbers to ask whether past military desensitization to shooting people (via video or on an actual battlefield) ups their risk of shooting others.

          And that’s in the context of a group of people who are, at least in theory, screened for fitness-for-purpose, for…well, presumably for shooting people without losing control (?) No such screen for psychological fitness is used in corporate hiring (nor should it be). As a result, the argument that something “works for the military so it’d be excellent for civilians as well” is coming from an unsupported set of problematic assumptions about two disparate populations.

          1. JSPA*

            The bit about “crunching numbers” is meant to be specific to the dementia case in the paragraph above. Not whether military experience is an overall risk factor for private violence (as some such numbers are occasionally crunched).

        2. Upstater-ish*

          I’m not in the military or law enforcement. I don’t want to be desensitized to violence. I don’t want to associate going to work or shopping to violence.

          1. Ev*

            YUP. I work in a small-town library, for gods’ sake. The only desensitization I want to undergo is whatever will allow me to stop worrying about the various sticky substances that children’s books inevitably get covered in. (It’s just jam, right? It’s probably just jam.)

            1. Liz*

              It’s probably just jam.

              Peanut butter at worst.

              Vegemite if you’re in Australia.

              (Just keep on believing…)

          2. Anna*

            I don’t either, but we are there now. And while this was handled terribly, it’s less about desensitizing you to the violence and more about helping you keep your head on when something shocking happens. Training in how to deal with a fire is based on the same idea.

          3. Baru Cormorant*

            In the military there is a reason why they want you to be desensitized to horror. It’s because the goal is to put you in a warzone and have you do something in it. There is absolutely no reason why everyone needs to go through military-level warzone pre-training.

          4. yala*

            This, tho.

            Like, I get the overall idea. Back when I was in karate, we would do several drills/exercises that involved performing or fighting while surrounded by large, intimidating men yelling intimidating things. It was a good drill that taught us not to freeze up.

            But.

            Like.

            Desensitizing me to an active shooting is totally different. I signed up for karate. I didn’t sign up for a military career or a first responder career or anything even remotely dangerous.

            I get why it’s necessary these days, but also? I don’t want to be desensitized to the absurdity of this being a Thing.

        3. pleaset*

          Does the military do one-off- training unrelated to people’s actual work and needs and expect that to be a good use of resources.

          Showing scary stuff to people who are likely to see scary stuff and get good training related to it in general is very different than showing it to regular people.

          And it’s messed up that the power-that-be think that what works in the military should be rolled out more widely without very careful thought.

        4. Aquawoman*

          Well, desensitizing people to shootings could also serve an agenda. Honestly, I am awesome in a crisis because I can dissociate like nobody’s business. This has some pretty serious mental health consequences for me that I would rather not have people inflicting on me on purpose, though I have to say if I was watching that video in my office, I’d run it with the sound all the way down while scrolling through IG on my phone or reading something. Even in a group setting, I would not be looking at the screen and I’d be thinking hard about other stuff to block it out.

        5. Jules the 3rd*

          EMT training often also uses graphic videos for that purpose. Lifeguarding and EMT push heavily on live action practice, to help break the ‘freeze’ impulse. It is interesting to watch my brain switch into ’emergency’ mode, it’s really different – calm, very focused, hyper aware. Even my mom noticed, the one time she was around when I needed to use it.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Interestingly, I watched Run-Hide-Fight with a bunch of lifeguards and the general consensus was that it was campy and ridiculous and overproduced.

            This was in an area where our facilities had been affected by gang violence in the surrounding streets, and most people had expected a training that had better advice than run-hide-fight because it was obvious and not helpful advice. It didn’t include any specific or actionable procedures to triage or handle an evacuation/lockdown of an indoor or outdoor facility. It was regarded as a waste of time.

        6. Sharrbe*

          Conditioning the general population (children included) to become desensitized to horror is not a measure of success for this nation. This is not directed at you, Lee. Honestly. I understand what you are saying. It’s just the big picture that frustrates me. I say this as someone who has actually climbed under a desk and pulled a chair in front of me to check if I can go unseen. I’ve taken mental inventory of the room to figure out what furniture is best to block the doors with. In other words, I’ve tried to mentally prepare. It’s just frustrating to have to in the first place.

        7. eh I found it useful*

          I understand the point you’re making, and that’s what I took from a similar training (albeit lead by an articulate former FBI agent, versus solo). I found it invaluable, and feel empowered to think quickly from a place of logic and self-preservation should the need arise.

          There is value in this method (with the guidance of a knowledgeable instructor, and the ability to opt out), despite its lack of popularity in the comments

          1. JSPA*

            Respecting the benefit of feeling empowered where before you felt powerless (that’s no small thing), you formally don’t actually know

            1. how this would change your actual functioning in such a situation, and whether that in turn would actually make you and others safer

            2. whether you might have felt just as empowered without the first-person-type graphics

            Each of us individually only gets one bite at the “first training experience” apple, so no one person can answer the question; that’s why we need aggregate responses and statistics.

            Each shooter situation is different, and all of them are statistically rare events (albeit far, far too common).

            People who survive vs people who don’t…that’s sort of the ultimate reporting bias and ascertainment bias.

            We can’t assume that those who died did or didn’t have training. That they did or didn’t feel empowered. That they did or didn’t take [the risk, the training, the situation] seriously. That they did the right thing, the wrong thing, or that there even was a hypothetical right action that would have seen them come out alive. Every narrative is a story: it has emotional value and helps us make sense of the world. But it’s so very rare that any narrative can really shed light on the effectiveness of a particular sort of training.

            We know, even from combat veterans, who have been shot at more than once, that people who’ve never frozen before can, and that people who have frozen before, don’t necessarily, again. That thinking about freezing (or not), about shaking (or not), about screaming (or not) about being struck dumb (or not) does not ensure that you actually will control the behavior.

      2. The Fuzzy Worm of Capitalism*

        Seconding MassMatt – not to get off topic, but there is no governing body nor accrediting association for active shooter trainings, nor is there any evidence that I’m aware of that they improve outcomes in any sense. It’s my sense that a fair amount of active shooter training outfits capitalize on fear and sensationalism to make a quick buck of off HR and C-suite folks. I would absolutely push back against this mandatory training, or at least ask for credentials and evidence-based reasoning for mandatory compliance.

        1. Brett*

          This particularly training video is part of an accreditation curriculum governed over by a non-profit governing body with federal backing (and an entire federal training institute, EMI). It is part of a much larger emergency response curriculum with four different accreditation levels, achieved by a combination of in-person classroom training (by certified instructors), exams, and the experience hours.

          1. JSPA*

            That sounds lovely. But absent actual evidence, the weight of important people on the bandwagon, the number of seats on the bandwagon, the number of gears and the size of its gas tank have exactly zilch to say as far as where it’s being driven. There’s nothing (currently or generally) that requires federal training institutes to be “evidence based” in any meaningful way. Certainly not one that correctly takes “increased fear and anxiety” as a powerful negative influence on our gross domestic happiness.

      3. Artemesia*

        In my day we lay in the dirt on the floor in the hall of an old wooden school 6 blocks from the main Boeing plant to respond to nuclear war; the main effect was fear. Even at 6 it was obvious to me that I was going to be incinerated if there was nuclear war.

        The main effect of this shooter training on kids in schools is to foment fearfulness; we are raising people to think the world is terrifying. We aren’t doing anything about guns, we are expecting 7 year olds to protect themselves or, god help us, attack the shooter. I think it does in fact achieve a political agenda that has nothing to do with safety. Teachers need to have locks on their doors and some instruction on what to do unfortunately and workplace training is also unfortunately necessary, but I am dubious about the approach and the idea that everyone has to be conditioned to be a soldier in the line of fire.

    6. Bree*

      At the very least, I think they need to warn people well in advance about the nature of the video, ideally so those with personal experiences that would make it traumatic could skip it, but if not, so it doesn’t take them by surprise, at least.

      1. AnonEmu*

        This. Due to some personal experiences (not involving an active shooting situation) I’d be pretty triggered and would have to opt out so I didn’t have a panic attack in the middle. But I’d also be worried that doing so would paint a target on my back, even though ‘has had family members hurt by guns’ seems to be common enough of an experience you’d hope jobs wouldn’t look harshly on you for that. But I would be a sobbing wreck if they had presented such a video.

        1. Oof*

          I guess I would put the people who opted out on my “watch out for in event of emergency/make sure they are ok” list, to be honest. But that makes sense to me.

    7. MommyMD*

      Also personally affected by horrendous mass shooting. I can’t even stand to hear about shootings and don’t keep up with them and don’t follow any details. They can show all the videos they want. It won’t matter.

    8. BanHandGuns*

      I do not live in USA. And this is a very strange situation in my mind. I am amazed at how you are all thinking this is “normal”. It is NOT normal to have to train for being shot at.

      1. Not Australian*

        I work in an academic library in the middle of a field in Wales, and even *I’ve* had a briefing (admittedly not a drill or a video) about what to do in a similar emergency. “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.” We ignore these things at our peril.

      2. Massmatt*

        IMO the security industry behind these videos and “trainings”, as with announcements of colored alerts ARE attempting to normalize this mindset.

        It definitely serves both a financial and political agenda, but I will leave it at that, perhaps we can discuss this more on the weekend’s open thread.

      3. MommyMD*

        Omg please shut up. You don’t think anyone who has experienced anything like this doesn’t wish there was no such thing as automatic weapons and magazines? You think we want or deserve this? My family is partially ruined because of this. Many many are. This isn’t a political page. Go to the WSJ forum.

    9. AnonForThis One*

      This is the same video my company uses for active shooter training, and is hosted on our intranet. It was also sent out on a DVD to all employees to view.

    10. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Chemist here too. Gruesome safety videos are a necessary part of our field. I don’t enjoy watching them either, but sometimes we need a graphic reminder of what happens if you forget to wear goggles, reach into a running machine, etc.

        1. TardyTardis*

          As a corrective (time in the Happy Hut), there’s a video called “Chemists Know” (to the tune of “Let It Go”). Awesome and delightful.

    11. Happy Pineapple*

      I’ve had to watch that video twice now for different jobs. The first time it was distressing, but certainly not worse than anything you see in the movies or on TV. The second time I watched it after having been the witness to an attempted murder. My anxiety went off the charts; it just felt too real. I hadn’t even realized that I was still affected by the shooting I saw. I had to mute it and stared at my desk until it was over.

      I’m so sorry that you and other people have to live with this fear day in and day out.

    12. Justme, The OG*

      My former department had us all go to a training (shut down for the afternoon) and didn’t tell us what it was for. Surprise, it was the mass shooting video.

    13. Lora*

      My employer did this pretty well, and told anyone who might have Issues with Active Shooter training that they could skip it. But we also have a lot of veterans in our workforce at this site so they tend to be more thoughtful about the notion that there are likely people in the audience who have been shot at already and don’t need a reminder.

      When I was at another site for a project which had the same training, there were not many veterans at that site and an awful lot of um….let’s say “cowboys” who had not experienced personally being shot at, and the cowboys had uh…let’s say unrealistic and potentially hazardous notions about what their reactions would actually be in such a situation, and I’m told sitting through the training with Rambo Wannabes boasting of their prowess was a very different experience than sitting through it with actual combat veterans.

      1. AKchic*

        Having lived with both – I can tell you that the assessment is accurate. The Rambo Wannabes are very much known, and nobody enjoys sitting in on any training with them. It’s almost like a caricature is sitting next to you rather than a real human.

    14. smoke tree*

      I had to watch that same video as part of safety training for my volunteer position. This was for quite a large organization, so I was also concerned that some people watching might find it really disturbing or traumatic. I also found the tone of the narration off-puttingly casual, in contrast to the fairly graphic content of the video. I believe there was one line that went, “You never know when a day at the office might turn into an action movie!”

      1. juliebulie*

        That is horrible (and stupid). Comparing a live shooter situation to an “action movie” is pretty sick.

    15. Jackie*

      I know the “duck and cover” drills don’t compare to active shooter drills but as a child in grammar school, having to take cover under my desk or go into the hallway because an atomic bomb could drop at any time, well, it was very traumatic.

      1. Cacwgrl*

        My littlest was absolutely more freaked out by the duck and cover drill than the active shooter training drill at school. They did it the second day of her new school and she did not come out from under the table for an hour. Granted, she was absolutely terrified by two quakes this summer and didn’t understand the drill part of the scenario. We’ve had several talks that her little 3 year old mind barely grasps, but we’re getting there.The oldest acted on instinct during the quakes and threw herself under the table without hesitation and stayed there until dad found her and talked her out. I was with her when the second hit and it was a drag/shove to get her out of the house and not under the table again. She knew to cover, it didn’t matter that I said get out or at least to the doorway and not under the antique table that I seriously worried about caving in if something fell on it. That alone proved to me that school drills pay off and if you do them enough, you act on instinct, usually. As an adult in this new normal at work, I find myself immediately finding all the exits in any space and thinking about ways out, no matter what the situation.

    16. Cacwgrl*

      We show the exact video, I’m pretty sure, based on the description. It’s not that graphic, everything is simulated and there isn’t any blood, real shots or injuries. Even the attack on the shooter cuts before anything happens. It’s been shown to probably 2000+ new hires over the last couple of years and while some found it disturbing, I’ve never had anyone walk out or push a complaint any higher than the training officer immediately after the training. HR is always in the room and the topic of dealing with a situation is brought up several times before the video is shown, from the highest levels of leadership down. We have a couple rules about it, the new hires are warned it could be distressing, they are welcome to walk out at any time, we welcome all discussion after and we never turn the lights off all the way- safety hazard and we had feedback that it made the experience more distressing for them. I get it and we have had people who have discussed their life experiences before and after. To be honest, the video is mild compared to our annual training once you’re on board and we’ve even gone through the real life training, with a simulated attack on our building. It helps to be that graphic and real and anyone that is strongly opposed can sit out of the simulated trainings but we all have to do tabletops and walk throughs of the workspace. It’s heartbreakingly important to know, to face the fear and really think about what you’re going to do if it happens.

    17. juliebulie*

      My employer uses the Houston video as well, but there’s a warning at the beginning that people who might be sensitive to the content should ask their manager for alternative training.

      I found the training intense but not graphic (or do I mean “graphic but not intense”), but wouldn’t in a million years dream of putting this in front of someone without warning them and offering an alternative.

      1. Teach*

        I’m a teacher, and I have to pair up with someone on the day we show the Standard Response Protocol video on active shooters to high school kids. I’m very good in an emergency, but the anxiety of watching that stupid video makes me shake and cry. I have primary and secondary exits mapped from every classroom I use and I have a baseball bat and wasp spray in the cupboard by my door. Those stupid videos, though.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Re: #3, I work at a public university, and it’s totally ok to send your outgoing mail through the campus mail system so long as you pay for the envelope, contents, and stamp. I draw the distinction because I don’t know of any public university that bans employees from posting their personal mail—which they assembled at their own cost and not using any university resources or supplies—from outgoing university mailboxes. Usually the restriction is on using envelopes or supplies or postage that has been paid for by the university for university-related activities.

    OP#3, this sounds like more of an “appearance of impropriety” issue than a professionalism issue. Unless, of course, you work at a private university, in which case I think your office admin’s stance may be department/college specific, or alternately, outdated.

    1. Nikara*

      I’m in a local government job, and we aren’t allowed to send out our mail via the office outbox, even if we have already stamped it. We also can’t accept packages at work that aren’t work related. They always remind people of these rules around the holidays. Not a-typical for government jobs. But the rules are clearly stated.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I also work for a city govt and we are also not allowed to put mail, even things we stamped ourselves, in the outgoing mail. I think that this is because the mail is still sorted by a govt employee or processed in some way and they need those resources to be used for govt mail, not personal mail.

        1. Lilith*

          Yep. Before retiring, I worked for a college in the Midwest. I always thought it would have been odd for the people of my state to pay for the handling of my mail. So I never mailed items from work. It was tempting, tho!

        2. LittleBeans*

          Yep, my public university employer also prohibits personal mail because it goes through a campus mailroom and people have to spend time sorting it. We have thousands of employees so even if everyone only did it a few times a year, it would add up. But there are US postal boxes on campus which are public and anyone can use.

        3. HappySnoopy*

          This. Not sure if that’s the case here, but it could be and for the reasoning you just laid out.

        4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          I work at a private university and we have a similar policy. They pay mailroom employees to handle university mail. If all of the several thousand employees started sending their personal mail through the system the 3 mailroom clerks would be overwhelmed so it’s just a blanket no. Same with packages — the shipping/receiving department opens all packages to catalog and match the contents to a purchase order in order to flag the accounts payable office they can pay the invoice. They don’t want to track down who ordered the shoes from Amazon. As for having the UPS or FedEx guy just drop it off directly to employees on campus — universities in my experience are tightening up security, so all persons without a student or employee badge can’t just go walking around the campus; they must go through security to check in … again, if one person does it, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if even 10% of the employees started doing it… what’s the saying? No single raindrop believes it’s responsible for the flood.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Whereas the private university I work for just asks that people not leave their packages up front for long after they’ve been notified because the front desk staff doesn’t have time to watch them.

            OTOH, they don’t even sort the mail other than by floor in our new building – we all have to rut through a big box to see if we have any mail. Needless to say, I don’t give this place as my mailing address.

            But we can put stamped outgoing mail in the outgoing bin.

        5. I Take a Whole Donut*

          Huh. I work for a county and not stamping it yourself would be a capital offense but putting in the box when someone is already going to have to put it all in the actual mailbox already is fine. No added work. But that is interesting that some places are that stringent! I worked for a federal court where people used to have packages delivered all the time and I felt bad for the mailroom dude wandering a huge courthouse for our personal stuff when there was almost no work reason to have to drop of packages to anyone.

      2. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        I’ve worked principally private sector and I worked at a couple of places that would not allow outgoing private mail, even if stamped by the sender. Wasn’t quite sure of the reasons why (but maybe along the lines of: we can’t be responsible for it so if it doesn’t get to where it needs to, it’s not our problem).

        We also are not to accept incoming personal mail or packages at my current place and we get reminders at Xmas.

        When I managed the mail two jobs ago, I allowed incoming personal parcels because it didn’t add any extra work and we were quite small. Outgoing stamped personal mail I readily mailed out. But I wouldn’t sell stamps from the stamp machine to staff because I had no petty cash mechanism to handle the “sale.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          I have the warm fuzzies for the companies that not only let you put your stamped envelopes in with the company mail AND accept personal packages, but will ALSO sell you the postage–and apply it–to outgoing mail.

          One company I know of does it year-round, and the other would do it at Christmas time.
          It was to their benefit, because for either one, people would have to take a long lunch to get to a post office and back, since post offices aren’t open in the evenings, and there are only a few weekend hours.

          1. Artemesia*

            Given the routine theft of packages it would be a real benefit to allow people to accept packages at work; of course with the huge increase of Amazon shopping I can imagine it would overwhelm many systems. I am lucky to live in a doorman building where I can have things delivered safely but most people have to worry that the stuff is on their porch and it would be fairly easy for delivery at work to be a low cost benefit.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            I live in DC where there is the combined issue of package theft AND people who live in apartments and condos that will not accept packages either. I understand from the mail guys that they get A LOT of cookies/baked goods, and gift cards around the holidays as a thank-you for the added burden of personal packages.

            We can also purchase postage through the company. You fill out a very short postage request form with your user ID, stick it to your item, and they charge your internal account for anything you send. (I don’t use it myself because I like picking out stamps with my kids, but it’s a nice option in a pinch.)

            I understand the added burden of package delivery or even letting employees use the company mail system, but it seems petty to me to tell employees it’s too much work to drop their pre-stamped envelopes into the postal bin. Our mail guys do pickup with a cart that has interoffice sorting bins and one for outgoing USPS mail. It’s one flip into the bucket, and USPS mail is typically not in a big, yellow interoffice envelope, so the effort is minimal, even for a 500+ employee organization (according to our mailroom supervisor, anyway). I put most of my mail in the bin at work because my current home mail carrier is awful and has lost things and not delivered packages because he didn’t want to get out of the truck. (It has been a big disappointment after the postal carrier tag team at our last house – Bob and Jeanette were the best.)

          3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            In the UK a frank is cheaper than the stamp (say 55p for the frank where the stamp is 60p) so I assume the costs are somewhere else – perhaps the hire of the machine? I’ve never known it be ok to “sell” franks even into petty cash because the accounting would be a huge headache and anyway would you charge 55p or 60p?

            (law, where outgoing mail is recharged whenever possible!)

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              The firm I worked for simply set each employee up with their own client/matter number and charged the expense the same way it would be done to a paying client. (Your personal number matched your company employee number.) Accounting simply issued the statement to the employee and deducted from paychecks if not paid in 90 days. But they also let us send parcels and, in the pre-cell phone days, use the long distance service. We got the company discount with the pass-through rate.

      3. Anna*

        I work for a Federal program and I can accept packages at work and send small things out via office mail because receiving packages and sending mail I paid for is literally not using any resources not paid for by me. So, definitely YMMV, but the assistant in OP’s letter doesn’t sound like she’s worried about costing the taxpayers anything; it sounds more like she just thinks it falls under one of those weird nebulous “professional norms” things. Otherwise why say it’s unprofessional instead of it’s against policy?

      4. yala*

        fwiw, I think most universities have some kind of post office on campus that functions like a regular post office. So even if they work at a public university, there should still be a place on campus where they can legit do it.

    2. Sharkie*

      You should be fine but I would ask your manager. I once tried to send a small piece of personal mail at work after watching a coworker place 100 of her wedding invitations in there and my manager and the mail room staff had a fit that I didn’t ask permission first. Some people are just weird about mail

    3. PNW Jenn*

      Long-time public employee (now former) here.

      Depending upon your compliance officer’s understanding of local laws, putting a SASE into the outgoing mail can be contrued as technically illegal and even result in dismissal.

      What, illegal?!? Dismissal?!?

      Yes. Public employees are forbidden from using resources that are not generally available to the public. (Stay with me here…) Putting outbound mail into the university’s mail system uses staff resources that are not available to the general public.

      It’s a stretch, and would require a compliance officer getting a burr up their behind, but you may be better served by finding a drop box elsewhere.

      It’s a load of horse pucky, in my opinion. At my former employer, employees were permitted to use and keep airline miles but not use gas discounts from a grocery store rewards card. It reeked of favoring faculty over staff, a common issue in academe.

      For some fun reading, search “de minimus use of government property”.

      1. blackcat*

        I have found these rules are often more lax/different at public universities. Coffee and tea (paid for by academic departments) are common. YMMV, but of all of the public universities I’ve interacted with, no one would mind a pre-stamped envelop going into the outgoing mail box, by faculty, staff, or student.

    4. LizM*

      I work for the federal government, and have been told in several offices we aren’t allowed to put personal mail in the outgoing box. I’ve never actually seen the rule, but heard it enough that it’s either a rule or a very persistent urban legend, persistent enough that pushing back with the admin staff would be a bad idea.

      The justification I heard was that there may be some (albeit minimal) work involved in securing and handling the mail before it’s picked up.

    5. Jane*

      To give a different perspective on #3:

      How does the mail work at your university? When you say “mailbox” is this going straight to the external postal system, or via a staffed mail room?

      At my workplace, we wouldn’t be allowed to put our own stamped mail into the university mail system. The mail is collected and taken to a mail room, where it is manually sorted and franked with the appropriate postage, which is then charged back to the departments. (In my country larger companies would have thier own franking machines, and pay the postal services in bulk for the postage used, rather than using stamps – I assune it’s the same in the US?) Adding in leters with stamps generates an extra sorting process, creating extra work for the mail room staff.

      Interestingly, this would be considered unprofessional at my workplace, because it’s inconsiderate of the workers in the mailroom, expecting them to do extra to make your personal life easier rather than your work life.

      1. Artemesia*

        This strikes me as monumentally petty and ridiculous. In a country where wages have stagnated for close to 50 years, small workplace benefits that pretty much cost nothing to the employer would make life more pleasant. Can’t have that.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        We have two mail streams, which is probably why I’ve never worried about posting personal mail.

        Outgoing mail that requires postage goes to the central mail room, where it is manually weighed, sorted, franked, and the cost is charged to the department. Sending personal mail through this method is forbidden and would be a big problem.

        Outgoing, pre-stamped/paid mail is dumped into a huge USPS box in the mailroom and does not require staff time to sort, verify, etc. Then a USPS truck comes by and picks it all up from central mail. That’s the process through which it’s fine to send personal mail.

        I realize the same may not be true of other institutions, particularly those with a unified outgoing mail system.

      3. Observer*

        Calling it unprofessional is pretty ridiculous. I understand why a company might not allow it. But expecting everyone to know what the problem is and calling them unprofessional because they are not aware of it is just snooty.

    6. JSPA*

      This may depend on whether the building has direct USPS pickup, or whether there’s an internal sorting and handling that’s paid for by state (or private) employees.

      Also, both public and private universities have pushed back on “send to / send from the office” after their employees were injured by the sheer weight and volume of mail order deliveries and returns. Not to mention, the nature of the product or the identity of the recipient can themselves cause issues in a work environment.

      1. Blue*

        At the last (private) university I worked at, someone had a full set of new car tires delivered to the office. I don’t think any university employees had to handle them, at least (I think they were delivered directly to the mail room and just stayed there until the person picked them up), but I was shocked at the gall. Who could possibly think that’s appropriate? That’s the kind of thing that results in everyone losing the privilege of sending/receiving small items at the office.

          1. Observer*

            They take up a lot of space. And they are valuable enough that no one wants to deal with the possible responsibility.

    7. Lynca*

      I work in govt. and I’ve found that it also depends on a lot of various factors between agencies. I’ve seen offices where it’s fine and some where it isn’t. So I think it’s a good idea to check first.

      In the building where I work- mail does not directly go to the local PO. It goes to our general office to be mailed out. Why they do this, I have no idea. But it’s clearly laid out that you cannot send personal mail with business mail.

      Conversely, I’ve known offices where throwing your already sealed, stamped mail on top of the pile to go to the local PO didn’t matter. But in 100% of those cases, they were going to the PO with no additional stops and they were explicitly told it was fine.

    8. blackcatlady*

      I not only work for the federal government, I work at a place known for having biohazard research. Let’s just say after the anthrax letters back in 2001 we are NOT allowed to put any personal mail in the government boxes.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Funny side note – post-anthrax letters, we were working with a government agency, and they melted the CDs we sent them putting the conveying envelope through the heat-based anthrax-killing process. Apparently, this wokred great for paper but not so much for optical media coated in plastic. (Looked like a Dali painting.)

        They kept insisting we’d missed the deadline, but our position was that we sent them, following their instruction to the letter, and had no way of knowing that their mail department going to render them unusable. The instructions had been drafted on the assumption that the mail room was X-raying the mail. They were not.

    9. Bananatiel*

      At my very large public university it’s also totally okay– at least in the two departments I’ve worked in– but then again we have two separate bins for campus mail and USPS mail so it’s not like the campus mail staff is having to do any sorting.

      1. PM Punk*

        I also work at a large public university. Even the most strict people in my department occasionally put personal mail in the outgoing mailbox. It’s news to me that this could be construed as unprofessional, but maybe my university is just lax about that sort of thing.

        1. Laurelma01*

          It’s different if the postman comes to the building and picks it up. It’s another if someone tosses their bills into the outgoing mailbox expecting another employee to mail it for them. This is a situation where you do not do it, , , , especially if you have insulted or mistreated your administrative assistant.

      2. Bunny Girl*

        My public university doesn’t allow it. I think people slip stuff in once in a while (paid) but we’re not supposed to. But we do have internal sorting with paid university employees, so it’s not going straight to USPS. We do have USPS mailboxes in some of the buildings on campus, but I think it’s one per campus or something.

    10. Annette*

      I work at a public university. We have campus mail handlers who pick up and process all mail, and distribute it. It is against our campus rules to use campus mail for personal mail. That means both outgoing and incoming mail, so no using the mail slot to mail a bill, and no getting personal stuff from Amazon.

    11. Laurelma01*

      I work at an university. It’s not an issue of who is paying for the postage. It’s an issue of staff management. I do not need to do the mail run 2 -3 times a week. Due to the internet, we do not get that much mail. But because someone tosses their bills in the outgoing mail, I’m stuck walking 2 blocks to the postage and back.

      There is also an issue of confidentiality. Had a coworker open up someone’s personal mail that came to campus, it was way too personal.(Accident?) When you toss it in the outgoing mail tray, you open yourself up to the snoops in the office.

  3. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, I work at a community college in central coastal California and we have had to watch that video (which I think was actually produced by the Department of Homeland Security) at least twice. It is VERY upsetting and the first time I saw it I as visibly distressed for days. The second time, not that long ago, was just as much. I suppose it is necessary as it drives home all too realistically how terrible such a thing would be.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Dang. I did some free online FEMA training for my job that wasn’t graphic at all. (Also not particularly informative but I did get a sweet certificate, and no residual trauma from it so there’s that!)

    2. Fikly*

      I would be intensely curious to know if there has actually been an incident (or even multiple ones, for better data – not that I’m wishing shootings on anyone) where the people have sat through this video, and they can see what happened.

      Because on the surface, it seems like a “shootings are happening, but maybe this will work to reduce casualties, so let’s make this mandatory in hopes that it does” kind of logic.” (Trying to be as apolitical on gun laws here as possible.) I mean, I imagine they’re extrapolating from military training, which is a lot about exposure to traumatic things in controlled circumstances, is my understanding. But the military is getting more training by several orders of magnitude than sitting through a video every few years.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, I am not saying that there is some evil conspiracy behind but I AM curious if this is based on a gut feeling of “this should help” or any kind of actual research. In other words, I agree.

        1. yala*

          It feels like pretty much everything we do in regards to mass shooting/gun violence in the states comes down to more “sympathetic magic” than actual effectiveness, tbh.

          The live shooter drills always had an air of that to me, anyway. Acting out the ideal outcome or something.

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        There was an episode of This American Life that dealt with the effectiveness of simulation drills in active shooter in a school situations. There’s very limited data, but I remember one of the preliminary takeaways was that simulations that used real gunshot sounds (ie were more “graphic”) apparently caused more trauma to participants, and they performed worse when going through the simulation a second time than those who had not heard gunshots. I’m not sure what metrics they used to judge participants’ performance (I think it was amount of time it took to lock down), and they got this data by looking at a very small number of schools, but I think it’s worth taking note of.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          We didn’t have gun shots, but you haven’t lived until you stuff 20 kindergarteners into a pitch black (not kidding) walk in closet with strict orders no one makes a peep. Hear heavy boots walking backhand forth in front door, and have someone jiggling the lock door knob hard.

          We were not told that this was going to happen. The notice went off and everyone had to do their thing.

          I would have GLADLY sat through any video than the above. The only light I had was the light of my cell phone. We were in that hot, stuff closet for 40 minutes.

          The kids were good. I guess being scared to death makes one quiet.

          1. pleaset*

            As a parent I’m going to work hard to stop this sort of thing in my school system. It’s horrendous.

            Fire drills are great when done right – they’re a well developed system of dealing with an emergency. And the lessons of fire drills – keep quiet, listen, don’t panic – provide an important framework for non-fire emergencies.

            But shooting drills like that are horrendous.

            Oh – and I’m friends with people who had kids in Sandy Hook where kids were shot to death. And know two emergency room doctors who were trying to safe gunshot victims for that incident. I care – I’m just not at all convinced that traumatizing kids is going to help save them.

            1. Artemesia*

              I agree. My grand kids are going through this now and it is horrendous. My nephew was in a school where some loon entered with a hand gun 35 years ago and shot some kids killing one — so yeah I know it happens, but raising a generation of cowed, scared citizens seems like a poor response when some more obvious ones are available.

          2. Shirley Keeldar*

            I’m horrified that you had to deal with that–and even more, that your students had to deal with that. I’m so sorry.

          3. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            MatKnifeNinja I want to give you the biggest hug right now. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to deal with your feelings as well as *20 kindergarteners’ feelings* after that.

          4. Quill*

            Sympathies to you and especially your kindergarteners, I’m just old enough that we didn’t have these drills until middle and high school, and the only thing I learned from the increasingly unpredictable “drills” was ‘if you can hear dogs, it was scheduled and they’re going through the lockers for drugs at the same time,’ and how to disassociate while trying to take care of someone having a panic attack.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I can totally see the idea of training people to recognize gunshots, just so they know what they sound like.

          but that could be done without the stress of a simulation.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Yes! Recently in my area, someone reported on Nextdoor that they had heard shots, when it was really that a truck crashed into the side railings of a small bridge near them.

      3. Iris Eyes*

        Hopefully there would never be enough data to determine whether it is helpful or not (similarly allegedly there is little proof that any of the policies put in place in schools to prevent shootings have been at all effective, the events are just too rare to be able to say one way or another.) It feels better to do something to prepare instead of nothing.

        Drills would probably be most effective BUT then again most instances of workplace violence are by insiders who would then know exactly how people are going to respond.

        So remote work :) That’s the best answer

    3. Massmatt*

      Was Homeland Security increased through these multiple viewings?

      I question what purpose is served here. We *already know* mass shootings are terrible.

      Showing people videos of mass shootings drives distress and fear, not any useful outcome. Anyone in the US can turn on the news or look at a news website and see horrific violence at any time. Are we safer having watched videos of people being killed?

      1. Japan anon*

        This was exactly my thought. If eliciting the emotional response you would have when in the situation is helpful, why not show video footage of actual sexual assault during sexual harassment prevention training? Or video footage of people dying in a real fire during a fire drill? What part of watching people die is helpful or necessary?

        1. Likeaboss*

          So I took a mandatory active shooter training a few weeks ago with two Staties giving the presentation. I saw that video as part of the presentation.

          It wasn’t “graphic” per se. There was no blood, no screaming, It showed individuals in what would clearly be a terrifying situation and how they can respond and help others who may not be in a useful position to fight back, escape easily ( wheelchair, visually impaired etc) The video itself stresses, getting out and to safety, or hiding, and being prepared to fight should you need to ( wedge a door closed, stay behind solid walls where you aren’t able to be seen, having something to strike the shooter with ie a chair or scissors.

          As always, YMMV, but I also have done ALICE drills- which- to kids are kind of scary ( my son can sit next to a friend, can hold their hand, but cannot look at the friend because they might talk/make noise) and the reality is that in an active shooter training your goal is 1) survive 2) fight in a way that gives others a chance to survive while martyring yourself. Welcome to 2019.

        2. doreen*

          According to the OP, it’s ” actors going over scenarios” – you’re not watching people die. I haven’t seen this video , so I can’t speak to it specifically but there’s a school of thought that believes in “practicing/training under the conditions you will have when taking the test” based on some evidence. For example listening to music while studying is only helpful if you can listen during the test- it’s counterproductive if you take the test in silence. For the last few years, my tactical firearm training has included instructors yelling things other than a “fire” command- because chances are if I ever have to shoot someone people will be yelling

        3. MsSolo*

          We did get a video of people actually dying during fire safety training (footage of a night club going up in flames), and honestly, it was very upsetting to watch as someone with no related trauma, and made me very skeptical it was actually helpful to watch seventeen minutes of people not successfully negotiating a horrific situation. There’s a heavy victim blaming element (don’t be like the dead people) and made it very clear survival is dependant on factors predominantly outside your individual control,. Unless you work in a very similar set up I can’t see how it actually provides practical information – I mean, I’m not going to go to any night clubs with indoor pyrotechnics now, but that doesn’t really help me evacuate people from my well-lit building with multiple clear fire escapes.

          1. CheeryO*

            That video is part of our active shooter/emergency training at work. I think it was helpful, although it is disturbing. It hammers the point that you should always be aware of the locations of multiple exits, and that you shouldn’t let yourself be lulled into a false sense of safety just because no one else is reacting, both of which tie into the active shooter training.

        4. Arctic*

          Because sexual harassment training isn’t intended to help you hide from and then maybe fight off a sexual harrasserer. It’s intended to teach what is appropriate.

          1. Baru Cormorant*

            So shouldn’t we train people to identify potential workplace violence before it happens, and talk about what to do if it still does in a calm and serious manner, like we have decided what is appropriate with sexual harassment training?

    4. Clorinda*

      My school shows an extremely graphic and realistic reenactment of Columbine–it all looks like surveillance video from high up in the corners of rooms. I hate it.

  4. Seher*

    Wow, we watched the animated video from the same program during graduate school orientation and it wasn’t as graphic but still left many of us uncomfortable so I can’t imagine seeing the one described. Definitely think it’s worth suggesting to HR that future trainings include warnings.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For me, an animated video would be MUCH less disturbing than photography.
      To all those saying “it’s no more violent than what’s in most movies these days” — that’s a big reason why I am not watching as many movies or TV shows as I used to. Even my beloved Marvel movies, I spend a fair bit of time looking away from the screen and/or plugging my ears. “Is it over yet?” is a common refrain.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        And movies aren’t meant to be about real situations- it’s an entirely different world. A training video with a heavy “this could happen to you” tone would be really different for me. Thanos isn’t going to show up and punch me out, so watching heroes fight him is just fun bang pow special effects. Watching someone crumple in an office setting as if shot- that would hit me entirely differently.

  5. House Tyrell*

    #5: Totally depends on the field! Any chance you’re in higher ed? Higher ed is notorious for long application and interview processes, sometimes lasting 2-5 days with multiple interviews, forums, and panels. I ask since you mentioned him emphasizing the fit on both sides which is something I’ve only heard openly discussed in higher ed hiring.

  6. dealing with dragons*

    Op #1: I know exactly the video and it gave me nightmares. It doesn’t show viscera but it is incredibly graphic. I don’t think it’s that useful because in my case my office didn’t update it for us. Where do I run to? Where can I hide?

    1. Leslie Yep*

      It seems pretty reasonable to expect our workplaces to wield the power they have to keep us safe. Work inevitably intersects with politics occasionally and it seems weird to never be able to talk about it. See also: that ICE question from a few days back.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Removed a piece of this comment about gun control and the comments resulting from it. No gun control debates here, please — it’s off-topic and guaranteed to be derailing. Thank you.

    3. Richard*

      I work in a place where we’ve done active shooter drills, but all fully focused on the where to go and what to do, not on the shock and scare. It’s disappointing to hear that some people are getting the much less productive opposite.

    4. Amazed*

      I think I’ve seen the video too, as part of the mandatory training I did with FEMA as part of my job. If it is the same, updating it isn’t exactly your office’s job; the video should have been part of a whole exercise, with several of the pages being small self tests to the effect of ‘consider your office. does it have posted floor plans? emergency exits clearly marked? Answer in this text box’ etc, etc.

      If the office didn’t include that and just tossed the video at you, then yeah, that’s on them.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        My company used this video too, but it was only part of the training. It was run by the security team for the building, and they made sure to use specifics for our office. That part was extra important because the video takes place in a more old school office, and our office is like 99% glass walls and doors. But more importantly, the security team also talked about how security works in our building and the multiple layers of protection they have set up for employees, so while the video was hard to watch, the training overall left us feeling pretty secure.

        Oh, and we were 100% warned about the upsetting nature of the video/training beforehand and were allowed to opt out. OPs company making them watch the video with no guidance or warning is awful and (I’m guessing) ineffective.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          We also have been though the training video, with a discussion afterwards about applying it to our office. I agree the discussion is critical.
          And yeah, we were warned about the content beforehand. It was still tough to watch, but way more effective than in previous years when we had power points.

      2. BRR*

        We watched the same video at the job I just started and as you mention, someone walked us through it. They used the room we were in as an example, which upped the usefulness of the training significantly. (We were also told ahead of time it was graphic and were allowed to step out.)

      3. Perse's Mom*

        We just got the video. I went over that sort of thing mentally – but really, most of this building has glass everywhere. The outside of the building on this side of the office is all windows. Our security doors we normally have to badge through are all glass. Sure, I could hunker down under my desk because at least my cubicle walls go all the way to the floor but they’re also basically made out of heavy-duty cardboard.

      4. Big Bank*

        I don’t work at a school, sadly understanding that those jobs get the most training available usually, but I continue to be appalled at what my company considers training. It consists of telling us to have a plan. Period. No discussion of good vs bad plans. No recommendations. Just a heads up that we are on our own in that situation. The company is also moving to open office layouts everywhere, taking away the hide option. So although I wouldn’t be excited to watch the videos that everyone is describing, I really wish we had some level of discussion that addressed our specific offices.

    5. Anon for this*

      I have not seen that particular video, but the training video and discussion led by a campus law enforcement officer were helpful — I assessed my classroom and made some changes in the layout, have thought out a plan for directing and hiding my students; I also take a quick look around any place with lots of people gathering to locate exits, hiding spots. Sad. My teenage son thought that prepping my classroom was over the top, but I’m responsible for those kids. Plus I myself don’t want to get shot.

      Possibly the most helpful thing I learned from the video is what gun shots sound like when you’re in a building and not near the gun. It’s nothing like the movies, and I know I will recognize the sound now if I hear it.

      I have since then been at a university campus during a possible active shooter incident (shooting was near campus, suspect was then on campus for some hours). I was glad for the training.

    6. blackcat*

      “Where do I run to? Where can I hide?”
      These are useful things to answer! When I was a teacher, our active shooter training went over exactly this. We sat with other teachers who taught in adjacent classrooms and brainstormed what to do, then one of the trainers discussed whether or not our plans were good. Us science teachers were taught how to use our (full-sized) fire extinguishers as weapons in addition to the “how to use a chair to attack someone” training all the other teachers got.
      It was… kind of horrifying, but generally helpful. In retrospect, I would not have come to “Open the back door and send the kids running into the woods” plan, but it was far and away the best given I had an exterior door in my classroom, with woods right behind us (and I taught high schoolers).
      Just a training video isn’t helpful. Discussions about what to do in your particular scenario are.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        When my daughter was in high school, the training was still “shelter in place… if the gunman enters your classroom, uh, we got nothing for you” which is why I think they started adding the “fight” parts. In her school’s case, the teacher she happened to have in that period ran them through barricading the door and explained that he had extensive martial arts training, so was the logical person to attempt to get the drop on someone. As you say, making the generic training specific to the location and the people in it.

        1. blackcat*

          Yeah, I am a tiny person, and the trainer did say that if a big & strong student wanted to be a hero…. I should let them. That was also pretty horrifying to me, but it makes sense. I’m 110lbs soaking wet, and plenty of my students would be more capable of defending themselves and their peers than I would be.

          The plan was have the kids run out the back door, and wait by said door with the fire extinguisher if the shooter came through it. Being shown exactly how to strike someone with the fire extinguisher to likely kill them, then how to spray it on a person who is down in order to suffocate them was…. not exactly enjoyable, but I appreciated the specifics of the training (corollary of this training: if a person is on fire, DO NOT SPRAY THEM WITH A FIRE EXTINGUISHER unless you aim at their leg only. Stop, drop & roll + a fire blanket! Fire extinguisher fluid is toxic to breathe in, and the entire point of the stuff is to remove the fire’s access to oxygen…. so it does that to humans too).

          But all bets were off if I wasn’t in my regular classroom. They pointed out that school shooters often target places like cafeterias, making it harder to have plans.

          1. juliebulie*

            What you said about spraying a person on fire with a fire extinguisher was news to me.

            And I’ve had fire safety training at work, including training about fire extinguishers. Interesting what was and was not included. I do not want to suffocate a coworker who’s on fire!

    7. Say It Ain't So*

      I work in a hospital and we were given the links to this video and another one that’s based in a hospital setting and were encouraged to watch them before we went to the training class. I don’t know if everyone watched, but I did and I was in a funk for days afterwards.

      For our training class, we practiced run/hide/fight techniques in office areas and patient care settings. We practiced on one of the security guards and were actually encouraged to take him out. I felt like the videos gave me some ideas on what to do, but being able to act the whole thing out, and to be in an office with our safety team showing us how to jam doors, come up with makeshift weapons and attack was so much more helpful.

      1. Observer*

        Based on the research I’ve done, it seems to me that the second part was as useful as it was partly because you had the ideas and context of the video.

        That’s the really stupid part of what happened to the OP – the video really CAN be useful, but apparently largely because it makes he other pieces more effective. Just throwing that at people by itself? Just good for nightmares, mostly.

    1. Chaordic One*

      I used to wonder the same thing, but now, after seeing what a crappy job my current employer does, I would imagine that it couldn’t be worse.

    2. Massmatt*

      If your company is great at making widgets, why not focus on that, and hire someone to do basically everything else?

      If you hire an outside agency to do HR (or whatever) it’s one less thing for you to worry about and you can hold them accountable. Many back office functions kept in-house suffer from incompetence, and/or an us vs: them mentality.

      At some companies I used to work for many back office departments treated the front line business (I.e. sales staff) as inferiors to be tolerated but mostly looked down upon. It was like the Cold War. Maybe if your back office is someone else’s FRONT office they might treat you better?

    3. Jdc*

      I wonder with that volume too but I will say in my small company where we outsourced HR they were so on top of it. Also no favoritism, just purely professional.

    4. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I worked for a big company that outsourced some HR functions. When the service provider did a bad job, we fired them and brought the functions back in-house. It’s much harder to fire poor performers when they’re your own employees.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Even mega Corps do it. It’s the same reason they outsource phone centers or other functions. It’s more cost effective to them.

      1. Mid*

        I also wonder if it’s a way to minimize their liability, or at least the appearance of it. “Oh, we’re sorry it’s a hostile work environment, you’ll have to take it up with HR!” “Oh, sorry we’re slashing your benefits to an inhumane level, it’s just that HR company at it again!” Even when it isn’t truly the outside company’s fault.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I think that’s the real motivation for the outsourcing craze. “Oh, we’re sorry the janitor gets paid less than minimum wage, he’s technically not employed by us!”

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          They’re still liable for breaking laws. But they don’t care about that much.

          It’s the risk they take because they know darn well that most employees will not be able to stand up and defend themselves, let alone rake them over the coals by filing with the DOL or EEOC.

          It basically puts layers between you and the people who are apparently in charge of your paychecks showing up on time!

          They usually use this for low rung employees. The people who make the Big Bucks are being taken care of just fine, go figure.

    6. Clorinda*

      They start as a small company outsourcing payroll because they don’t have enough work for a fulltime accountant, and I guess the outsourcing just grows along with the company?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Payroll processing is easier because then they take care of your quarterly reporting and tax remittance for low prices.

        However someone is feeding the data into the payroll processing company frequently enough, which is usually an accountant or someone who does the other arms of HR. So kind of but not really is it because companies grow and just don’t bring it in house, it’s more like “No HR” and then they get so big that it’s too expensive to do internal HR once it becomes a thought.

  7. Uldi*

    OP#1:
    If something were to happen, it will be chaos. For a plane, the threat is the environment. The environment can’t think, and will behave in a somewhat predictable way. A gunman will not. Better a shock and freeze now, where you are safe, than one during an active shooting.

    1. Ariaflame*

      Though, what exactly does it do to reduce rather increase the chances of the person freezing during an actual incident?

      1. Allonge*

        Also: am I really required to be so much “better prepared” for a one in a million event that we are risking actual, immediate trauma? I would very much prefer the training on what to do without messing my mental health up, thank you.

        1. JSPA*

          Right! we’d likely save far, far more lives by training / re-training CPR and (especially) the Heimlich maneuver. Or reminding people to check their smoke alarm batteries, or not text and drive.

          I’ve Heimlich’d three people in my life, as well as a couple of well-timed back-whacks that dislodged stuck food. In at least three of those cases, nobody else cottoned to what was happening. I’m pretty sure that I could not make that great a differential difference in three to five people’s survival in a shooter incident, even if I were likely to be in one (which statistically, I’m not, and neither are the vast majority of other readers of this blog).

          1. pleaset*

            AriaFlame
            Allonge
            JSPA

            +1000!!

            “Desensitizes you so you’re less likely to freeze from brain overload.” I don’t think there is evidence of this in a “layperson” setting. That’s the theory, but considering the costs – this training vs heimlich, or this training plus the cost of extra angst, we need better than just a theory.

          2. Meh*

            If you took both CPR & STOP THE BLEED classes, you could save other people’s lives during a shooting, if it were safe for you to do so. I sure hope people around me have taken the classes & help me survive if I’m a shooting victim, rather than just standing around wringing their hands until EMS arrives, at which point it may be too late. I take the classes every year to refresh my knowledge and to be ready. Everyone adult in America should be doing this. It’s no longer a “one in a million” chance, shootings are happening every day, every where. Be prepared to help save your own life & lives of those around you.

        2. Allonge*

          Just for the record: I am not saying not to have drills at all. If this is part of reality, so be it. But just as we had excellent fire drills without watching people burn alive, we can discuss what to do in an active shooter scenario without graphic violence. For balancing the “preparedness” need with “less trauma in our lives”.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Yeah, I’m thinking something like a fire drill, and knowing we’re supposed to Run/Hide/Fight: do an orderly drill and actually practice exiting the building when one exit is unavailable; practice finding a hiding spot (do the doors on that conference room even lock?), practice looking for potential weapon (where is the closest fire extinguisher?) – nothing hurried or panicked. Let people know ahead of time, and make it no more traumatic or disruptive than a fire alarm, more to help people be aware of their surroundings.

            Maybe even practice is traumatic – but telling employees to make sure they can identify multiple ways to exit the building, have identified hiding rooms or spots, and know what could be used as a weapon and where it is. But all that needs to be done in a boring, today is the drill day, let’s practice, help each other, and then get back to work.

        1. professor*

          for people with anxiety, PTSD, etc. the actual result may be the OPPOSITE- increased trauma isn’t going to desensitize us, it’s going to make it worse and more likely we will freeze in an emergency

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I think this is true. And that more generally, one function of scary stories is to let your brain run through being scared in a safe environment, so if one of the situations suddenly unfolds at you (active shooter, tidal wave) you have a slightly higher chance of overriding the extremely common freeze-in-place response. At more extreme levels of training, with piles of repetition, the goal is to make your response rote so you don’t have to stay calm and recite all the steps, your body just starts going through them automatically. Watching a workplace safety video isn’t going to match the latter.

          I type that as someone who does not enjoy horror as a genre. And rolls my eyes at people who insist they would have had the wittiest off-the-cuff comeback if someone ever dissed them like that, or the most incredible tackle-the-gunman moves, typing safely from a distance where it’s all hypothetical.

      2. CheeryO*

        I think this particular training module is pushing for “Run, hide, fight” to get ingrained into people the way that “Stop, drop, and roll” was ingrained in all of us from childhood. I obviously have no statistics to back me up, but having gotten the training twice now, I do feel like I’d be more prepared to react in an active shooter situation, from knowing what a gunshot sounds like, to not being hesitant to run out of the building even if no one else is, to thinking about what could be used in my particular office to block doors, etc. YMMV.

        1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          And in full honesty, despite years of childhood stop/drop/roll training, when my hair caught on fire once, all that information went clean out of my head. I reached up and grabbed my hair with my hand.

      3. Anon for this*

        See my comment above — training has made me more alert and able to assess a space, plan for where to hide, how to recognize the sound of gunshots. For me, Uldi’s point is spot-on: during the incident I was in, I did not freeze at all, I was anxious of course but not frozen or panicked.

      4. Iris Eyes*

        Thinking through actions (seeing others do them) and doing actions are shockingly similar. Some people think this is why we dream, particularly why we have bad dreams. That way we can be put in bad situations and sandbox how to deal with them. If your brain has a script for how to behave it will in lieu of something else just start reading from the script. If your brain has no script for how to behave you are much more likely to freeze.

        Even the nightmares it gives you could be useful, although our sleeping brains aren’t always helpful and there isn’t good feedback from someone who knows what might actually be successful.

    2. JSPA*

      Maybe. Maybe not.

      Got statistics on how many people are getting problematic-to-them trauma from the videos? If so, we can compare that to direct damage (death, injury and trauma) from actual shootings.

      Except, we still can’t, because we don’t actually even know the statistical effectiveness of the training.

      1. blackcat*

        Yes, to me there’s an issue of expected value here.
        Odds of active shooter: very low. Outcome: very bad.
        Odds of video causing psychological harm: quite high! Outcome: not terrible, but also not good.

        I’m not convinced these videos are helpful enough to outweigh the harm done by showing them. Lost lives are terrible, of course, but so is traumatizing hundreds or thousands of people.

        1. pleaset*

          Exactly.

          Just tell us Run, hide, fight (or Abandon, Barricade, Confront – ABC in my city). Don’t push trauma on us without evidence that is works.

    3. Helena*

      Here’s the cynical answer. The purpose of the training is not to make you, the employee, safer during a shooting. It’s to reduce the employer’s liability during the lawsuit that would follow. Letting someone out of the training because it’s traumatizing doesn’t serve the employer’s purpose of reducing liability.

      1. Antilles*

        I’m all for cynicism, but I don’t think it’s warranted here.
        First off, liability during mass shootings is hard to parse even under the best of circumstances. Unless the company was clearly and blatantly negligent in some way, the courts typically end up concluding that the liability is with the shooter himself rather than the location it occurred.
        Secondly, even if the company does happen to be concerned about liability, someone who specifically requests to skip the training is not going to have a legal case. In fact, a company whose primary concern is liability would probably have a waiver to sign to skip the training, which would be cited as Exhibit A in the courtroom.

  8. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Re: #1 — I didn’t bookmark them at the time, but I’ve seen a couple of studies float around twitter that basically outline the ineffectiveness of active shooter training in a school context, and I’d hazard that this could probably be extended to the workplace in terms of effectiveness (or lack thereof). I know a handful of people who work in places where this kind of thing is mandatory every year and they’ve started pushing back on it because they’d rather not be pre-traumatized ahead of this happening to them for real; a few have been able to opt out all together, though I’m sure that’s because they’ve already sat through it at least once. I think it’s something worth talking to HR about, because I’m not sure most HR folks are up on how this kind of training can be immensely troubling, and it’s never been my experience that security folks are either.

    I’m in Canada but we had a session on this earlier in the year using American training materials and, like with the LW, it was sprung on us without much warning and was pretty upsetting.

    1. Kiki*

      Yeah, the research on the effectiveness of active shooter drills and current education materials is kind of spotty. There are clear benefits to knowing building-specific info (where all the exits and good places to hide are) as well as some general things (run, hide, fight, be quiet, text 911 if you can, etc) but because there are so many variables involved in an active shooter event, it’s not really something the average person can plan for the way you can with a tornado drill.

    2. JM in England*

      Slightly off topic, but I still have memories of an extremely graphic safety film I saw in primary school back in the 1970s when I was aged about 7 or 8. It was about the dangers of playing on building sites and it pulled no punches showing the consequences of doing so. Scenes included the protagonist being crushed by falling piles of bricks and being buried alive when the walls of a trench collapse whilst he’s in it. Most gruesome of all is when he crosses the path of an earth moving machine; you hear a scream then the action cuts to a close up of his shoe filled with blood. The end credits include a list of the names of children killed in actual accidents during the year the film was made.

      1. Mama Jo*

        I also remember an actual movie show in elementary school about a fire in schools “Our Obligations” based on the fire at the Our Lady of the Angels School fire. It scared the crap out of me for several years. I would wake up in the middle of the night when I heard the town’s fire siren and I would become hysterical.

        1. JM in England*

          Have just watched this on YouTube (curiosity got the better of me) and I see where you’re coming from!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Also from 70s, I recall one about dares, in which the protagonist either successfully stopped a van and was hefted on the shoulders of her cheering classmates declaring “No more double dares!” or splattered by the van.

        It certainly stayed with me; I think my innate goody two-shoes-ness was more responsible for my complete immunity to dares. Even at age 8 or so, I saw how the “If you do this, then we will never try to manipulate you like this again” promise was ridiculous. (Just last night I explained this to the hero of an action movie.)

  9. RUKiddingMe*

    “…so your brain knows what to expect and is less likely to freeze up if you encounter it in real life.”

    I was very “no” until I read this. This makes a ton of sense.

    1. Zombie Unicorn*

      Except it doesn’t make sense if you have knowledge of trauma and the way it affects the brain.

      If you are traumatised and shocked by something once, your brain is more likely to react that way again to the same stimuli unless you are supported to process it safely.

      Simply watching this kind of violence and being upset by it doesn’t desensitise you to it so that you’ll react calmly in real life – that’s not how these things actually work. You need to gradually widen your window of tolerance, not smash it.

      One useful analogy (that I haven’t invented) is to think of this kind of thing like a bottle of Coke. Watching this video is like shaking up the whole bottle and then opening it, and means it will start shaking up next time too. What you need to do is open it slightly and let out a little of the hiss.

      It is frustrating that anyone believes this is how you stop people reacting in a certain way. It will have the opposite effect. I will take the research of leading trauma experts on this over any security expert.

        1. Fikly*

          There aren’t only two options, traumatize with real deal versus traumatize with video and no support. The point is that they aren’t using option three, traumatize with video and then support afterwards to process trauma and prevent a trauma response from developing.

          1. Zombie Unicorn*

            Option three isn’t great either, frankly. You need better circumstances than just being traumatised by it in the first place.

            I don’t suppose there’s anyone out there who says this video helped them cope with a real life situation?

          2. Amazed*

            I agree that would be the absolute best case, but it seems like between those two, traumatize with video and no support is the worse option. That can’t be right.

            1. Zombie Unicorn*

              Actually no. If you lived in some fictional world with only those two options, they’re about as bad as each other.

        2. Zombie Unicorn*

          Look, this theory is like saying that burning you with fire at work will make you less likely to get burned if you are in a real fire. That’s how effective this kind of extreme exposure therapy isn’t.

          Obviously what you need instead is to have good fire safety protocols and flame retardant clothing. You will not burn less because your skin has already been burned.

          You may think this isn’t the same, but it kind of is. There’s a reason why actual exposure therapy is gradual.

          1. voyager1*

            No it is more like a fire drill. You don’t set fire to the building to do a fire drill you just set off the alarm. People then follow the instructions out the building.

            Active shooter of course is a little different, but the ability not to panic is what the training is trying to teach you, just like a fire drill.

            And yes I realize not active shooter situations are the same so one can train on every possible situation. But not panicking is what is important, that is what the training is trying to teach.

              1. MsSolo*

                We did. As far as I can tell, it was mostly an exercise in teaching us how to victim blame, because god knows unless your role is in planning fire escape routes, knowing that a completely different business/building/crowd type/ignition point is going to kill a lot of people isn’t really relevant to evacuating people from your own premises.

                1. Jen2*

                  When we watched videos of burning buildings during our fire safety training, it was to go over cases when following your instincts would be the wrong thing to do. So, technically we were going over things the victims did wrong, but it was so that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes they did.

          2. Quill*

            You don’t toss an arachnaphobe into a tarantula pit, you start by exposing them to photos of spiders.

            You probably also go over “this is a calm and rational plan for when you see a spider, which we will practice with this rubber spider in a supportive environment.”

      1. Arctic*

        This assuming people are actually traumatized by the video in a medical sense. Which is very unlikely for the vast majority of people.

        1. Veronica*

          I don’t know about the vast majority. There are many who don’t watch news or violent TV shows and movies because they are traumatizing.

    2. JSPA*

      Desensitization training, to work, would normally have to be carried out by a trained and licensed psychology professional, and done in a way that’s individually calibrated to the patient. Furthermore, the patient would have to actively seek out the treatment, and sign the appropriate medical waiver about the risk of increased distress and possibly even de-inhibition.

      This sounds like the way militaries pioneered the use of video scenarios (the original first person “shooter” video games) to desensitize their recruits to that action, and able to carry it out as a near-reflex. I would actually not be surprised if the long-term effect is as much negative as positive, if it hits the wrong person in the wrong way.

      Most of us will not ever face the real life situation. Forcing thousands of your own employees to risk trauma on the basis of “someone, somewhere, at some job site of some employer will be facing the real thing” seems statistically very, very suspect, and a really bad idea.

      We don’t send new parents home with graphic videos of dying babies, to ensure that they will respond calmly if theirs has an accident or lethal illness. And that, despite the fact that there are, say, over 300 under-age-five deaths from drowning annually. Add either falls or choking, and you’re at greater numbers than workplace deaths from violence. But we don’t traumatize ~6 million new parents each year with graphic pictures in the name of preventing toddler deaths. And if we did, the risk to those new babies might very well rise, rather than falling.

      This level of depiction should be entirely opt-in. For each image. Even in a group training, there are ways to do so.

      For example: show a schematic still or video using dots or blobs. Then say, “the next picture / video will show the same scenario in real life. We have superimposed a mechanical hum, and muted the sounds. If you prefer to close or cover your eyes until the hum stops, please do so.” Or better yet, have an opt-out first half that focuses on preparation and prevention and small helpful things you can do (e.g. “know how to turn all sound off on your phone without making a noise, so pings and rings from texts / calls / automatic warnings don’t give your hiding place away”) and an opt-in second half that includes actual footage.

    3. CDM*

      I worked in a place for over a decade where every employee had CPR, First Aid, AED and Oxygen certification, most of us had taken the trainings repeatedly, we held regular emergency drills, and a handful of us taught the classes.

      Every single time we had an actual emergency, we had at most 2 people who responded according to training, 2-3 who responded incorrectly and 25 people who stood around doing nothing.

      We know that police, medical staff, elite athletes react under pressure counter to their extensive training, but as a species we have hard-wired delusions of competence that make us think that we, with minimal training will absolutely react correctly in an emergency.

      I highly doubt a video like this, even if it was repeated regularly and followed with frequent drills, is actually going to change the behavior of more than a few trainees if an actual event occurred.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        This observation is very true. In every workplace accident I’ve ever witnessed, 95% of people just stand there, whether they’ve had training or not. I had an incident where I fell & dislocated my shoulder. I couldn’t get off the floor because of the way I landed and of the 7 people standing around looking at me scream, only ONE of them thought to call 911.

        We do need to train for emergencies, but we also need to know that the training failure rate is very, very high in an actual emergency.

        1. pleaset*

          I’ve been pretty good in emergencies (I spend a lot of time outside in sporting events, including cycling) so have seen a lot. And was first on the scene to two car crashes. And I’m pretty good in them and have said/yelled things like this:

          “Who has a phone?” (before carrying phones was nearly ubiquitous)
          “Call 911! Tell them the cross streets is X and Y.”
          “I’m calling 911 – you stay here and do not leave except to direct the ambulance in if you hear one coming from another direction.”
          “Let’s get off the road here where it curves, it’s too dangerous – can you please go up the road to where cars can see you and get them to slow down. I’ll stay here till help arrives.”

          Interestinly, the one time believed I was in serious danger myself (the whole window to my kitchen was bathed in flames from outside – it was terrifying though in the end not dangerous with the first being on the roof of an adjacent building) I actually could not dial 911 though I knew I should do it. My hand was shaking too much. I grabbed the phone, yelled at my wife to grab the keys, and dialed. And simply couldn’t complete the call – I was shaking so hard I misdialed twice. Thankfully I heard sirens (a fire station was on our block) and ran out the door, down the stairs pounding on each apartment to alert people. Actaully I did make a “mistake” in that instance – doing something no recommended, though as a conscious choice – I ran upstairs first to alert people there. I knew they say not to do that, but there was no smoke evident yet and I felt I had to to it.

          Got flowers from someone in the building for pounding on all the doors.

          I’ve had CPR training a couple times and general emergency briefings. Many fire drills. Those are good. Tell us what to do – some of us will.

          But scaring us? No thank you.

          1. Quill*

            When I crashed my car it took three other people stopping to get much done – and though my car was a horror show I was relatively fine, mostly bruises and people trying to find antiseptic wipes to clear up a few scrapes.

            The Sheriff complimented me on how well I was taking it, while I was sitting in the hospital trying to figure out if I’d fractured anything because I knew I was too disassociated to tell if I had any broken bones. I don’t really have any training other than some basic first aid from when I was in theater, but in this case my trauma-ingrained disassociate and walk calmly away response was actually adaptive.

      2. Thankful for AAM*

        I dont think anyone has said this but the video helps protect the employer – we gave them training!!

        1. JSPA*

          Making them pay for counseling of people (re) traumatized by the video might be the only effective ($) way to fight back against this particular bit of CYA-ism, then.

      3. blackcat*

        Yes. I once witnessed a really bad accident. I pulled over, blocking traffic with my car (busy street), and there were already several other people who had pulled over, but where just standing there.

        I started barking orders, doing what I was trained to do in first aid training. *Point finger at person* “YOU, call 911.”
        *Point finger at person* “YOU, get the flares out of the trunk of my car, in the red “Emergency” bag. Set them out further away to get traffic to slow down.
        *Point finger at person* “YOU, get me any fabric you can find.”

        The “point finger, bark order” is part of first aid training for a reason–the assumption is MOST people will freeze unless given a specific thing to do. Then most people will do the thing they are told, since the order sort of snaps them out of it.

        And only then did I start doing first aid. Fortunately, an ER nurse pulled over shortly thereafter and took over first aid direction until EMTs arrived (it was BAD, people thrown from cars and IDK if they lived BAD) .

        When emergency services had arrived in force and taken over, one of the cops asked me where I served. I looked at him sort of blankly, and then he clarified that he assumed I was a veteran, based on the way I handled it. He pointed out that, for many people, it takes YEARS of training to really respond appropriately in a bad, urgent emergency. Some people just do it (like me), but that’s quite rare. And while I am A+ in an emergency, as soon as the really bad stuff has passed, I panic! Like hyperventilating, crying, full on panic attack. Presumably if I did that sort of stuff every day, I’d stop responding that way. But regular people, even with training, mostly do not respond well in emergencies.

        1. pleaset*

          I’m like you. Actually I’ve never done first aid for a serious issue – and dread facing the need to do mouth-to-mouth or even chest compressions – so scary.

          But telling people to act, get help, secure the site, etc – I’m on it.

          I was directly behind a car that crashed on a highway – I slowed down trying to stop as close as possible to help them. The front of the car was crushed and as I got out to run toward them I was freaking out about what I would see – when luckily the occupants tumbled out bawling/screaming. Still, stopping on a highway in the fast lane is no joke. Luckily the third car behind me had a nurse who was able to assess the situation and I was relegated myself to traffic control until the police arrived, also ordering another guy to do the same.

          See might note above about being unable to dial 911 when I thought my life was in danger due to shaking.

          1. blackcat*

            I am actually okay with blood and gross injuries, and I’ve dealt with it a few times.

            And, ugh, the freezing instead of calling 911 is a definite thing. My husband froze and did not call 911 when I was going into anaphylaxis, despite me telling him to. So I called and tried to explain as fast as I could before talking became too hard (I have a condition that makes epi-pens a real last resort, so it’s better I get to a hospital faster and have them administered there rather than use them on myself). Fortunately one of the fire dept guys was able to snap him out of it as they carted me away. But oof, it was HARD being so aware that I needed help and having my husband be 100% incapable of providing it.

            1. pleaset*

              Yeah, though I didn’t freeze and not call 911. I literally was *unable despite trying* – my hands were shaking so hard I couldn’t dial – I kept hitting other numbers and hearing. I thought there was a massive fire outside my apartment and while my mind was working great the fingers were not. Sorry to not be clear.

              Luckily after a few attempts I heard sirens from the fire station down the street, so threw down the phone and ran out the door.

          2. texan in exile*

            Yep. I am also the Bossy Person who tells people what to do. I was in stopped traffic and someone hit a motorcyclist, knocking the bike over and pinning the rider under it. I jumped out of the car, ran to the cyclist, and started trying to lift the bike, which was too heavy for me. Other people had gotten out of their cars by then, so I yelled at one of them to call 911 and told two others to come help me lift. We got the bike off the guy and he started wandering around. I tried to make him sit still, but couldn’t because he was too big. Again, I pointed and told people to come help me. People will do what they are told.

            I also suggested to my then-boyfriend, who is an optometrist, that he check the guy. “Do you want me to check his vision,” he asked. Which – I was thinking that even an optometrist would have more medical training than an English major.

            1. Quill*

              I shouldn’t be laughing but I guess an optometrist hasn’t checked a pulse or any other vital signs since very early in their schooling.

              (Though if there’s an emergency – fortunately all the ones I’ve been around have been minor – my first hope is for a teacher or nurse to be on scene. The teacher mostly because of the giving orders thing (and if they work with smaller children they have definitely seen bloody noses / nasty looking scrapes / enormous bruises before) and the nurse because no matter where they routinely work they’re good generalists in terms of first aid and assessment.)

            2. pleaset*

              I’m both laughing at the ending of this and applauding your responses in the moment.

              One other story, not directly related but just to share. I was at a subway station in New York City last summer when there was a panic – some people started yelling about a crazy person hurting people and then hundreds of people started running toward the exits. I was more fearful of getting stomped in the craziness (or possibly knocking someone else over) so decided to stay where I was, in a seat on a bench.

              I was proud to not be caught up in the panic, though running may have been wise for me. But there was only so much space for everyone to run, so I was like “let others go first.”

              Meanwhile one guy starting calmly walking in the direction of the supposed danger – Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angles. He’s an obnoxious self-promoter but I was impressed.

            3. nonegiven*

              I would assume an optometrist would have about as much medical training as a doctor of archaeology. I’m probably wrong but ophthalmologists are medical doctors, optometrists are not required to go to medical school.

        2. Quill*

          I learned to do minor first aid by bossing people around in theater – you and you, check on x who fainted when they saw the blood, you, go get the first aid bag, you put pressure on your cut, you lot unplug all the power tools and secure the build.

          It’s a weird feeling, sitting there and knowing what to do but also having all that sitting on you.

        3. yala*

          “And while I am A+ in an emergency, as soon as the really bad stuff has passed, I panic! Like hyperventilating, crying, full on panic attack. ”

          Sounds like me when we had a really bad family crisis a few months back. I won’t say I was *calm* during it, but I was the one calling most of the shots that could be called.

          Once someone else took over and I was alone, I just started *screaming* and sobbing like I haven’t done in years.

          And then I was pretty useless for the rest of the week. Which was unfortunate, because there was still a lot to do. But I was just D O N E.

      4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        One thing I noticed that helps is if your workplace doesn’t punish people for making mistakes.

        You want to see staff freeze? Work somewhere where they get yelled at for “being melodramatic” when they call 911. Yeah, they’re weighing the person’s need for help against their desire to not be fired.

      5. Baru Cormorant*

        I agree. When a friend was injured I ran home to tell my mom and then sat in a room of my house I never go in and cried/hid. I have since gone through CPR and first aid training and I don’t think I’d react any differently.

    4. Quill*

      Eh, your fight/flight/freeze response isn’t going to be trained by repeat trauma, it’s going to be trained by “do this action that we’ve ingrained in you during lots of calm and routine repetition so you can now do it without having to make decisions about it.”

      This is why fire drills are relatively effective – everyone knows what to do when the alarms go off because they’ve all trooped down to the parking lot and stood around with their hands in their armpits joking about whether or not someone just burnt popcorn in the break room a dozen times. If something is on fire at work, most likely people will be doing the same right up until there are flames visible from the outdoors – and at that point they’ve already gotten to safety.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      The way you accomplish that is to calmly and rationally present what people ought to do, with appropriate repetition to keep in practice.

      The end goal is for people to learn new information – ie, what to do in X situation. People learn new information best when they are taught it in a calm and rational state of mind, not when they’re scared, distressed, or experiencing a trauma reaction.

      A hotel I was staying in a few years ago caught fire at ~3am. Jolted awake out of a dead sleep, I was able to follow the basic evacuation process from years of calm, rational fire drills (although I will admit I did the unrecommended thing and grabbed valuable personal belongings instead of immediately leaving without anything). If previous fire drills had been terrifying and traumatizing, I doubt I would have been able to composedly assess — time: middle of the night; location: hotel, not school or office; conclusion: not a drill — and take appropriate action. Was I freaked out? Yes. But I also had “what to do in a fire situation” drilled into my head and acted appropriately.

      (In the end, the fire was minor enough that I could return to my undamaged room, but close enough to me that I could see the smoke while evacuating. Wiring in one of the elevators had apparently sparked it, and it was caught quickly.)

  10. Fortitude Jones*

    I was all ready to tell OP #4 that her employer was absolutely not being reasonable by requiring remote employees to pay for all of their own travel costs to HQ until Alison made this pretty good point

    They’re not looking for remote employees; they’re letting you do it as a perk, and they’re saying they don’t want to shoulder all the additional costs that result from it.

    I’m a fully remote employee who does the occasional work travel, oftentimes to HQ, and I get everything reimbursed from the company. But my position was also advertised as a remote position from the beginning, so the requests for me to come to campus in another state from time to time should be covered by them since the set up was their idea.

    Still, I’m torn because a part of me still bristles at the fact that should OP get offered the position and chooses to work from home, travel costs to HQ would be fully on her for the first couple of years, especially since they’re mandating twice yearly campus visits. What if the employee can’t afford to take on that financial burden? I regularly end up putting a little less than $1500 on my personal travel card each time I go to HQ (no company credit cards for us, but we get reimbursed within two weeks of submitting our expense reports and those reports get approved within 48 hours of submittal) – that’s a lot to expect someone to just eat.

    I almost feel like if they’re going to allow the remote position, then they need to not mandate the twice yearly HQ visits – Skype is a thing – or just reimburse the travel costs full stop. I have a coworker who requested she work from home full time when her position wasn’t advertised as a remote option, and on the rare occasion she comes to HQ from another state, my company reimburses her for all costs as well. It just seems silly to say you can have this benefit, but oh by the way, here are all these strings. If the intent is to make people second guess the remote option, then don’t offer it at all if you truly don’t want to be that kind of employer.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Seriously, just pay for the twice-yearly visits. Even if the employee asked to be remote (rather than it being a remote position to start with), it seems borderline petty to do this as an employer. There are lots of petty employers, of course!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know, I think if the employee already works there and has decided to move across country and pitches the company on letting them do it remotely — when the company doesn’t particularly want the job to be remote but is willing to consider it for an existing employee — it’s not outrageous to say, “We’ll okay it if you can get yourself back here a couple of times a year. We’ll pitch in to cover airfare, but the rest would be on you.”

      1. JamieS*

        Travel to and from the office strikes me as the cost of doing business specifically cost of employee retention. Even if it’s not the company’s ideal scenario they still get numerous benefits such as being able to retain a decent employee (assuming such accomodations aren’t being made for lousy employees), not having to find a replacement and the cost associated with training a new employee, and there’s also savings associated with people working remote instead of in office. Not to mention being open to more flexible work arrangements when needed makes a company more attractive to top tier candidates. Overall the pay your way policy seems to me like the company is trying to have all the benefits of retaining the employee while moving any potential cost to the employee.

        1. MK*

          I don’t agree. Losing employees to relocation is also a normal cost of doing business. Having a remote employee, even with modern technology, can be a huge hassle. It makes sense that a company would be prepared to make some concessions, but only up yo a point.

          1. JamieS*

            Yes there’s cost to losing employees due to relocation and by not having to lose an employee the company is saving the costs associated with that which is my point.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Maybe.
              The department which isn’t losing an employee to relocation won’t necessarily be able to save the cost of her unused desk space. In many places, a business will not give up the cubicle because they need to make sure they have it for an on-site employee if she resigns/gets promoted next year.

            2. MK*

              My point was that there is a cost in losing an employee and there are costs in having a remote employee, especially when your business isn’t set up for that. Many companies might prefer the one-time cost of hiring than the constant hassle of a remote worker. And its not as if the employee won’t leave sooner or later.

              1. JamieS*

                If that was their preference they’d hire a new employee. Also replacing experienced staff isn’t a one and done cost. There’s also the cost of losing the experienced employees expertise gained thru working at that specific company for X amount of time. The fact an employee may at some point leave, which isn’t a given, doesn’t negate the fact the company derives benefit from them continuing to work there prior to quitting.

                1. Wintermute*

                  You raise a good point and I think it also depends on the position. Some times it is a one-and-done hiring cost. Other times there are long investments in skills training and development because what you want isn’t necessarily hireable off-the-street, you need them trained on specialized equipment or software, and so on. this is above and beyond any cost in organizational knowledge, expertise and cultural familiarity

                  It’s all part of the calculus a company has to engage in when they decide ow far to go to retain someone.

      2. NewNameTemporarily4This*

        I understand making the employee who was not remote but asks for it now, paying part. Not making this up, one of our leads decided they wanted to live on a boat in the Caribbean. The twice yearly trip in, involves a logistical and expensive set of commute options just to get to Miami for the direct flight the rest of the way. In reality, we are suppose to reside in a state that has one of our offices. While they have a dispensation for the location, I’d actually be not happy if I found out the company was eating the entire “commute” cost because it’s really expensive. We are a non-profit, and some folks have had their travel restricted (for inexpensive, shorter flights) and we are required to not stay overnight (ie, leave home at 4 am, return home at 11 pm) to attend an all-day meeting. It wouldn’t surprise me to have them set up a “trip budget” of some sort and I can see where there has to be some guidelines in place.

        1. JamieS*

          Do you also expect the company to cut a check to the employee for any savings they derive from the arrangement? If you don’t expect the company to give up their benefit then you shouldn’t expect the employee to foot their costs. Also as an aside it sounds like your travel policy is just lousy and shouldn’t be used as any kind of standard for what company travel policies should be.

      3. doreen*

        I’m wondering how much the meals/hotel for a once or twice a year trip cost compared to an everyday commute. Nobody would ever expect my employer to reimburse me for the cost of my commute to and from the office each day nor would anyone expect my employer to pay me more than a coworker explicitly because my commute is more expensive. If I want to, I can transfer to another office- but if I choose to transfer to the office 60 miles from home, rather than the one 5 miles from home, I would be expected to factor that commute in the cost of transferring. And I’m really not sure how the employee who asked to be remote is different from the one who asks for a transfer to a distant office except that the expenses are probably lower for the remote employee if it’s a 1 or 2 times a year thing. But it’s not only less expensive for the employer- it’s less expensive for the employee as well.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          That’s a good point. I “chose” to move 45 minutes from my work, so my daily commute is about 40 miles round trip. Between holidays and vacation let’s say I commute 48 weeks a year = 9,600 miles. At 30 mpg and $3/gallon (I live in the PNW where gas is very expensive) I’d be looking at close to $1,000/year just in gas savings, not to mention wear and tear on my car and clothes, plus the cost of going out for lunch. I know a lot of public transport commuters can easily spend $5/day, which adds up to $1,200/year.

          At first I was thinking the company was being ridiculous, but it actually might work out that allowing employees to work remotely yet requiring them to visit the office once or twice per year might work out evenly.

      4. pleaset*

        This is my situation with a person who works for me and decided to move across country for personal reasons. The deal is he pays to fly cross country to visit his parents, we pay for the fairly rough and costing “local” (1-2 hours) travel on each visit.

        Him working remote is OK but it would be better if he was here. But he wanted to move and we want to keep him, so we’ll take the small productivity hit and help with costs, but not fully pay them.

      5. Another worker bee*

        One thing that probably matters here is relative cost of living in home office city and wherever OP is relocating to. If home office is in, say, NYC or San Francisco and OP is relocating to literally anywhere else and keeping the same salary, they are effectively getting a huge raise, so it’s more reasonable to ask them to cover costs.

    3. Carlie*

      I’m torn. It sounds like it doesn’t make sense to make the employees pay, but on the other hand all other employees pay for daily travel to work. It’s part of every job to calculate your commuting cost as a factor on if you want it- someone who takes a job an hour from home doesn’t get paid more than someone who lives 5 blocks away just because of the distance. The company is saying they want in-person employees, but will take remote on the condition of a minimum number of in-person days per year. Then it’s on the employees how far away they want to live and deal with the “commute” cost.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      And I just re-read the question and realized OP is already an employee of this company, she’s just moving away from the office, so she’s more like my coworker that I mentioned above. This makes me lean towards the “your company is not being reasonable here” category. Presumably, they are allowing OP to work from home because they value whatever skills she brings to this role. Then if that’s the case, why wouldn’t they pick up a twice a year tab? They’re not paying for her to be in an office anymore, so that’s less rent money* and lower insurance costs that they have to shoulder – $3k a year in travel costs is more than likely not equal to what they’d be spending on her if she was full time in office. They’re either breaking even or actually saving money.

      *I worked for an insurance company that paid ridiculously high rents for each employees’ cube, so my estimation of the cost savings here is based on that. OP’s company may not have high rent costs or don’t pay per cube, so that calculation may not apply to her situation.

      1. MK*

        Obviously they don’t value her skills to that extent? This is not a yes/no situation, they might not want to lose her, but that doesn’t mean they are prepared to do anything to avoid it.

        Also, I don’t think one employee less will affect rent and insurance.

        1. JamieS*

          The fact the company is allowing OP to be remote is proof they value the their contribution enough to allow for remote work. Otherwise the OP wouldn’t even be allowed to be remote in the first place.

          1. snowglobe*

            They value her work enough to continue to have her on the payroll and wfh. They don’t value her work enough to be willing to pay for additional travel costs twice per year.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Then they shouldn’t let this be an option then. I’m sorry, it just makes no sense to not pick up the tab for two mandatory visits that they requested when the costs of that are usually far less than having an employee onsite full time.

              1. doreen*

                You don’t know what the costs are of having an employee on site I have never had an employer that paid per cube or per office , they have always paid per square foot of the space we occupy ( and always in multiples of a full or half-floor). Right now my office has ten empty cubicles and four empty office – adding 14 employees will cost only in consumables like possibly paper and possibly slightly higher electric bills. There is no way that paying the expenses to bring a remote employee in twice a year would be cheaper than having one on-site.

                1. Fortitude Jones*

                  You’re right – none of us know what the employer’s expenses are. And I have had an employer pay per cubicle occupied as opposed to just a flat square footage rate, so I was using that as my gauge for the potential cost savings – it’s possible there really isn’t one for the OP’s employer. Then it gets back to, if they’re not saving money for the arrangement and they really don’t want the role to be remote, hence the weird policy on reimbursement, why offer it as an option in the first place? Just wish the OP the best of luck on her move and finding a new job and be done with it.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I just commented above — the company may not be able to save on office space. In some companies, if you give up a cubicle it’s difficult to get it back. And they need to plan for what happens if OP resigns — they will need an on-site location.

      3. hbc*

        It’s very unusual to have less cost due to one employee working remotely.

        I think Carlie’s take above makes the most sense–they are willing to grant the employee the benefit of WFH all but two weeks of the year, which is quite possibly a major inconvenience on their part. How she gets to the office those two weeks is immaterial to them, but they won’t subsidize it after already stretching to make the accommodation to allow remote work 50 weeks (minus vacation).

    5. Baru Cormorant*

      IMO if someone works remotely, their home is their office. So if the company would pay for them to visit another office, they should pay for them to come from their home to the office.

      I think this kind of policy only makes sense if you really want to disincentive remote work.

      1. MK*

        Or when they consider allowing wfh a big enough perk that they don’t think they need to be offering extra incentives?

      2. nonegiven*

        The disincentive is to not find a local job. Since they have to pay to travel twice a year, they have 6 months to find a local job, then another 6 months. This company wants to keep them but not bad enough. So work for the old company until you find a local job that pays just enough to be better than picking up travel costs twice a year but be better than working at home the rest of the time.

    6. Colette*

      If the employee can’t afford to pay for the trips, then working remotely for this company isn’t an option for her, and she will need to find another job. As long as the company is up front about that, they’re not really out of line here.

    7. Iain C*

      This isn’t a real “remote employee”, this is an employee who’s allowed to have a lot of work from home days…

  11. Estelle Rapaport*

    #4 remote employee

    ” they’re saying they don’t want to shoulder all the additional costs that result from it.”

    Are there additional costs other than travel?

    Doesn’t the company also save money though because the employee is going to pay for their own office space, equipment and utilities?

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      That’s what I’m saying – travel costs are not that expensive depending on where her HQ is, and even if they are, they can’t be more expensive than the cost of her actually working in the office. This just seems really silly.

    2. Ophelia*

      Who says the employee is paying that? Most companies offer a stipend, provide equipment, or reimburse remote workers for required equipment so the company is paying for that either in facility costs of the main office or in remote employee costs. It’s just a different category.

    3. Plutocrat*

      The employee is saving commuting costs and time.
      If they are replacing a $10/day commute with two $250 trips a year, they should stop whinging.

      1. JamieS*

        On the flip side the company benefits by not having to pay the commuting cost of most employees but gets the benefit of having them in office so should suck it up and pay for the occasional “commuting” cost of remote employees.

        1. hbc*

          I don’t get your logic–since they don’t have to pay commuting costs for most, they should pay commuting costs for some? If I’m on an expensive diet and my company “benefits” by not having to feed the other employees for their work day, is that a reason they should pay for my lunches?

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            For me, the bottom line is I’ve never heard of a company that has remote employees making those employees pay for a hotel or anything else business travel related when they travel for business.. The LW herself says this is their policy, not a one time thing. To me that’s very odd.

            1. Malarkey01*

              My large company does. You are responsible for getting to your “home office”. If that means you pay for a 5 minute bus, drive 45 minutes in from the suburbs, or need to fly cross country. Most employees WFH and over the years people have spread out more and more since most just need to come in for 2 meetings a year. We’re giving a ton of latitude on remote work but understand we were all hired to work from x office and that moving 3 hours away was for our benefit.

              If you are traveling to a different office or city for normal business that is paid like regular business travel.

          2. JamieS*

            An airplane ride and hotel isn’t daily normal commuting costs, it’s a business trip hence the quotes. Regardless my point was that if we’re going to get into a tit for tat on what the employee saves and their benefits then the benefit the company receives that they don’t have to pay for should also be part of the discussion.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        It doesn’t sound like anyone’s whinging, just curious.

        Personally, I moved and took my job with me– and I went to a much higher COL city. I save money in gas because I’m not driving to work every day, but I replace that with Internet costs and electricity, plus I am paid about 30% less than what I would be in a local job. So it’s not like the cost of a trip would be nothing.

        However, I recognize that I got to do this and it’s not our normal practice, so I would be willing to cover some things. For me, the difference would be based on whether I had a choice– an unexpected “you must come to the office for a week” I wouldn’t want to cover.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, I don’t like that the twice yearly visits are mandatory, especially if OP’s set up will be like yours where she’ll be making less money and has to pay for internet, electric, some equipment, etc. herself. Maybe if they made it as more of an option, I would have less of a problem with it. My coworkers who either work in our foreign offices or who work in one of our US satellite offices aren’t mandated to come to either the US or UK headquarters, and my coworker who asked to work from home after working for the company a few years gets her occasional office visits paid in full and she lives a couple miles from one of our satellite offices.

          1. doreen*

            Your coworker who lives a couple of miles from the satellite office – which visits is she getting paid in full? I could see paying for her to go to the headquarters just as they presumably pay for those who regularly work in the satellite office to go to the headquarters – but I didn’t get the impression that the OP was located near a satellite office.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Her visits to HQ are paid in full. They wouldn’t pay for her to drive to the satellite office, which is reasonable, just like if OP was moving to a new state that has a satellite office she can go to from time to time, it wouldn’t be reasonable for her employer to pay for her gas and any parking/tolls. But asking an employee to fly to a whole other state and spend X amounts of nights there and pay for accommodations and incur expenses she wouldn’t have normally incurred in the normal course of her work is, to me, problematic. This is business travel, so the company should handle it as business travel or not allow the remote work at all.

              1. doreen*

                I wouldn’t have a problem if the company didn’t allow remote work at all- but depending on the exact circumstances , I might prefer paying for the one or two trips a year to finding a job in my new location. If my job could be done remotely, I’d love to take my NYC salary somewhere less expensive and I’d definitely be willing to pay for two trips a year. You might prefer finding a new job to paying for the one or two trips a year- but that doesn’t mean the OP does.

    4. BadWolf*

      Some companies pay for a home office (internet, computer, desk, etc).

      In the US, if the employee is working remotely in another state, there are also tax and accounting differences that the company has to deal with.

    5. goducks*

      I’ve had this sort of unplanned long distance employee. Every time, it’s been at a company that owns it’s own building or leases a whole building, so there are no savings to be had by decreased in-office headcount. There are, though, additional expenses.
      Workers Comp insurance in a state not covered under our existing policy. Accounting costs for payroll filings in an additional state. Tech infrastructure to add secure connection into our main building from the employee’s home. Tech infrastructure to get that employee’s phone extension to ring at their house. Shipping costs to send documents/manuals/equipment back and forth. Significant time and struggle trying to make that one remote employee in an office of non-remote included in meetings and other conversations. Additional support staff hours to manage the fact that doing certain types of things remotely just doesn’t work well. All that without any consideration to travel.
      It never worked well, and it was always expensive. This idea that remote employees always save companies money is simply not a universal truth.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Didn’t that Tech Infrastructure for phone and VPN and Skype/Webex/GoToMeeting exist previously? Most of the companies I’ve worked for give that to everyone in the office automatically.

        Mailings: scan send PDFs For equipment, They’d have it already or take it with them?

        You’ve got me on the payroll though. That very well might be an unpleasant expense.

  12. H.Regalis*

    OP #3 – I work in city government and we put our personal mail in the outgoing mailbox. We have to pay our postage, but we’re allowed to use it. One of my coworkers has an Etsy business and mails a lot of her packages that way. I don’t think it’s unprofessional at all. I guess it’s something that varies from office to office though.

    1. Massmatt*

      I was going to comment earlier that places may set zero tolerance rules to avoid just this sort of thing. IMO sending multiple packages through the office mail system for a side business seems abusive. The mail room employees are there to support the company business not my eBay side gig.

    2. kittymommy*

      I work for local government and while they may take a letter here or there, packages would definitely be a big no-no. I think it might depend on set up and how large the company/org is. We cover a large area so we have couriers that go around to all the departments to collect and dispense mail. Expecting the courier to transmit and use up space in the van for personal packages would not happen.

  13. Startup HR*

    OP4 – I understand that they want employees to pick up the costs of being remote, but remote workers can sometimes save the company money. If the office is in a major city, desk space for an employee costs 1000s per year. Your travel 2x per year is less than that. This policy seems like it’s just them trying to nickel and dime you.

    In other words, I’m wondering if they make you pay for your extra guacamole yourself.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, there are real downsides to having remote employees (in positions not designed to be remote), not always monetary ones. It can mean that your coworkers back in the office end up doing more of the on-the-spot work that you might otherwise have a share of, it can make the logistics of collaboration harder, etc. I don’t think it’s outrageous for a company that didn’t particularly want the role to be remote to say that they’ll okay it since you’re requesting it but they want you to have some skin in the game. (I also think it’s interesting that it’s only for the first two years, and am curious about the rationale there.)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        (I also think it’s interesting that it’s only for the first two years, and am curious about the rationale there.)

        The rationale could be that they figure remote employees are more of a flight risk within that first couple of years so if they’re willing to pay their own way all that time, they’re more likely with this company for the long haul; therefore, the company feels better about picking up the tab starting in year three because the employee proved they had skin in the game by covering their own travel costs upfront. Or something.

        I don’t know, I got nothing, lol.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, I was thinking along those lines too — they’re trying to avoid incurring extra costs for people who are just asking to work remotely until they get settled in their new city and can job search there.

        2. Meredith*

          I think the opposite. I think most people who request going remote (trailing spouse, helping out a family member) will probably last about 2 years on average before getting a local job. I moved across the country and requested to work remotely, assuming I’d do it for 2 years, but it ended up being 3. A lot of people, especially those who work in an office more often than not, end up not loving working from home full time. I personally used a coworking space once a week to lend some variety to my workday (and to get me away from the laundry and dishes), though it wasn’t quite the same.

          SO they are hedging their bets that they won’t ever have to pay for the travel, or that it will motivate the employee to move on before they have to shell out for travel.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            SO they are hedging their bets that they won’t ever have to pay for the travel, or that it will motivate the employee to move on before they have to shell out for travel.

            But then why even allow the remote work to begin with if your end goal is to get the person to quit? Just say thanks, but no thanks when the employee brings up the suggestion and start the recruitment process.

            I just don’t understand this company’s logic here.

      2. Willis*

        But if it doesn’t make sense or will be pretty inconvenient for the role to be remote, then it shouldn’t be, regardless of who is paying for those travel costs for two years. Those seem like they should be two separate decisions. I don’t think it’s an outrage, but I do think it’s a bit eyeroll-y. Also, I’m not sure this encourages skin in the game…I could see it pushing people to look for new jobs if they decide they don’t want to foot the bill for their visits to the office. Not a great thing to do shortly after a company agrees to let you go remote, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

      3. JamieS*

        What do you mean by “designed to be remote”? If a job isn’t designed to be remote it wouldn’t be possible to be remote even if that was the company’s preference.

          1. JamieS*

            Those aren’t the same thing. If a job can be remote then the intention to be in office is a preference not part of the inherent design of the job.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Of course they can be the same thing. I can have a job on my team that would be more convenient to have done from the office but which I’m willing to let you do remotely because you’re a known quantity, I like you, and I’m willing to take on some inconvenience to make it work — but if you leave, I’m definitely hiring in-office again.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                *raises hand* That’s me. I was kept on for a bunch of reasons that are pretty specific to me, not the role– if I were to leave, they wouldn’t open up the job to the whole country.

                1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

                  Yep, me too. I recently moved across the country but was able to keep my job. To do that the position had to become “remote”, meaning in theory it will still be remote when I leave. However, I know that my boss would definitely prefer to hire someone local if I were to leave. She only allowed it because I’m a known quantity and it would be very hard to replace me currently.

                  That said, I actually offered to pay some of my travel costs as part of the deal to become remote, but I was told that it was definitely not allowed. Likely because I was in California, and employees are prohibited from paying for any part of their business travel there.

                1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  I can’t answer for Alison, of course, but I can say that there’s a chance I would be asked to find my own accommodation, and I would probably just do it. In my case, it’s not SUPER egregious– I have a bunch of friends (even co-workers) I can stay with in the city where my home office is located, and I would likely drive– but while I wouldn’t love it, I would do it. Taking my job remotely was a huge bonus for me, less of one for the office, and I have a responsibility to be flexible on my end in exchange for the privilege. It’s not that they did me some great ginormous favor, but they did bend policy for me, so I can’t act as if this is purely for their benefit.

              2. Gaia*

                My entire field is more convenient to have on-site, but the workers are so in demand and so adamant that the work *can* be done remotely that it is becoming more common (for instance, I am full time remote in a role where the last person was in office because remote work wasn’t allowed but after 6 months of searching for his replacement in a major metro area, they opened up the search nationally for remote workers and hired me 5 weeks later).

              3. JamieS*

                No they aren’t. I’ll give an example. A cashier at a store is a job that by design can’t be remote regardless of preference. Another example is a plumber. A plumber can’t WFH, other than maybe some incidental paperwork, and must be at the work site to perform their primary job duties even if the physical work site itself changes.

                You’re talking about preference and what is viewed as easier not the inherent design of the job. A job not being designed to be remote means the job itself would have to materially change to allow for remote work. If the job doesn’t really change and remote is still probable then the issue is a matter of preference not the inherent design of the job.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  You asked what I meant by “designed.” I told you I meant it to be synonymous with “intended.” I’m not sure why you’re arguing that I meant something different than what I’m telling you I meant.

            2. Colette*

              It’s really hard to build relationships with coworkers when you’re the only remote person, which means that a new remote person will find it much more difficult to keep in sync with what is going on in the office. When the team is largely local, it takes effort on the part of the in-office people to keep the remote person in the loop, and without that effort, it will be difficult or impossible for the remote employee to do their job well.

              That has nothing to do with the direct requirements of the job (i.e. the tasks assigned to the person) but is directly relevant to the job anyway.

      4. The Rat-Catcher*

        Definitely this. In my company, people work remotely but still print, borrow cars and do various other functions at the office. They don’t have to do any of the printer troubleshooting, ink changing, mail sending, and a hundred other small tasks that have to be handled by people in the office. So the cost calculation isn’t as simple as it looks.

    2. Willis*

      I agree, and would imagine there would be other savings beyond just desk space. And the remote policy also benefits the company if it lets them retain good employees who otherwise may have to quit due to a move. As an employer, my position would probably be to cover the travel costs for times that we required remote workers to be here. As an employee, I may agree to pay my expenses but ultimately be more inclined to look for a new job in my new location before having to go to the office, depending on what the travel costs are likely to be relative to my income.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        This. This policy will likely backfire on them with OP or other employees who end up in the same situation in the long run. Why would you eat travel costs when you can just find a new job in your new city and quit? It’s goofy. If the employee is exceptional enough to merit the opportunity to work fully remote in a role that wasn’t intended to be remote, then the employer should have no problem picking up a twice yearly travel tab to keep that person around.

        1. Annette*

          At the end of the day – why do people do anything. Because something (salary, the work itself, coworkers, the opportunity to wear slippers) is worth it to them over other things. Maybe the 400 dollars a year or whatever isn’t that much to the employee vs. having to wear a suit. Or drive a car. Or job hunt or whatever else they would have to do if they left this gig. I get it.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A lot of people value the ability to work from home enough that they’d consider it well worth picking up hotel and food expenses twice a year. (I would!)

          All this said, I don’t see why the employer doesn’t just cover the full costs. If I’m reading it correctly, they’re already covering airfare, which is usually the most expensive part. But, unlike others, I’m also not appalled that they’re not.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            My airfare is actually cheaper than my hotel stays because company policy is we can’t book anything above economy class for travel within the US that’s less than six hours (then you get to book business class). I’d be highly annoyed at having to pay for my hotel costs out of pocket because I’m usually at HQ for a week, so my stays are around $7-800. Maybe that’s why I’m so annoyed on OP’s behalf, lol.

            1. Carlie*

              How much does the average person driving to work spend on gas and car depreciation/maintenance in a year, though? And parking in many cases? I live close to work and still spend easily $700 a year just on that gas. It’s just for the remote workers it’s all at once.

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            It just seems petty and pointless. The way the LW describes it this isn’t just one employee, so the company does actually have a remote work policy–just a strange and punitive one

          3. doreen*

            The letter doesn’t actually say airfare though- it says the employee will be required to cover hotel and meal costs. The travel could involve either driving or very inexpensive plane tickets – if I needed to travel between Rochester, NY and NYC round trip airfare will be about $200 , which is only going to pay for a night or two in a hotel at best.

        3. Clisby*

          I’d trade travel costs a couple of times a year for being able to work remotely any day, unless we’re talking about really excessive travel costs. The LW says the policy requires her to pay for hotels/meals, which implies that the company is paying the airfare (or reimbursing for mileage). Are these yearly visits likely to require staying more than a couple of nights?

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, I’d want to know that upfront if I were the OP. If the visits only have to be for three days each time, it’s possible the hotel costs would be around the same price as the round trip airline tickets, so both the company and OP would be equally invested in this. That’s not so bad. But if it’s around a week or so each time, then the costs tilt over to the OP more than the employer, which gives me a little pause since I naturally bristle at the idea of paying for work related expenses in general. I’m also extremely spoiled in that I’ve never had to, I’ve always been reimbursed for reasonable expenses, and my current company is great about covering the full costs of all of their remote employees’ travels, even the ones who asked for the perk of working from home full time. They consider it a cost of keeping their employees happy and keeping turnover low.

            1. Clisby*

              I worked remotely for years, and my once-or-twice a year visits generally were about 3 days/2 nights. They weren’t mandatory, and travel costs didn’t really come into it because I’d piggyback on a family vacation in the area. The couple of times they asked me to come in (for example, to give several days of training sessions shortly before I retired) they paid for everything.

              1. Fortitude Jones*

                I like your company’s way of handling it by not making the visits required, only asking you to stay a few days, and allowing you to arrange it around family vacations you were already going to take anyway. That’s a win for both parties.

                1. Clisby*

                  To be fair, some companies might have a reason to want remote employees to come in at a particular time – that was pretty close to never with my employer. They did like me showing up once or twice a year, just to have some face-to-face time (and I liked it too), so doing it during vacation times worked great. Plus, since I worked from home, I naturally ended up doing a lot more with our kids, so it was kind of restful to head off to the office for a couple of days and let my husband do all the child-wrangling. It was fine with him, because he’d have liked to be home with them more.

              2. pleaset*

                We do this for the person on my team who asked to move across country. He pays long-distance travel to see family, and we cover local commute on those visits. If I asked him to come in we’d pay long distance too.

      2. Feline*

        Depending on the specificity of knowledge required for a position, retaining the employee could be worth the travel costs to the employer. On the rare occasion I get a new teammate, it’s at least a year ramp-up time to real productivity. Turnover becomes a staggering cost, mostly unseen by the higher-ups who don’t see what we go through to get stuff done. If they saw the true cost of turnover, they might have let preferred previous employees go remote instead of leaving entirely.

    3. kittymommy*

      I would think this would be company dependent. Where I’m at we own the buildings we occupy so that desk, electric, bandwith, etc will be there regardless if anyone is sitting there so if we let someone work remotely there would definitely be an extra cost.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Ah, yes – I’ve only worked at one employer who actually owned the building we were housed in. Everybody else rented office space. In a non-renting capacity, you’re right – the company really doesn’t save anything by having remote workers.

        1. doreen*

          I’ve also only worked at one place that owned the building – everyone else rented. But they never rented a certain number of cubicles/offices and although there were sometimes other tenants in the building, it was never the case that the person in the cubicle or office next to mine worked for a different organization.

  14. ScarletNumber*

    OP3

    As long as you are using your own stamps, envelopes, stationery, &c you are well within your rights to use the outgoing mailbox. Just make sure you don’t slip up, not even once.

    1. Annette*

      This might be your opinion and it’s also mine. But it’s not shared by the office admin. My two cents – it’s not just about ‘within your rights.’ What’s the point of being right. If you tick off people you don’t want to tick off at work then you’re not right anymore.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yet in so many places they get away with it, therefore it’s not your place to decide differently. Unless you’re the actual boss, there’s no reason to start wars.

          I’d fire you first before the admin in this case, tbh.

          1. ScarletNumber*

            > I’d fire you first before the admin in this case, tbh.

            I’m sure you would, but that’s making the problem worse by caving in to the unreasonable admin.

    2. Massmatt*

      I think the admin’s point was silly, but it might well be office policy, that’s unclear. But there’s no “right” to use office mail for something not office related. Whether your mail costs them anything or not, it’s their mail system, they can set the rules.

        1. BadWolf*

          It probably depends on how close the outgoing mail is to the actual hand off to the post office.

          Someone might have to hand sort out mail that needs to be stamped/inter office mail etc. Extra pieces of mail take extra work. One envelope, sure, not a big deal. But if the whole office starts dropping off all of their mail, it starts to add up.

          And if someone is actually taking the mail somewhere (I have a friend who walks the afternoon mail to the post office a couple blocks away) and enough people are doing it, it may be the different between one easy trip, one hard trip, more than one trip. Or if there’s 1 post office bin and the office mail normally fits in it, but enough personal mail is in there that it becomes a problem fitting…personal stuff is now impacting business stuff.

          1. Tuppence*

            In one place I worked previously (where I had responsibility for the mailroom), mail had to be bagged up for collection by the postal service, and franked mail wasn’t allowed to be in the same bag as stamped mail. So yeah, it’s an extra layer of sorting, which as BadWolf points out, could potentially add up if multiple employees were doing this. Generally it doesn’t happen on sufficient scale to be a big deal in most offices, but it’s certainly not outrageous for an office to have a policy against it.

    3. Former Mailroom Clerk*

      I used to work for a mail services company that had a contract with a large university. The way it worked was that the University’s mail services department would collect all the mail from various buildings around campus, and bring it to a central location. We would then pick up (multiple times daily, usually 3-4 postal carts full of mail) from them, and bring it to our shop, where we sorted, weighed and metered the mail (also sealed anything that wasn’t already sealed) and took it to the Post Office.

      Any mail that we found that was already stamped, we’d just sort into the appropriate pile, and move on. The department (each department’s mail was bundled separately, for billing) would not be billed for that piece, as all the billing for postage was done through the postage meters. It was never any problem at all.

      (the only exception is if it was buried in the middle – let’s say that one department was doing a 10,000-letter mailing, and there’s 5 trays of envelopes all lined up, and 1 stamped envelope is right in the middle – That one could end up accidentally being processed and the department charged – our machines could meter about 200 pieces a minute, and if everything was the same size/shape, it usually moved at close to full speed. However, if the 1 stamped envelope was at the very front, we’d see it and make sure to separate it properly)

  15. Bibliovore*

    For the fourth letter, on the subject of recouping the extra expenses of having a remote employee, I’m curious — is the average cost of having a remote employee more than that of having an on-site one? The remote employee may accrue occasional travel expenses and additional shipping costs, and both have equipment needs such as a computer, but the on-site one is using office real estate, furniture, office/printing supplies, electricity, more internet bandwidth, etc.; I’ve no idea how those tend to compare.

    1. Massmatt*

      It depends on the particular job and business, but in general remote employees save the company significant resources. There is a reason why it’s expanding dramatically, and it’s not because it’s costing companies more money.

    2. Silver Radicand*

      It really depends on whether most of those costs end up having increments large enough that a single remote employee saves them nothing. That could be possible if, say, the office they rent is flat fee and they have several cubicles open and unused. They have to pay for it anyway, so someone working remote is not a savings. Same can happen with internet as well. The largest cost of electricity is heating/cooling which will need to happen regardless of that employee. If the remote employee is in another state, additional HR/payroll requirements could actually result in a net cost to the employer.
      With smaller increments (such as a cubicle by cubicle rental, etc.) or with a larger number of remote workers, it is more likely that the savings accrued will be net benefit to the employer.

  16. Anon Video Watcher*

    I have to watch that video every year. But because we do it on our own schedule at our desks, there’s no requirement I keep my eyes and ears glued to the monitor. I think you do have to answer questions and page through it (at least I do), but that helps.
    Honestly, I have no idea of the best strategy, even after watching the video. What if the shooter decides to shoot our frosted glass window of our shared office, and get in that way, after I locked the door? Then we are really trapped. But maybe he will think that no one is there if we are super-quiet under our desks, etc.

    1. Feline*

      Same here. The video is something we can watch individually, but without a subject matter expert present to present it, I think it loses a lot of its value. My company is pushing toward open floor plan offices (ugh). Where am I going to find a door, much less one that locks? HR needs to think before doing blanket training and keep their training applicable and up to date. Like our blanket training for site security that insists we look at employee badges when someone walks in with us to be sure they belong… only they took away our employee badges over a year ago that had our photos and replaced them with unmarked swipe cards. Customizing or updating training is a pain in the rear, I get it. But employees lose respect for it and start eye-rolling when they feel like it doesn’t apply.

  17. Richard*

    #1 It’s weird that they do this with active shooter scenarios, but likely no others. Do you pair fire drills with videos with burn victims or do tornado drills with footage of people being blown away? I do active shooter drills at work, and we don’t have to watch violent videos to talk through the best places to hide or paths to flee. Unless you’re training people to actively respond to a shooter (security, law enforcement, etc), it’s likely not necessary to expose everyone to that kind of violence.

    1. Chaordic One*

      As if going to Catholic School weren’t bad enough, there were some awful fire prevention movies that gave me nightmares as child. No burn victims, but firemen carrying out victims of smoke inhalation covered with soot.

    2. WS*

      They do for driver safety videos! But that’s a situation where you are in control of (most of )the causes of problems, which is definitely not the same here.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Isn’t it? You can control your workplace/car to a degree. But when someone comes in with a weapon or decides to get in a vehicle while intoxicated you are at the mercy of past training, instinct, and even luck, for lack of a better term.

      2. fposte*

        I remember that driver safety video. I think it made a good portion of us *less* safe drivers, because we were already sensitized to the risks of a ton of steel moving at 60 mph and now drove haunted rather than informed.

        1. juliebulie*

          I was so terrified the night before my first time driving alone, I actually wrote a will (at age 17). Thanks largely to “The Third Killer” and other “films” like it.

    3. Fish Microwaver*

      At my workplace, our fire training regularly contains actual footage of stadium fires with mass casualties. Vision of the fire and panicked stampede are shown, along with other distressing material. I would rather sit through training videos than be crushed in a panic .

      1. Richard*

        Is there any reason to believe that a disturbing video prevents panic? I’d bet that practical planning is a lot more useful.

    4. sunshyne84*

      In high school they required seniors to go to this drunk driving display. I don’t remember just how graphic it was as far as victims, but they brought a beat up vehicle to school. When I worked in govt security we watched a video of people blowing themselves up. I guess they wanted us to be more aware, but it idk what anyone could do to prevent that in a matter of seconds.

    5. CMart*

      We had some pretty graphic kitchen safety videos at one of my restaurant jobs. But similar to driving safety that purpose isn’t to somehow train your brain into reacting during an actual crisis (as is being claimed for these active shooter trainings), it’s to scare the pants off of you so you don’t goof around and cause grievous harm to yourself or someone else.

  18. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    I was in the cashier on duty when my store was robbed with a weapon. I don’t think a graphic video would have helped. The constant calm instructions on what to do did, so did having the contact list in an accessible spot. I also think that my manager knowing me and being who she is (calm personality) helped a lot. The post stressful situation /adrenaline crash was hard to deal with. I found focusing on some thing inconsequential but happy at the time helped (I got the idea from a fictional book. They got pizza. I asked the police to give the police dog an extra treat for me, then went to my brother’s and got to cuddle his kids).

  19. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    On the remote employees letter, how does that work when combined with the laws around what an employer is required to pay for in regards to travel expenses out of normal expectations. (sorry for poor wording) I’m not sure if this is something that varies from state to state, but I do remember reading about it here and other places that companies are required to cover certain expenses.

  20. RedInSC*

    We had that same video. It was disturbing. And the message…think only if yourself, don’t stop to help others was what really hard for me to take in.

    But this seems to also be the world we’re in right now. The weekend after we had our training the gunman attacked the Gilroy garlic festival. Which is close to my work.
    I wish we could get some reasonable mental health care and gun control laws. Maybe these trainings wouldn’t be necessary.

    1. londonedit*

      I don’t have any experience with active shooter training, but the ‘don’t put yourself in danger to help others’ idea is fairly common in many situations. People are always advised not to stop and attempt first aid if it would mean putting themselves in danger too, and there’s the whole ‘put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others’ thing – the idea is that you don’t want to add yourself to the list of casualties for the emergency services to deal with. Better to have one casualty and someone standing back calling an ambulance, than two casualties and no one calling an ambulance.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I did confined spaces work training a few years ago, and this was one of the things they emphasized. If you’re in a situation where you might be incapacitated by gas, for instance, it’s better to put on your own escape set and get out than it is to have multiple people that need to be rescued. It feels harsh but ultimately by getting yourself out you make it more likely that the people who were hurt can be rescued in time.

    2. Entry Level Marcus*

      This may be a controversial opinion, but I think these trainings aren’t necessary. The odds you will be present for a mass shooting even once in you entire life are astronomically low, but the constant media coverage of these events can make it feel like it’s more likely to happen to you than it is (which isn’t to say the media shouldn’t cover it at all, to be clear). It reminds me of how consuming a lot of true circle media can make it feel like serial killers are everywhere.

  21. Fikly*

    I would be intensely curious to know if there has actually been an incident (or even multiple ones, for better data – not that I’m wishing shootings on anyone) where the people have sat through this video, and they can see what happened.

    Because on the surface, it seems like a “shootings are happening, but maybe this will work to reduce casualties, so let’s make this mandatory in hopes that it does” kind of logic.” (Trying to be as apolitical on gun laws here as possible.) I mean, I imagine they’re extrapolating from military training, which is a lot about exposure to traumatic things in controlled circumstances, is my understanding. But the military is getting more training by several orders of magnitude than sitting through a video every few years.

  22. Bowserkitty*

    Alison, #3 mentions they are using their own stamp and supplies. Does this change things? I wonder if the admin didn’t see the stamp or if she’s just persnickety.

    I used to see personal bills (and even Netflix DVDs – that should date me a bit) going out in the outbox at my first post-college job, but everything had personal stamps. Most people just didn’t have time to find a proper post box prior to work and mailmen in the city are notorious for not taking outgoing mail at residences.

    1. RedInSC*

      No, I used to work at a public University. It was honestly about the work that the person did to get the mail from your office to the uni’s sort room and them doing the work for personal mail.

      Alison is right about the policies at public Universities being on the oddly specific side of things.

      1. ScarletNumber*

        If you buy coffee in the morning and finish it at work, are you allowed to throw it out in the garbage cans, or do you have to take it with you to throw out at home?

        1. RedinSC*

          I know, right? It’s a crazy way of thinking, but it does exist at some public organizations. I’m not sure why mail was particularly singled out, but it has been.

          And now, wrt your coffee cup, at least in CA, you’re encouraged to bring your own non disposable cup, so the trash thing is probably less of an argument now. :)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope — my answer accounted for that: in most offices it’s fine as long as you use your own supplies, but government offices can have much stricter rules around using anything for personal gain (even if it’s just the two seconds of work from the person who processes the outgoing mail).

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Interesting, I didn’t think of it that way. It seems to be one of those “if one person does it then everyone else is going to” things, and I could see that taking far more time in the mailroom.

        1. Ariaflame*

          They asked us to stop having packages delivered to our workplace because it was increasing the burden on the mailroom.

    3. Stationaryaddict*

      Hi,
      I have to ask is this an American thing? I have lived in multiple countries across several continents and I have never heard of a mailman taking outgoing mail. Is this an actual thing?

      1. Willis*

        Yes, they do here (in the US). My apartment mailboxes have a slot for outgoing mail, my parents’ delivery person will pick it up from their individual mailbox, and at every office I’ve worked at, the postal worker would pick up outgoing mail when they deliver each day.

          1. Moray*

            I’m curious, now! What do really big office buildings do for regular mail? (Not packages).

            Are regular post office boxes big enough to contain a lot of mail, or do they have someone on their staff deliver their outgoing mail to the post office?

            1. KarenK*

              I’m not 100% sure, but I think that when they deliver all the mail to the mailroom, they take the outgoing mail away with it.

              Or, they might just make a stop by in the afternoon to pick out outgoing mail.

              Either way, it’s not a huge deal to put personal stamped outgoing mail out for pickup by the people who deliver the mail throughout the hospital. I don’t think any kind of sorting goes on. In any case, no one has ever said anything to me about it. Unlike the one time I accidentally had a package delivered that was obviously personal. I was kindly told not to do it again quite quickly!

            2. Jerk Store*

              Typically commercial office buildings have an outgoing mail drop with a large bucket that the mail carrier takes once each business day.

              1. Emily K*

                Yep, when I’ve worked in very large buildings usually the building had a mail room with a dedicated staffer who made one pickup/delivery per day for each office in the building. It was rather inefficient – the pickup/delivery for the individual offices was scheduled to happen after the USPS had delivered mail to the building so that people would get their mail the same day it arrived, but that meant if you left outgoing mail at the reception desk in your individual office, it would get picked up that afternoon but the USPS person wouldn’t be back to collect it from your building’s mailroom until the following (business) day. So for anything time-sensitive I would typically make a point to walk down to the mailroom myself or use the mail chute (if we had one) early enough in the day that the USPS person would collect it the same day – or, if I missed that pickup, I’d go to the street collection box with the last pickup of the day in the area.

        1. pentamom*

          And in single family dwellings in the U.S., you either put the outgoing mail in the box with it sticking out (porch mailbox) or put it in with the flag up (street mailbox). I’m not sure what you do if you have a door slot.

          1. Emily K*

            With my door slot, I wedge the short end of the envelope into one of the upper corners of the metal flap securely enough that the weight of the flap holds it in place. Typically with the stamped end hanging down so it’s clear it’s outgoing and hasn’t been canceled yet. I’ve also seen neighbors with slots who have a smaller mailbox with no lid mounted on the wall next to their door, sort of like a wall-mounted inbox you might see in an office but typically made of bronze or some other durable metal.

            I also put my “not at this address” and “delivered to wrong address” mail back out that way too. Which just made me realize another issue with the LW’s carrier – is he also not picking up mail he misdelivered either? And if he picks up misdelivered mail, then why draw the line at outgoing mail? So many questions.

            1. RedinSC*

              My mom, with a door slot mail actually uses a clothes pin to pin the outgoing mail to the flap. The letter carrier has always just taken the letter(s).

            2. Triumphant Fox*

              Our mailperson is not great – never picks up mail we put in there, still delivers mail we’ve been labeling as the wrong address for years. After our RSVP to a wedding sat in our mailbox and got soaked for weeks, I just bring outgoing mail to work. It’s pretty rare (I wouldn’t bring my holiday cards or anything) and they don’t mind. My admin even offered me a stamp, though I had already stamped it with my own, so they’re pretty lax.

          2. nonegiven*

            I have a door slot and my mailman is an asshole, so my outgoing mail goes into a collection box in a drive thru at the post office.

      2. Emily K*

        I’m actually flabbergasted that LW’s letter carrier doesn’t take outgoing mail. Like, he’s already coming by the house, what does he have against collecting what amounts to a very small fraction of the mail he’s delivering and thus would easily fit in his bag? I’ve lived in 5 cities/towns across 4 states, with multiple different rentals in most of the towns including apartment complexes, basement apartments in row houses, and single family homes. My letter carriers have always picked up outgoing mail.

        1. KarenK*

          I live in a rural area, so we all have roadside mailboxes. If you have something going out, you raise your flag.

        2. Moray*

          In my neighborhood, possibly because it’s fairly low-income, it doesn’t matter how obviously you leave the letter, the carriers will always just add it back to your incoming mail and leave it. And scheduling a package pickup online usually takes two or three tries before it actually leaves your doorstep. Even my “wrong address, return to sender” mail comes to work with me to get dropped in the outgoing mail.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Mail carriers rarely change until they retire unless they relocate. You probably just have rigid carriers who don’t want to be bothered or naturally obtuse carriers who simply don’t care. I wouldn’t blame it on your area, I’ve lived and worked in all kinds of locations and some carriers are amazing and others are just bad.

            We all just hand deliver our misplaced mail in our company complex because of how awful our carriers are. I get stacks of very important state issued documents with the state seals on the return address… that belong to another company who handles lots of medical bills. They are all perfectly legible (typed of course!) But nah they don’t bother matching unit numbers at our sorting hub and the carrier isn’t ever paying attention to catch it while delivering!

            1. Clisby*

              Yeah, I live right down the street from a state college. We frequently get mail and packages that are supposed to go to the college because our address and theirs are really close (think 132 vs. 123). We used to have a great mail carrier who caught this stuff and delivered it to the right place, but not any more. I mean, it will be addressed to someone at This Particular College but with our street #, and the carrier pays no attention. Usually, I just mark it Please Forward to This Particular College, but we’ve gotten things like a TV! And similar. In those cases, I get online and do my best to track down the person this really should go to, or I take it down to their post office.

        3. BottleBlonde*

          As an adult I’ve lived in 3 cities in 3 states and I’ve never had a mail carrier who would take outgoing mail. I actually assumed it was just an outdated practice until this thread. In my current apartment complex the landlord told us up front not to expect mail to be picked up; in the other cities, I learned through trial and error (though my very kind postman did ring my doorbell at my last house to tell me he couldn’t take my outgoing letter!). I do recall my grandparents putting outgoing mail in the mailbox when I was little so I know it’s at least a thing somewhere! But I wonder if the expectations differ by city?

          1. Emily K*

            Huh – the USPS website doesn’t outright say the letter carrier *has to* pick up your mail unless you hand it to them directly or have a flag on your mailbox. But it seems so odd for the presence of a flag on the mailbox to be the thing that triggers collection as opposed to any other area designated for outgoing mail (in apartment complexes, it’s often a separate box in the bank of boxes on the wall which has no flag, and as noted above I tuck mine into my mail flap and many of my neighbors have an outbox-looking thing on their outside wall next to the door).

            “Collection Service often refers to prepaid mail deposited in a collection box. However, it is also considered collection service when customers hand their outgoing, prepaid mail to a carrier or other designated employee while that employee is performing normal delivery and collection duties. Letter carriers can pick up mail as they make their deliveries if the flag is up.

            Outgoing mail may be handed to the letter carrier if:
            * Correct postage has been applied to the item
            * It falls within the size and weight restrictions of the class.
            Note: Stamped mail over 13 ounces must be taken to a Post Office™ location.
            * The customer does not need a stamped or dated receipt for the item

            The pickup amount may be limited by equipment and vehicle limitations. All mail picked up by letter carriers must comply with normal weight, size and mailing restrictions. If a customer has too much mail for the letter carrier to pick it all up, the customer may:
            * Schedule a Pickup (not available in all markets)
            * Drop it off at a local Post Office™ facility”‘

            I will say that while I’ve always been able to put outgoing mail for the carrier, my USPS quality of service has always been suspiciously correlated with the average income of the houses in my neighborhood, so I wonder if this is a case of low-income neighborhoods just being assigned the laziest or most poorly trained carriers who just don’t feel like collecting.

            1. BottleBlonde*

              Huh, this is interesting! I’ve never had a mailbox with a flag, but in my current and last buildings, it was definitely framed as just something that the mail delivery people flat out didn’t do (not sure about the first city I lived in – I only tried it once, like you by sticking an envelope into the mail flap, so it’s possible the letter was just not seen). These also happened to be extremely highly populated cities so I wonder if it’s just more trouble than it’s worth to collect mail on top of delivering it. Oh well, at least I hardly ever have to mail anything so it’s not much of a burden to use a regular mailbox.

          2. Filosofickle*

            This is my experience too! The first couple of places I lived did take them, but or the past 25 years & 3 states & 5 cities, nope. I asked the post office once, and they told me that taking the outgoing mail was a courtesy and the carrier may do so at their discretion but it was not mandatory. The carrier I have most often now (it’s a rotating cast of characters) seems annoyed every time I hand something to her, though she will take it.

            I was also told they don’t want the responsibility of looking through what’s in the box to see if it’s left from yesterday or outbound — not everyone empties their box every day. (I don’t.) And that makes sense to me, that feels intrusive for them to inspect what’s in the box to check the addresses. That would also take time. At my current house there is no chance of outgoing pickups because the box has 3-compartments, no flag, and loads from the top (where they can’t easily see what’s inside). My parents live in a new subdivision with centralized mail boxes for a dozen houses, which have a slot for outgoing mail and that mail is picked up.

        4. ScarletNumber*

          While my mailman does take the outgoing mail, it so happens that I am near the end of his route. Since I am uncomfortable leaving my mail there until late afternoon, I mail from work.

      3. Massmatt*

        Stationaryaddict, I’m curious how outgoing mail gets anywhere where you live if the mailman doesn’t take it? Do you have to make a trip to the post office whenever you need to send a letter?

        1. CMart*

          That’s what I had to do when I lived in an apartment building that did not have outgoing mail. Either drop something in a Postal Service collection box on a street corner, or find a post office.

        2. Agnodike*

          Not the original question asker, but where I leave you just drop it in a mailbox. Are mailboxes not a thing in the US?

          1. yala*

            I can only think of one post box location in my city, and that one is also outside the post office, so…*shrug*

            I guess they’re a thing elsewhere, but we always just put it in the mailbox with the flag up.

        3. Koala dreams*

          Not Stationaryaddict, but there are usual post boxes next to busy streets, near convenience stores and so on. Residential areas may have one or two post boxes too. The red UK mail boxes are often seen on postcards, they are very distinctive. In some countries different mailing companies have different post boxes so you need to find the right kind.

  23. Close Bracket*

    #1- I wonder if that is the same video I saw. I certainly saw a very similar video at any rate. It was disturbing, and I do not have the same kind of emotional reactions to upsetting things that most people do. I could feel my adrenaline levels rising and my heart beating faster. We got no warning before hand as to just how graphic it was going to be.

    #2- You have definitely been there long enough to be able to be training people on certain things. I am having a problem with someone in the office who basically is you. He has been there about that length of time, and this is his first job out of college. I’ve been there a few months, and I’ve been out of college for more than 10 years. He is supposed to be training me, and it’s not going well because he’s never trained anyone before. If you feel like you have gaps in your ability to train someone, ask a more experienced person to help you out because you are definitely at the point where this is a function that you should be able to fulfill.

    And on that note, since I am going to have to train my junior person in how to train people, any advice on how to handle this with a junior person is welcome!

    1. Zombie Unicorn*

      I think your comment here highlights a very important point – having knowledge isn’t the same as having the skills to train others! In your shoes I’m wondering if you can let your manager know?

      More generally, I think it’s helpful for anyone who wants to train others to do some learning about that – whether through a ‘train the trainer’ course or self-directed learning.

      1. min*

        I have run into that problem my entire adult life! I am very good at absorbing information, but pretty crap at imparting it. Managers always want me to train people because I regularly end up the go-to person for questions in any job, but I’m actually fairly bad at training someone from scratch.

      2. Close Bracket*

        In your shoes I’m wondering if you can let your manager know?

        I’ve let both our managers know, and the functional area lead as well. All I get is, “Junior is very young.” :/

    2. The pest, Ramona*

      I was only at my last job a year or two before I became the go to person for questions, often from people who had been there 10-20 years! I think it was because I was one of the few who asked questions or spoke about how processes worked for my department in the company wide meetings.

  24. MissRed*

    #1 – As someone who had to sit through the same video in their own training, I do agree that it’d be worth it to see if there was a way to at least get a warning beforehand. If only because, before being shown the video, our instructor did give us a brief overview of what to expect for content along with how intense it could be then checked afterwards to make sure that everyone was alright to continue.

    Maybe you could encourage such a thing to HR as feedback on the training?

    1. Quill*

      Having done trainings well before they were common outside schools, I’d understand people stepping out. Enough of us younger millennials have anxiety or trauma somewhat related to school and the constant threat of school shootings that I’d assume my coworkers were making a choice between “have a panic attack at work” and “skip out on training that they may or may not have already had, but which they definitely won’t learn anything from if they’re triggered by it.”

      The trigger warning is a good thing but if you can’t get out of a situation, only prepare for it, it’s not doing a lot of good.

  25. voyager1*

    LW1:
    I would feel very uncomfortable with folks opting out of a active shooter training. But I have been through a bank robbery where a firearm was used… I do think doing this kind of training by a video is pretty lame though.

    I have seen the video in question, and we did a training regarding it with a human instructor. A company just showing a video is just trying to check the boxes that they showed they care.

    I think if I were to go to HR, I would approach it from a self learn module being not enough, that this kind of training needs a human or a teleconference etc.

    1. Dahlia*

      Do you think people in the middle of a panic attack trying not to pass out are actually learning anything?

  26. Princesa Zelda*

    Until last month, I worked for several years at a large national retail chain that has had several high-profile shootings at different locations, most recently in Texas. Every three months or so, we had to watch the active shooter video. Ours was Avoid|Deny|Defend by Texas State. ADD isn’t graphic, I don’t think anyone actually “dies,” but it is very tense and scary. It came up in the news that some of the associates who lived through the recent incident in Texas said that having that training helped them keep their presence of mind. I’m actually a bit desensitized to it, since four of my last six jobs required watching the ADD video on a regular basis, but I know that the video by itself isn’t nearly as effective as walking through the procedures of what to do in an emergency with your manager/location security/whoever and rehearsing it in a drill.

    And I can’t imagine what it must be like for the associates who just went through the real thing in Texas to have to watch it again later this month.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I just watched that video. Sufficiently scary but seemed far more optimistic and practical than gory reenactments. I shared it on twitter.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Although in fairness I also just watched the original video. It did not seem as graphic as I expected. Horrifying, yes, but as gratuitous as I thought it would be.

  27. Bilateralrope*

    I’m a security guard down in New Zealand. I had to watch a similar sounding video during yearly training (before the Christchurch shooter). The title was the same. Details mentioned by other commenters were the same Expect, I dont remember it being as graphic as described. Nor any statistics on shootings.

    Are there multiple versions of the run, hide, fight video going around ?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This comment thread has mentioned a version with actors and an animated version.
      And everyone’s definition of ‘graphic’ can be different. I have no problem with the obviously fake orc blood in sword&sworcery fight scenes, but I lose it when someone’s being tortured or killed off-screen/in earshot.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        Both the one I saw and the one the letter writer mentioned used actors. But the one I saw had no shots of dead bodies or people being killed.

  28. Betty*

    #1: Bit off topic, maybe, but the standard police video in the UK is “Run, Hide, Tell” and instructs you to avoid engaging the shooter at all costs. What’s the deal with Run, Hide, Fight? I really don’t want to watch the video after the descriptions of how graphic it is, but how are you supposed to fight a gunman stalking your office?

    1. voyager1*

      To be blunt. Fight is the last resort. You don’t want to engage a shooter.

      You run away, if that isn’t possible then try hiding and as a last resort you may have to fight your way out.

      I find it interesting though the UK is Run,Hide and Tell. Guess they expect you all to actually get to tell unlike here in the USA where a mass shooting is just a dice roll if you will survive.

      1. Patty Mayonnaise*

        “Fight as a last resort” used to be the messaging, but now police and others are recommending people EITHER run, hide or fight based on what seems the most safe/effective in their current situation.

        1. CMart*

          Isn’t that the same thing, though? You really only have 3 options (run, hide, or fight), and you should pick the one that’s most appropriate for your situation. The best option is to run if you can. Next best is to hide. Last is fight. Pick one of those three, but before fighting assess whether “run” or “hide” will work.

          Really, the point is to do know how to do something other than “freeze” (or panic and draw attention to yourself/others, I guess).

          1. Patty Mayonnaise*

            Well no, it’s not the same, because now the recommendation is not to order the three options at all and consider them equally. In other words, they have studied enough shootings to know, for example, that sometimes running is the worst option in a given scenario and they don’t want to encourage people to “run first if you can” and take on greater risk.

    2. Oignonne*

      It’s for when you have no options left. You can’t run away, there’s nowhere to hide, so your last option is to do whatever you have to do to survive. The advice generally isn’t “choose to engage even when you don’t have to,” but “as a last resort, if you being shot is imminent, try to incapacitate the shooter.” You’re right that it isn’t an easy fight to win, you’re down to whatever you can do- rush the shooter, throw things- anything that has the teeniest chance of catching them off guard enough to save yourself.

    3. Allonge*

      If it’s anything like the one I have seen (no graphic violence in mine, by the way) the fight part is “if you have absolutely no other option, cannot run, cannot hide in any way, THEN you can try to fight (and do these things in that case)”. But it made it crystal clear that this is unlikely to end well. I am in Europe, though.

    4. Kiki*

      In the most common US training, as a last resort, people are supposed to try to block/ distract the gunman by throwing things at them, fighting, etc. It’s pretty dark because it’s known that the fighter likely won’t live— they’re making a last-ditch effort to prevent the gunman from shooting more people.

      1. Emily K*

        Yeah, the video I’ve seen is basically like, “You’re pinned down under a desk and the gunman is advancing towards you, so you might as well chuck a stapler or literally anything you can pick up at him because it’s better than sitting there waiting for death.”

    5. Kora*

      The theory is it’s Run>Hide>Fight, as in, it’s not a set of intructions, it’s things to do in order of priority. Fight is your last option if you can’t do anything else.

    6. Bilateralrope*

      I dont see the logic in “tell”. Could someone explain ?

      Run, hide, fight is easy to understand. If you can get away, do so. If you cant run, then hiding is your best chance of survival.
      If you cant run or hide, fighting back with all the force you can is the least bad option you have.

      1. London Calling*

        Well from a UK perspective, fight is pretty useless if there’s a gunman because no-one else would be armed, and speaking from a personal perspective, I wouldn’t fancy my chances fighting back with chairs against someone who has a gun. The idea is a) you make yourself as safe as you can and call the people who can deal with it and b) minimise casualties.

        1. hbc*

          The assumption in the US is that the fighters are gunless as well. I don’t fancy my chances either, but if the shooter bursts into the conference room, there’s basically a 100% chance we’re getting killed if we don’t fight. Maybe we’ll get lucky because Jane beans him with a stapler or Fergus manages to spray the fire extinguisher in his eyes.

          1. London calling*

            That’s still very heavily weighted in the gunman’s favour, though; and the fighters have to look around for a weapon while the attacker already has one and is prepared to use it. I think I’ll stay with the UK version of Run-Hide-tell.

            1. Lalaroo*

              But what do you do in the situation hbc described? You can’t run, you can’t hide, so you just die?

              The point is, fight is less useless than just giving up and dying. The point is not that fighting is a great option and everyone should try it first.

            2. Emily K*

              These types of trainings don’t argue that you have a good chance of success. The point of “Run, Hide, Fight” being in that order is actually to emphasize that fighting back should only be attempted if fleeing the scene or hiding in a place you won’t be discovered isn’t possible. It’s not “pick your fave option.”

              1. Emily K*

                (Similarly, “reduce, reuse, recycle” is also a list of priorities. Reducing your waste/demand for goods is the best option, reusing things is the next best, and if you had to buy it and it can’t be reused, recycling is better than trashing it…but recycling is a crappy option compared to reducing and reusing.)

            3. Mr. Shark*

              But Tell is only if you are away from the action and have a chance to tell–basically, if you are hidden or already ran away. If you are confronted–therefore run and hide didn’t work, then fight is the only option, rather than just let yourself be shot. Perhaps fighting will delay the shooter, or allow others to join in the fight and disarm him. Perhaps not, but it’s not like there is any other choice at that moment.

      2. Penny Change*

        Also, in the UK its much more likely that the attacker will have a knife rather than a gun. Obviously you have to be close to the knife to be hurt by it, and an instruction to ‘fight’ puts you close to the danger and makes you more likely to be hurt. Running puts you away from danger.

        Knives are easy to get hold of (any shop that sells kitchen ware has them), guns are much harder and would be illegal unless you have certain licenses etc.

        I’d always assumed that ‘Run, Hide, Tell’ gave you an order of things to do, not a set of options.

        The UK advice video is on this page: https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/runhidetell

    7. Jaid*

      The fight scene are employees in the break room standing around the door with chairs, coffee pots and other found objects, ready to fight back against the gunman. Last stand stuff, really.

    8. Thankful for AAM*

      Part of the reasoning of the fight part is that when run and hide dont work and you are faced with a gunman, is it better to try to reason with them, try to negotiate, or is it better to fight? The answer is fight.

      I have no idea if there is science or reasong for that but I think that is part of it.

    9. Betty*

      Thanks for explaining. That makes more sense than what I was imagining! I’ve never had any official training, just watched the UK one on my own time.

      The “tell” is to contact the police (by phone or text) as soon as you can. I guess we could do with “Run, hide, tell, fight”? It would be good to have idea for how to distract a shooter if necessary – the stuff in the other comments on this thread doesn’t sound too unreasonable as a last resort.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, a small part of the fight thing is you might get lucky, but most of it is 1) you have no better option anyway and 2) if you distract him and/or slow him down to deal with you, maybe others will survive because of that. No one ever wants to find themselves in that situation, but there have been mass shootings where running/hiding either weren’t an option or didn’t pan out (the gunman came into the room where people were hiding), and someone fought back. In some cases they stopped the gunman entirely; in others they bought time for other people near them to run again.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        For the US training, the Tell part is usually included with the Run or Hide part. As in, while you are running or hiding call the police and describe what you can, if you can, or leave the line open even if you aren’t able to talk so they can hear what’s going on or track the call. This can also alert the police to where people are hiding or how many — you don’t want to surprise the SWAT team either.

        For fighting, the advice I’ve heard is to try to ambush the attacker, as a group if at all possible, like from behind a door or around a corner, not just stand up and bull-rush him from the front. Unless someone has great aim, a stapler maybe won’t do much, but if a group of 5 adults dog piles on top of him, while trying to jam the trigger with your hands or knock away the weapon, you have a chance to stop the shooting. When my office went through the training, this is what we practiced after watching the video.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      There are tons of stories about people having to fight back and yeah, sadly in a gunman situation the odds of coming out alive are low but it’s the thought process of taking the guy down. But it’s the last resort when you’re trapped in a room and the gunman is between you and the door.

      They have tackled shooters in some cases. This is why they don’t always die by suicide or suicide by cop like many have planned all along. Read about the Thurston High School shooting, the students tackled the shooter in that case.

    11. nonegiven*

      I guess in the UK you are supposed to hide, then make a call on your phone. Then what? You’ve already determined running isn’t possible or you would have gotten out. You call the police and when he hears you, you let him shoot you? Let the people who got out call the police.

      In the Run, Hide, Fight video, if you can’t get out, you hide and hiding includes turning off the ringer on your phone, turning off the lights, trying not to make any noise while you push furniture in front of the door. If he gets in anyway, your choice is to let him shoot you without putting up a fight or fight back with anything you can grab, fire extinguisher, chair, whatever objects you can hit him with.

  29. PlanPlanner*

    #1, if you don’t think you were properly prepared for the video I would bring that to HR. If the trainer did not teach Run, Hide, Fight before showing the video or talk about its contents beforehand I would bring it to HR. But if it was the video itself that made you uncomfortable, I’d keep that to myself. It is supposed to do that and a quality trainer would have made you prepared for viewing it.

    I’ve done training with the same video. I also work for an international organization that is an active target for violence. It is stressful to watch but an effective training tool. It was not any more violent than a PG-13 movie or a cop drama on network TV. We have run drills before and after watching the video and I feel more confident having watched it. FYI you can watch the video on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcSwejU2D0.

    People may question the violence in it but in all honestly, if you are working for a place that is a target you should get the training. Another reader questioned why we don’t show burn victims for fire drills and I wonder the same thing because I evacuate every time the alarm goes off but half my building doesn’t. I’d probably appreciate more graphic demonstrations on airplane evacuation if it prepared people’s brains to leave their belongings and leave quickly. This video uses a specific training strategy, it gives you a taste of it so you can be prepared when it happens for real. If you weren’t told that it is an issue. If you weren’t actually trained on responding to a shooter that’s an issue. Seeing some mild violence in a video during training labeled as “active shooter training,” well that’s not really an issue.

    1. Japan anon*

      Couple of (sincere) questions for you.
      1. “It is stressful to watch but an effective training tool” How do you measure the effectiveness? Not just “do you know what to do now” but how do you measure that people will actually act appropriately in an emergency?

      2. “Another reader questioned why we don’t show burn victims for fire drills and I wonder the same thing because I evacuate every time the alarm goes off but half my building doesn’t.” Similarly, how do you assess the effectiveness of your fire drill training? And how do you factor in “active participation” vs. opting out in terms of preparedness?

      3. Do you think there is a difference between watching a simulation of an emergency (like a movie or an airplane evacuation video) and footage or description of an actual emergency? (in terms of psychological effect on audience, effectiveness of training, etc.)

      1. PlanPlanner*

        1. I had heard “Run, Hide, Fight” but the video puts that strategy into context. You see it happen, you watch the actors make their decision (or in one instance, not make a decision). I consider it effective because it communicated the information in a memorable way so that I can call on it when I need it. Frankly, part of the effectiveness of this training is that it makes it clear that not everyone WILL act appropriately during an emergency. There is no sugar coating, if you can run, you run. If someone is hiding when they should be running you tell them to run but you don’t waste your time getting out. I don’t know that I would have been mentally prepared to leave a coworker before watching this video.

        2. I consider fire drill training effective at my current job. I’ve drilled at different times of the day and they will occasionally position “fires” at certain exits so you have to backtrack. I was actually referencing the people at my old job who didn’t evacuate when the alarm went off, not during an exercise mind you but during a live alarm.

        3. Yes, very much so. We also receive mass casualty training. We learned to clear airways, apply tourniquets, assess the wounded as much as lay-people can. It was a one day course based around simulations but I volunteered to participate in the live drill a few days later. I largely observed because my position doesn’t have a pre-defined role in an emergency like this but still, it was intense. It is as close to a mass casualty event as I hope to ever be. I would not have been prepared for the simulation without the classroom training but the simulation made me feel more prepared for an actual emergency.

        1. PlanPlanner*

          I realize now your question in #3 is referencing actual footage of a real emergency. In most cases I don’t think there is a reason to break down, point by point, an actual event. A mass shooting is unlikely to follow the exact pattern of a previous attack. But I do see value in showing injuries for medical response training. The Boston Marathon Bombing was used as a teaching tool in our Mass Casualty training. The trainer walked us through how long you have to make decisions in those scenarios and how important it was to be proficient using the tools. We used photos from the bombing to become more practiced at recognizing the type of care needed and he used them to emphasize the speed/scope of the work needed.

          You are also referencing different types of tools for different situations. I think the video we see in an airplane is sufficient as passengers but I expect that flight attendants receive much more training. Likely using photos or recreations of actual events to assist in that training. Their responsibility level in an emergency is different so their reaction needs to be honed. We just need to know where the exits are and how to evacuate.

          1. Japan anon*

            I think you raise a good point about different levels of training for flight attendants vs. passengers. I think that would be a good barometer for who needs more in-depth training for active shooter drills and who just needs to be told where the exits are.

            I still wonder if there is a way to measure different kinds of training (videos vs. practice. vs. graphic footage) against who actually survives such a situation, or some similar way to measure real effectiveness of the training. Since the whole point is “people freeze up during the real thing,” how do we know that people feel confident after training but won’t still freeze up during the real thing? I’m curious to see metrics for that.

      2. Massmatt*

        Sounds as though your building may be doing too many drills, leading to “The boy who cried wolf” phenomenon. One place I worked at had a few drills within months of each other, along with frequent and extremely annoying fire alarm testing. People eventually tuned it out as best they could. More drills does not achieve more preparedness.

        1. PlanPlanner*

          No this was back when I lived in DC. Two drills a year. People still didn’t evacuate when the alarm went off. We drill more often here. I think it’s the importance we put on it at my current job. The alarm goes off you go. Your email can wait. Your call can wait. Assume it is real and act accordingly. We take the drills seriously because our employer takes them seriously.

        2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Drills and testing are usually announced ahead of time though. So if an alarm goes off without an announcement, people shouldn’t assume it’s a drill. I was in a hotel once when the alarms went off at about 1 a.m. I and one other person were the only ones who actually left the building into the parking lot even though we could neither see or nor smell a fire. I just don’t understand people who can be so “meh, I’m gonna keep working” about an obnoxiously loud alarm. I leave just to get away from the sound and flashing lights.

  30. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    OP3’s letter reminded me of a previous place I worked where there were big signs all over the outgoing post trays and on the door of the post room saying ‘NO PERSONAL POST’, and it was an unwritten rule that you absolutely did NOT have personal parcels delivered to the office on pain of the post room manager contacting your manager with an increasingly aggressive tone and grumbling various swear words under his breath when he walked past you.

    I now work somewhere that sells stamps, parcel boxes, tape and stationery etc. in the post room, has an actual letter box in the staff canteen, postal staff actively collect and sort personal mail incoming and outgoing and email people when they have a parcel waiting to collect. It couldn’t be more different, and while it’s a small thing it makes a big difference. Our nearest post office is quite a walk away and always has huge queues, so to not have to waste an entire lunchbreak to return some online shopping or post a birthday card is a big perk!

  31. Five sided funny box*

    LW #1 is timely. I have a two hour Security Threat Awareness and Training seminar today. But I work for DOD and this is just one of many of these types of trainings I have to do every year even if my specific job means I should never come into contact with that type of stuff. But I knew that was part of the deal when I took this job.

    My brother is a middle school teacher, however, and the training he has had to do for active shooter situations is terrifying. Some of the stuff teachers are taught they might have to do is heartbreaking. I’ll stick with terrorists, counterintelligence, and kidnapping threats thank you very much,

    1. Eleanor Konik*

      I’m a middle school teacher and when we had the county police come in and do our training, many people cried; myself included.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        I just sent my kid off to her first day of middle school and I’m crying a bit myself, reading this. Thanks for what you are doing to keep our kids safe, and I’m so sorry this burden is falling on you. I think I will dry my tears and call my senator.

  32. Amy*

    My sister was tasked with rolling out a similar Run. Hide. Fight training to an office of 3,000 people this summer. The consulting company they used said the biggest downside to the training is that a potential shooter may be in attendance. So they could theoretically learn to be “better” by understanding the techniques that will be used to foil them. But after posing that issue, they didn’t have a solution.

    She said it was all incredibly demoralizing.

    1. MsSolo*

      I was wondering about that – my understanding is that the odds are solid that an active shooter will be someone already associated with the organisation, so will know exactly where colleagues have been told to hide and which routes they’ll prioritise escaping through.

      I’m generally opposed to this sort of training altogether, but at least the Fire Safety version doesn’t teach the fire where the best flues are to spread through.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I think that they probably cancel each other out, in a way. Someone who is thinking about an attack will have thought of this sort of thing, but the other people who are in the training might not have considered hiding places or escape routes. Even if a shooter knows the likely places to hide, they might not be able to get to them all before being stopped by someone using the other strategies to escape.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      In IT, that attitude is called security through obscurity. Or sometimes insecurity through obscurity because it’s a terrible idea.

      Which of these sounds like a more secure room to hide from a shooter in:
      – The designer assumed that the shooter wouldn’t know where the room was. So no thought was given to what happens if the shooter does know.
      – The designer assumed the shooter would know where the room was. So the room was designed with a door and walls that can resist someone trying to shoot their way in.

      The designer of the first may claim that no shooter will get in because they will never find the room. The designer of the second will admit that a shooter with specific tools can get in.

      Which designer would you want to build your safe room ?

  33. Justin*

    1. Were we in the same training last week? I got that video on Thursday.

    I know my office has a very legitimate need for high security (my building sits in front of the memorial for two buildings that aren’t there anymore), but that video is a lot. As some say, though, it should have been talked up and we could have been warned. I was fine but I can see how someone wouldn’t have been.

    1. Justin*

      I should elaborate: most offices have never been the site of such a thing. Working here, you kinda know that’s on the table as a training with the armed guards in the lobby and the stairs being emergency only. Presuming you work elsewhere it really needs to be handled differently.

      (For the curious, I like working there. I feel close to my city. But it’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.)

  34. Madonna. Madonna. Madonna. Madonna. Madonna.*

    Mass shooting survivor here. I know exactly what video OP#1 is referring to. 30 seconds or so into it at my last job, I got up, walked out and told my boss I would be happy to get written up if necessary, but I was not watching one more damn second of that.

    That was a HORRIBLE job with HORRIBLE management, except for that one time. They didn’t make me watch it, and they didn’t write me up.

    1. hbc*

      I feel like there should be a warning up front, but also explicit permission given to leave in the middle if someone realizes later that it’s too much for them. I’ve got no particular trauma in my background and am usually pretty stoic, but I discovered in a room full of colleagues that I can’t handle an industrial accident victim describing his time in the burn ward. I came darn close to fainting.

      1. Madonna. Madonna. Madonna. Madonna. Madonna.*

        Totally reasonable sounding solution to me. I’d be very fine with that. Goes without saying that I’m speaking only for myself, not all survivors of this horrible crap.

  35. !*

    Aside from having to watch the same type of Active Shooter video(s), yes, there were multiple ones, we also had to do an Active Shooter drill with members of our company police force and someone from a company that does these types of things. We were given the option to “sit” out of the process which I did (I went out to the parking lot and sat in my car) if we were uncomfortable. I could not imagine having to be subject to men with weapons coming into our office “shooting” at people and having to either hide, run, or fight back.

  36. Watry*

    Adding to the chorus of sympathy for LW1. I had to watch that same video late last year after an attempted shooting in our lobby (guy looking to commit suicide by cop and never actually fired). We also had to listen to radio footage from a local mass shooting. I can’t imagine I was the only one distressed but I was the only one who was visibly so.

    I have the advantage of working with people actually fully and repeatedly trained on de-escalation and active shooters, one of whom walked us through the video, but that video is freaking stressful.

  37. hbc*

    Yeah, and I think even amateur desensitization could be done with a lot more skill. Like, “You watched the movie Crawl, now you will be more capable of handling when angry alligators invade your basement” is pretty stupid. You would at least start with descriptions of how to recognize the difference between an aggressive alligator and a normal one, in what situations you’re more likely to encounter one, and how best to defend yourself against one. Then maybe show a series of cartoony pictures with “What should Johnny do?” problem solving, then proceed through escalating simulations and role-playing.

    Preemptively traumatization is not at all the same thing as preparation.

  38. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP2 – my first job deliberately set up that kind of arrangement. We were a defense contractor, and hired people either right out of college, or after they retired with 20-30 years of experience from the military. There was almost nobody 35 years old in the company.

    After you’d been there for about 2 years, you would get assigned somebody in the new hiring class. You weren’t there for real professional mentoring, but you would help them with terminology and organization, make sure they knew how to use admin resources like HR, IT, shipping, accounting, etc., and most importantly help them get acclimated to the company culture and to life in DC.

    They did it for precisely the reasons Alison outlined – you’re close enough in age to the junior employees that you’re approachable, and you went through it yourself recently.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I wanted to add on to this for OP #2. Having been there about 3 years, you still remember what it’s like to be new, and the things you didn’t know at that point. That’s REALLY important when it comes to training people, because there’s often a gap that’s hard to address: the things that are so obvious to the experienced employee that the experienced employee doesn’t think to explain it – but the trainee doesn’t have the experience or background knowledge to ask. That’s where you, who have knowledge and experience, but still remember what it’s like to be new, are in a position to be uniquely helpful.

      So when you answer questions for these newer folks, think about the stuff you didn’t know to ask about, too. Answer the question, but where you know there’s more information they don’t know to ask about, give them that, too. Like if there’s specific etiquette around something that they didn’t ask about but it’ll help them to know.

      Keep being approachable (but not at the expense of your own work). And don’t be afraid to ask your boss how they’d like you to handle this kind of thing. If this is something you enjoy doing, then maybe talk to your boss about whether this is something that could be a professional development thing for you…it’s a good skill set to have.

    2. BenAdminGeek*

      Yup. I remember that cutover well- I’d been there 2 years, a reorganization happened, and all of a sudden I went from a team where I was the “young guy” on a team with an average tenure of 12+ years, to a team where I was the tenured person.

      It was frustrating and scary at first, but a time where I really grew in my skillset- trying to help 10 new people acclimate to the work was a great way to ensure I knew my stuff. Still my favorite year of work.

    3. Venus*

      There is also an element of being relatively new at having learned things, which means that it should be easier for the OP to provide the info. I recently started a new job, and I have many more than three years of experience at the work, yet a new guy started a few weeks after I did and I took on a guidance role in helping him get set up with IT and other forms. I didn’t have all his answers, yet I had spent some time finding answers to quite a few outstanding issues, and he really appreciated the few seconds that it took to forward some emails with info.

      Obviously mentorship is a completely different level, and requires more insight and advice, but the fact that the OP is similar in experience makes them a much better candidate for this than someone more senior.

  39. MissGirl*

    OP 5: This can vary a lot. At some places getting to the final round of interviews is a guaranteed offer and at others it’s not. When I interviewed at my job, it went like this: 100 people applied, ten went through phone screenings, four were brought in for interview two, and one for a lunch interview three. An offer was extended.

    Now that I occasionally participate in the interviews from the inside, I’ve seen more than one person brought in for the last interview and I’ve seen people rejected after that last interview. One promising candidate bad-mouthed his current manager (made all the worse because he was an internal candidate). I recently accepted an offer but was rejected last year by the same company after making it through all the rounds (they had it narrowed down to three and went with someone more experienced).

    All this to say, good luck, put your best foot forward, and accept you might be rejected.

    1. ScarletNumber*

      > One promising candidate bad-mouthed his current manager (made all the worse because he was an internal candidate)

      D’oh!

  40. MatKnifeNinja*

    We didn’t have gun shots, but you haven’t lived until you stuff 20 kindergarteners into a pitch black (not kidding) walk in closet with strict orders no one makes a peep. Hear heavy boots walking backhand forth in front door, and have someone jiggling the lock door knob hard.

    We were not told that this was going to happen. The notice went off and everyone had to do their thing.

    I would have GLADLY sat through any video than the above. The only light I had was the light of my cell phone. We were in that hot, stuff closet for 40 minutes.

    The kids were good. I guess being scared to death makes one quiet.

      1. HS Teacher*

        They don’t tell us if its a drill and they will “act” like bad guys in the hallways. I have to do the same thing, except with teenagers. We are supposed to keep them off their phones during the drill. It is nearly impossible.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          This was a year after Sandy Hook when the drills started.

          My campus was circa 1964 style architecture. After Sandy Hook, the district made the windows smaller, and installed bullet proof glass.

          The open court entrance now is down to the minimum of what you can have door wise for emergency evacuation. You now have to be buzzed into the building, wait in the enclosed atrium (explosive proof) until you are judge okay to be let in. The another set of doors, then the office, which is no where near any of those entrances.

          I remember the school doing lots of dry runs leading up to the police running the drill. The police run happens once a year.

          It’s not a secret that the drills happen, and every year the parents get a letter explaining it. My friend works special education. Most of her kiddos are non verbal and way behind development wise. She can not opt out. I honestly don’t know how she does it.

        2. juliebulie*

          They don’t tell you if it’s a drill, and they act like bad guys in the hallways?
          Have they considered the possibility that someone will mistake them for bad guys, and come up behind one of them with a baseball bat?

      2. ugh!*

        Then so were the tornado and nuclear bomb drills of my childhood. It’s terrible that schools aren’t safe anymore- that’s the abusive part, drilling to save lives not so much.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      OMG, that’s scary as hell. My niece is five – I’m so horrified she has to worry about stuff like this at this age.

    2. Buttons*

      That is a drill?? That is terrifying and awful and I can’t believe that is allowed or thought to be a good idea.

    3. BenAdminGeek*

      That’s horrible. These drills cause trauma to young children in a misguided idea that it will help prepare them for a vanishingly rare occurrence. It’s abuse. Not your fault of course, but it’s terrible.

  41. Odetta*

    I’ve attended many, many security briefings that use Run Hide Fight (it’s been mentioned in other comments but it was produced by the City of Houston with a grant from Homeland). I guess it just goes to show different levels of sensitivity because I thought it was not at all graphic, especially compared to network television and the quality of the “acting” made it seem even less scary, and in fact a colleague and I were amused by the video’s assumption that it would be the women who froze and not the men. But in the situations where I am seeing this video, we are also doing lots of active shooter training up to and including pretending to be injured so that the designated individuals can practice clearing the building and evacs of injured, plus weekly tests of the alarms.

    1. juliebulie*

      Maybe it depends on what you consider graphic. It wasn’t gory, but the action was fast, the body count rose quickly, and the office and coworkers were uncannily like my own.

      On the other hand, as you mention the acting/direction was sort of… bland? Subdued? That really took the edge off of it, for me.

  42. MommyMD*

    I would never put my personal outgoing mail in my large employer’s mail box. Some paid employee has to process it. Imagine if all employees did this. Ask your employer their policy. There is more to processing mail than the cost of a stamp.

    1. JSB*

      We are in the same boat. The outgoing tray in the office is not simply picked up by a mailman. It all has to be processed by employees first. So adding personal mail would not be appropriate. However, there’s a postal box steps away from the front door of our office building.

      Another place I worked, the mail outbox in the office was for mail stamped and ready to go. Mail dropped into a chute that consolidated envelopes for pickup by USPS. That was fine for employees to use.

    2. ScarletNumber*

      > Imagine if all employees did this

      Yes, imagine if employers did something to make their employees’ lives a little easier. It’s easy if you try.

      1. Allonge*

        Eh, look, I am sure there are cases where it would not be a huge additional burden. For us, our company specifically does not do it because 1. they estimate it would double the mail-processing duty (they had a serious look at this) and 2. they do not want to be responsible for the inevitable times when the package is not delivered / mail goes missing, putting even more on the processing people. It’s not just a question of goodwill, is what I am saying.

      2. President Porpoise*

        Ok, I see where you’re coming from, I do. But the movement of actual envelopes and parcels is extremely manual. Those bags and boxes get heavy. It takes ages to sort. And there’s other practical considerations. If you are sending in your pre-voting ballot, for example, and you use your employer’s mail system – well, what if it gets lost or tampered with? Who is at fault? Or if you’re sending out packages to your Etsy customers? What if they’re destroyed? What are the implications of running a second business using the first business’s resources?

        Recently, my employer removed individual trash and recycling bins from our desks in favor of waste stations around the building. It’s a pain, and we’ve all had to adjust (some of us more bitterly than others), but the janitorial staff were getting a lot of back injuries and repetitive motion injuries – and collecting trash took a really long time. Sometimes, you have to deal with it for reasons that are ultimately in the company’s favor but that make your life annoying.

  43. Linda Evangelista*

    OP1 – we watched the same video, and also security footage from *real mass shootings*. Our company told us some material might be upsetting but we didn’t know until we got there it would be… like, actual footage. That was tough. I feel for you.

  44. 8DaysAWeek*

    #1 I feel your pain. I think we have the same video where I work. The first year we had to watch it, I didn’t know what to expect. It was quite traumatic.
    We are required to watch it every year through our online learning system.
    What I do is I start the video on my PC and let it run in the background so I get credit, but I don’t have to see or hear it. A lot people I work with do the same.

  45. HS Teacher*

    #1: Just imagine having to sit through this with teenagers and then act out drills once a month. Or worse, elementary kids–although they don’t get the video.
    Welcome to the Current American Education System.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      Thank you.

      Bonus round, you get “grade” on how well your class did during the drill.

      The 10 times I went through it, we (library/media center) were lucky. The police were happy with how we performed.

      The teachers who had classes that acted up, got roasted over the coals. The next day the principal AND the police liaison basically ripped everyone in those classes a new orifice. Plus, letters when out in those classes to the parents.

      Honestly, I don’t know what you’d do if you had PTSD. The drills were never announced, and I don’t think opting out was an option.

      1. Quill*

        I’ve had PTSD since childhood and these definitely didn’t help it any. (But due to disassociation and people pleasing I *always* scored highly on any emergency drill: meaning that they’d stick me with whoever was having a panic attack to keep them quiet.)

        When I was in school we always listened for dogs – if the drug dogs are going around it was a scheduled lockdown, even if they didn’t tell you or any of the teachers. If you don’t hear dogs, everyone gets far more anxious.

  46. Orion*

    OP #5: My company does this! It was very annoying when I went through the process, and I’m still not sure how I sold that many doctor’s appts. Now that I’m here, it makes a lot more sense. The company works really well because of a specific culture/mindset (collaboration, not drinking or anything like that), and they’re very thoughtful about who they hire and if they’ll be an asset to the team versus just filling the spot. Not a lot make it through the whole process. Use the time to think about if they’re the right fit for you too. It’s definitely not ideal, but there’s also a lot of pros to that sort of interviewing schedule.

    1. LW 5*

      I was the letter writer for #5. I completely agree that it is probably useful from the company’s end. But for me, I am worried about having to justify all those days off. It seems that its one of those things where I don’t feel like they are really being considerate of candidates who are currently employed.

      1. Orion*

        Yeah, it’s not fantastic for the candidates. I think how justified it is is based on the rigor of the job and the company. Definitely a factor to consider — if the level of the company and job doesn’t justify the number of interviews, that would be a red flag.

        As for justifying the days off, I definitely sympathize. I did a mix of doctor’s appts, work from home, and sick days. For WFH, got up early to write emails and do work, and sent them out in between breaks. I know that’s not an option for everyone though.

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        I recently went through a similar hiring process (I’m actually wondering if I just got hired by Orion’s company based on some of the language they used) and just kept making up fake doctor appointments.

        Additionally, and I guess this varies depending on your field and what is expected, but do you really have to take the entire day off for each stage of the process? A phone interview usually is a relatively short chat and can probably be done from your work. (I’ve done them from my car, in the parking structure, in a pinch.) I did half days for my on-site interviews, and for those I had to drive across a large US city to get from my current office to the other job site.

        I also feel like there’s a point where, if you just can’t justify the hiring process unless you are guaranteed to be hired, it might just not be worth it to job hunt right now, or to pursue a position with that company.

  47. Samwise*

    OP #3. I work at a public university. Over the last 40 years I have worked at public and private universities and colleges of different sizes, as well as at very large, medium, and small companies. Including a firm that did work for nuclear power plants and had ridiculously stringent procedures for everything (the security and double-checking needed for the nuke work permeated the entire firm). Not one, and I mean with zero exceptions, cared anything at all about sticking your personal mail into the company mail pick up. As long as you’re putting your own stamps on it, there’s nothing wrong with it. It is not in any way at all “unprofessional.”

    The admin may have some other reason for not wanting your mail in the office mail, or may misunderstand some reasonable rule (such as, don’t put your personal mail in the office mail to be metered). Or they may be a martinet. If it’s a major PITA to find a mailbox, ask your manager if it’s a problem (leave the admin’s name out of it when you ask).

    1. Asenath*

      OP # 3 It’s not unprofessional by my standards. I’ve never had any push-back about dropping my own mail (stamped, of course; I don’t look on work supplies as being there for my personal consumption) in the pile of outgoing mail. I have had one person comment when I had a personal parcel delivered at work – it’s not something I do often; only when I can’t have something delivered by the post office to my home address. I have had a lot of difficulty with courier company deliveries at my home address, which could be the topic of a long rant, so sometimes I have those sent to my work address. But the person who questioned me didn’t actually work with deliveries and in fact is employed by another organization mine shares space with, so I’m not sure her comments were valid. The people who actually work in Receiving don’t seem to care one way or another whether a parcel addressed to me comes from a work supplier, or from a company better known for serving the general public.

    2. ScarletNumber*

      > Or they may be a martinet.

      Right, it’s like no one here has every dealt with an unreasonable admin. Personally I think they’re the rule, not the exception, especially in public employment.

  48. Alton*

    #3: Even in a public university, I wouldn’t find it too strange for someone to mail something that might be personal as long as they used a stamp and their own envelope. And with faculty in particular, I wouldn’t make too many assumptions since it’s so common for them to have contact with people outside the institution when it comes to things like research and networking.

    One thing to maybe be mindful of is whether people are having to perform work to send or sort your mail for you. I feel it’s a little different if the admin has to manually take the mail out to send it vs. a mail person coming to pick stuff up, or whether there’s regular outgoing mail vs. one piece that has to be taken to whether mail goes.

  49. Buttons*

    The key to that video being successful and effective is “Someone should be walking them through it.” That video shouldn’t be watched the first time without a trained crisis facilitator there to walk people through scenarios and discussions.

  50. JSB*

    #1 Our workplace is also required to attend that training, but in our case it was part of a half-day class taught by a law enforcement officer who had a great rapport with the class. He warned everyone how upsetting sections could be but really used it as a teaching tool. There were times HE was unapologetic ally tearing up. As I recall, we watched it in segments. The officer would play a section and then he’d talk through strategies and real life examples. At the end we had an exercise about if something happened that day in that room, what could we do – what common items could we use. It was done really well and provided a profound experience.

    Later in the year we were also required to to watch a similarly distressing video on Human Trafficking. For that one, HR just played it in room and everyone had to attend a session/sign in. No discussion. No facilitator. That was not nearly as effective.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      This is so important and I just wanted to reinforce what you just said. Like so many things that are traumatic/upsetting/difficult to handle, being able to talk about them, ask questions, and getting some guidance with processing your emotions is key. Skipping that step makes the whole thing almost worthless.

  51. Buttons*

    #4 Allison’s explanation is just how my company does it. If an employee asks to go remote from their home office, then they are required to cover 50% of travel expenses if there is a required in-person meeting, for the first year of the arrangement. We have also found that this prevents people from making unnecessary trips in. After the first year, it seems to level out and people seem to get used to that person now being remote. I work remote, but my office is only 40 minutes away :)

  52. Go Stros!*

    I also work in Houston, and am familiar with that video. The county agency I work for pushed back, and this year we did not have to watch the video, instead we had a PowerPoint presented by the Sheriff’s department that hit the same themes, but without the video.

    I don’t know what’s up with Houston, because the fire safety video we have to watch is also totally traumatic; they make you sit through the *entire* video of the Station Nightclub fire from Warwick, RI. They don’t tell you what the video is going to be of, it just starts rolling. I lived in New England when that fire happened, knew exactly what that video was going to show (which I will not describe here), and am still absolutely shocked that not only did we have to sit through it, but they didn’t give anyone a heads up!

  53. Bee's Knees*

    OP #1, our office almost did the same thing. We had two options when it came to choosing videos. One was just a man walking into the office with a gun, and sounds of gunshots (there may also be bodies, but no blood, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.) The other had the HR manager getting decapitated. They let me pick which one we were going to use, and as I did not want my onboarding of new people to resemble anything from a zombie tv show, we went with the first one. I am fairly positive the FBI did it, it’s good.

  54. Falling Diphthong*

    #2 Are they coming to me because they feel more comfortable since I’m way closer to their age?
    Quite possibly. You are more likely to remember what it’s like to be them, and may also be less intimidating. You’re probably also more similar in other ways, e.g. business-appropriate dress for 20-somethings in our role, you don’t need to pick your kids up at daycare, you aren’t trading off 15 years of being a known quantity when you decide to spend some workplace capital.

    Should I redirect them to someone more experienced?
    Only if you don’t know the answer. And in that case, knowing who DOES know the answer is helpful information in itself.

    I don’t mind answering their questions to the best of my ability (sometimes it is something beyond my scope).
    This is a really useful thing to model for new employees–when to confidently give an answer, when to realize you don’t know and need to check with someone else. And being willing to occasionally say “I don’t know.”

    1. Marissa*

      “knowing who DOES know the answer is helpful information in itself”

      Yes! It’s so nice when you’re the new person to have someone who can direct you where to go, especially if you can say “Jane has an open door policy and would be a great person to ask about this” or “John can answer this question, but his day is usually pretty booked so I’d email him first.” You’re an experienced member of the team now, OP2, it’s ok to own it!

  55. Goya de la Mancha*

    #3 – unless your university has a mail system in which your out going mail goes to a university funded department that sorts/delivers mail, I don’t think this is an issue. Our mail person comes in and drops off/picks up the mail daily, my two extra envelopes will not change that, there is no extra work or charge to the company being incurred.

  56. BronzeFire*

    OP #1, if you want to offer an alternative to the video you saw, when I was a federal employee working for the military, all we had to do was the free FEMA training. We had to print the certificate at the end (one that was harder to fake than the death-by-powerpoint ones) to prove we’d done it. They saved the shocking videos for regular workplace safety concerns, like stairs and tools.

  57. ACDC*

    RE Letter #1 – my workplace recently did a similar workplace safety training with a large focus on active shooter situations. They gave us all a trigger warning before showing the video, and invited people to leave the room for the video if they felt uncomfortable. I was the only one who left the room for the video, but was grateful to be given the heads up. I think this was the best way they could have handled it.

  58. Jennifer*

    #1 I think that there should have been someone talking everyone through the video as Alison’s FIL suggested. IRL an active shooter is not going to provide a content warning or ask for consent, so even though it’s tough, I think sometimes we have to face the ugly realities of the world we live in, in case we are ever faced with this kind of situation.

    1. ACDC*

      I agree with what you are saying to an extent. If my workplace gave me the option to go home after the training, I would agree. But if this training is in the morning, and I am upset to the point of tears, panic attack, whatever, and am expected to work the rest of the day, I just don’t think that’s a fair statement.

      1. Jennifer*

        I do sympathize with anyone that would have a PTSD reaction to that video. I don’t think this is a matter of “fair.” It’s simply reality.

  59. TootsNYC*

    If you ever feel out of your depth, let them know that (that’s a lot better than guessing and getting it wrong). You can say, “You know, I’m not sure, let me connect you with Jane, who can talk about that with more nuance”

    This has an important nuance–don’t act as a filter between them and other people. Send them to get their own info straight from the source.

    They need the visibility, and they need the practice with approaching people in higher positions or other departments.

    So SEND them; don’t go get the info for them.

  60. Silver Radicand*

    It really depends on whether most of those costs end up having increments large enough that a single remote employee saves them nothing. That could be possible if, say, the office they rent is flat fee and they have several cubicles open and unused. They have to pay for it anyway, so someone working remote is not a savings. Same can happen with internet as well. The largest cost of electricity is heating/cooling which will need to happen regardless of that employee. If the remote employee is in another state, additional HR/payroll requirements could actually result in a net cost to the employer.
    With smaller increments (such as a cubicle by cubicle rental, etc.) or with a larger number of remote workers, it is more likely that the savings accrued will be net benefit to the employer.

  61. 4Sina*

    My workplace showed a video for active shooter training that was very similar, but it used actual camera footage from security cameras of real shootings with no trigger warnings. I left crying and holding back vomit, and have since recommended my interns do not attend this training. We run 4 drills a year (we are publicly accessible) so will run through procedures with them at that time.

  62. Brett*

    #1
    The video shown is part of a FEMA curriculum and was produced by City of Houston under a DHS grant to accompany the curriculum.

    Warning: The links below do not show any graphic images, but do discuss the topic of active shooters in extensive detail, especially the link to the workshop curriculum. That link defaults to a collapsed view, but expanding the collapsed section will show the detailed discussion.

    It might be worth discussing with HR that the workplace is using the video inappropriately. It is meant to be part of a much larger workshop:
    https://www.dhs.gov/cisa/active-shooter-workshop-participant

    And the workshop is a companion to an hour-long independent study course:
    https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-907

    The workshop should be conducted by an emergency management trainer who has specifically been trained for the workshop. Most metro area emergency management agencies have trainers available for free or low cost.

    (Also, the Run.Fight.Hide. appears to have been replaced in the workshop with a newer video “Options for Consideration”. I have not watched that video, so I do not know if it is any less graphic.)

  63. Goldfinch*

    #1 Other than training ONLY teachers during an inservice, I do not understand how active shooter training is a good choice for school students and for employees. The entire point of these situations is that a disgruntled student or colleague is the perpetrator. You’re teaching the shooter how to improve his efficacy.

    1. fposte*

      As discussed above, the shooter is already planning for efficacy, whereas without it the victims don’t plan at all. I’m not opposed to training; I’d just like to be more targeted on trainings that are demonstrably useful.

  64. Tara S.*

    OP #3, I work at a public university and it’s been explicitly stated that it’s fine to put personal outgoing mail in the main box, so long as you pay your own postage. We let people receive packages here too (although if that got to be too much, that might get disallowed. For now it’s fine.).

  65. Jerk Store*

    #3 as someone who has worked in admin-related roles, the only time it annoyed me when people put their personal mail in with the outgoing mail was when it was a small office with very little business-related outgoing US mail.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      We have a policy where people can put their personal mail in as long as they have paid for the postage. Were they trying to sneak it in there without putting a stamp on it?

  66. Third or Nothing!*

    OP #1: I work in childcare as a side gig and had to go through active shooter training. It was led in person and on site, no video. Even without all the visuals, I still was incredibly upset and had nightmares for days afterward. I don’t remember there being a warning beforehand, but I doubt it would have helped at least in my situation. My issue was postpartum anxiety and the fact that my daughter goes to the same facility, so my brain came up with lots of worst case scenarios. Fun times.

    I’d still go through the training if I had to do it over, because it’s really important to know what to do if such an unlikely event ever happens. I’d probably bring something to keep my hands busy, though. Having something to fidget seems to help a bit with the anxiety spiral.

  67. LW3*

    Hello everyone! LW#3 here! Some quick info:
    I am a new-ish faculty member at a private University. A lot of the responses are regarding public Universities, so I’m not sure if that changes the landscape.
    The admin in question is kind of a chore of a person, who enjoys setting rules of her own making. Whether this is one of those rules or if it’s a University rule remains to be seen.
    I asked another faculty member about putting personal mail in, and she said something along the lines of “the admin hates it, and it’s not worth the eye rolling and talking-to I’ll get about it.” So I guess people generally don’t do it, but whether it’s because of a University-wide “rule” or fear of the admin isn’t clear.
    Thank you for all of your insights. I definitely had never considered the burden private mail puts on mailroom employees. I do not know how mail is processed here, but even on the off-chance that it would increase that person’s load, I won’t do it even if the admin lightens up.
    Thank you everyone again!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Since she stated it as “It’s unprofessional” and just gets cantankerous about it, I would doubt it’s a “rule” at the university! It sounds like one of those “Jane hates it and will let you know it, so just don’t bother.” situations. Which is utterly obnoxious.

      I guess she has to sort if and probably take it to different locations? Since I’m just so used to everything landing in the “Outgoing” box and then it goes to the one location. I only leaf through it absent minded kind of thing if I’m like “oh this is more than usual, wonder what’s going on out front…” kind of thing. Then I see some personal stuff, someone dropped their Christmas cards in there last year. I just smiled and took it to the box without any fuss because it’s not worth it. It’s not unprofessional unless you make a show out of it or are doing things to make things difficult. Like if Jane walks by and you go “Oh Jane, come in here and pick up these packages I need to send out!” instead of taking them to the right location.

      You mention there’s an external and internal drop off, you’d think that the external stuff just went to the postal service location without sorting involved and the internal stuff actually went to the central mail room but yeah, I’m not familiar with mailrooms either, so I’m probably just being ignorant there!

      1. Brett*

        I bet the admin is expected to check external mail before it goes to the post office to make sure it has been metered. (Which would also be why the admin would be aware of any personal mail that went out.)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s fair but it’s weird to fixate on anything other than the postage in the end if that’s the case!

          But it sounds like it’s also probably one of her Pet Peeves and being an admin can result in feeling like you’re always being “told” what to do, so flexing a little with that kind of minor thing happens if you’re kind of grouchy but can’t tell everyone to kiss your butt on a daily basis =X

  68. Mbarr*

    OP1: Canadian here who hasn’t had to undergo this kind of training. Would it make sense if the training was changed to frame it around workplace violence and not active shooting? For example, it could cover:
    – Knowing your exits
    – Knowing how/when to call Security?
    – How to respond if you see a violent coworker and then give examples of different types of violence and how to react? (E.g. Escalations for gun violence, knife violence, unarmed violence.)

    I saw some posts above where the effectiveness of active shooting training was questioned. Odds are you’re more likely to witness/experience other types of violence, so rather than focusing on the most extreme example, share the focus with the others.

    (This opinion/suggestion might just be naivety on my part though. I’m torn between heartbreak and anger every time I see news of another mass shooting in America.)

  69. Shawn*

    It is indeed maddening but you just honestly never know. A few months ago I made it to the 5th (yes, the 5th stage) part of which included a writing test (the job was writing). The hiring manager had been keeping in very close touch with me to let me know I had done very well on the test and had gotten great feedback from all of the interviewers. I felt I had the job and then one day I checked my email and was informed that they had gone with another candidate. I worried about it and really allowed thoughts of getting that job consume me. I wish I had just gone with the flow and not worried about it, told myself that it wasn’t mine until I actually had offer in hand and just relaxed!

  70. Tuesday Blues*

    #1 – I did a seasonal position at a large retail store a few years ago, and we had to watch the exact same video. It was SO upsetting. I would have sat through either way it because I think the information is important to have, but I really wish I would have been given a head’s up or a warning other than “okay we finished your tax forms and now we’re going to have to go through our videos and online quizzes” so I didn’t end up sitting there freaked out and crying at the computer. Definitely bring it up to HR and request that they do some kind of intro/warning and debrief or something afterward.

  71. Spcepickle*

    I am a state government employee. We are per written policy not allowed to put personal mail in the outgoing boxes. “It uses state resources to have someone carry them downstairs and sort them out”. There is a blue postal box in front of it building.

  72. DNDL*

    Re: Active Shooter.

    I’ve had to watch this video half a dozen times since I began working in my field (public libraries). Usually it is harmless–a cop talks us through it as we watch. Our most recent cop even started by explaining that the realism is there to help us see a real world situation so we wouldn’t freeze up in the moment. The worst instance was a year ago, where we watched the video with a security consultant who had been consulting for years. He started by saying “If you’re at the circulation desk when a shooting occurs, don’t worry too much because you probably won’t be alive for too long to suffer.” Umm..yeah. We had HR in the room with us, and we brought up all sorts of concerns, including that there was no fire exit in the children’s department so if a shooter came in the front door, you’d have to run towards the shooter to escape.

    A year later a cop came to give the training. None of our concerns from the year before had been addressed, plus the whole room was still thinking about how the last guy had been saying “You’re just gonna die so don’t worry!” Weirdly, HR has never brought this up to administration, so when the admin person in the room heard all of this, she was Very Upset that no one had brought these concerns to her a year ago. We now have a fire exit, and I’m *pretty* sure the previous consultant won’t be hired again.

  73. Mark Brendanaquitz*

    LW #1 I know the exact video you are talking about! I work in local government and our police department held active shooter training with us last year and showed that exact video. I ended up crying through it – I am not normally an emotional person in the workplace. They then had us practice how we would barricade ourselves in various rooms and come up with individual escape plans for our offices. During the training they shot off live rounds in the lobby. It was all kind of terrifying, but I do feel slightly less terrified of that particular situation. I have never been around guns, so smelling the ammunition and hearing the shots washelpful to know for future reference (hopefully I never need it). However, I will say I know the police officers who held our training, so that added a level of support. Just watching that video alone would be absolutely terrifying and I don’t blame you for being upset! Our police department conducts these trainings throughout our community. So I would recommend to anyone thinking about this for their own workplace to look into that option instead of just watching that awful video!

  74. poboxoffice*

    #3 The University where I worked had a mailroom employee who picked up mail at the Post Office, sorted it, delivered it to the appropriate offices on campus as well as picked up mail from those offices, sorted it and either took it to the Post Office or delivered it elsewhere on campus (if it was inter-campus). Technically, asking that employee to handle your personal mail would be inappropriate because they’re doing that on the State’s payroll. Our University discouraged personal mail but so long as you only did it occasionally, you usually didn’t get any grief about it. Also, there was always at least one of those big, blue US mail drop boxes on campus that you could use.

  75. cheeky*

    It makes sense that a video about active shooters would be upsetting- it’s a highly upsetting experience! Unfortunately, we live in a country that is tacitly okay with people being murdered this way, so it’s something we all are finding we have to learn about and prepare for.

  76. E.A.*

    Ah yes, the shooting training video. I’ve seen it. I can definitely see where it would be very upsetting to many people. For us it was shown during an all staff training in person with campus police to talk us through it. For me it was fine (other staff were not fine). I was not OK when they showed footage from Columbine. (Some colleagues who were not ok with the dramatized video were fine with the real footage. We all experience those things differently.)

    I wasn’t even in high school yet when Columbine happened and was evacuated from school for bomb threats at least once a month in elementary school. I lived in NYC post-9/11. I’m shockingly chill about the risk of mass shootings. I did not realize how chill I was until that training. I had colleagues whose escape plan involved the main staircase and going to our fire drill assembly point. I was like “Uh, I have 3 different escape routes and I’ve already figured out the best places to hide in my office where you couldn’t see me through that window.” It made me think a lot about how we’re raising generations of people with low level PTSD caused by mass violence.

    1. BigRedGum*

      I do too. after the first year we had to watch the video, i figured out how to make my office more secure (blocking off the window in the door), how to get to the back staircase sneakily, good places to hide, and what things are at my disposal if i ever have to fight. like everyone, i really hope i never get in that situation, but now i know what to do, i guess.

  77. BigRedGum*

    1: we have had to watch that same video for about 3 years at my work. We have an option not to, but then we have to go to a 5 hour course where the instructor basically drills all the same very scary things into your head. it’s super scary and hard to watch, but on the plus side (if you can call it that), just like E.A. said up there, i’ve also figured out where all the best hiding places would be, how to access the back staircase sneakily, and i even updated my office a little so that when the door is closed, i can’t be seen through the little window.

    it’s terribly scary to even think that it might be necessary, but i guess it is. I don’t have any advice on how to deal with this, other than plan to be safe.

  78. Argh!*

    Re: #1 — I’ve seen this at mandatory training, and I thought it was rather tame and a bit phony. Nobody in our workplace freaked out from it, either.

    Worrying on behalf of other people’s feelings almost always underestimates those other people. If someone truly has PTSD, they would not have sat through such a thing long enough to be truly traumatized by it.

    The fact is that everyone knows this kind of thing can happen everywhere, and people probably have some kind of internal movie of how horrible it would be. They may also have watched or listened to cell phone video of actual attacks. Any sensitive souls who might be traumatized are the best ones to show it to – they’d see an event as survivable, and the image of people doing the right thing would be more vivid in their minds.

    This video has been used by thousands of trainers by now, and if it was too triggering they would know by now. It’s not worth worrying about, compared to worrying that your coworkers are unprepared to help you defend yourself in an attack.

    1. moi*

      You said it much better than I could have. Have survived a shooting attempt and think the video is a pretty good summary of things you need to know to survive- especially how very many people will have no clue at all what to do and will endanger themselves and others with their action/inaction.

  79. GlassAlwaysEmpty*

    OP#1 I fully understand. Even after growing up in the epidemic and being semi-active in the current gun discussions, that video sent me into a crippling panic attack where I couldn’t function at work for the rest of the day. In our case, the video was recommended to be seen by the fire department as part of their regular fire safety training every six months but even not in a group it was still terrifying and a year later (I missed the review in between) I mentioned it and it wasn’t brought up again (not greatest outcome on the other end but they did listen).

    Mention that it was shocking to you (and others) and ask if another option for future reviews me that you be notified of the video so you can at least watch it when you’re “most” comfortable and then for those who have seen it already they don’t have to again if it was too panic-inducing

  80. Amethystmoon*

    #4 Those of us who don’t work remotely have to pay for gas for our cars, car insurance, and so forth. So I think what they’re saying is, they may be letting you work from home most of the time, but you’ll still have to physically commute a couple of times during the year. I’m a bit confused as to why they’re letting someone work so far away who has to buy an airplane ticket to commute. My company has a policy that we have to be able to drive in for a meeting the next day if we are going to be working remotely. I suppose it prevents people from going to say, Hawaii, but taking their laptop and cell phone with them, and claiming they’re working.

  81. Woodsy*

    I’m incredibly sympathetic to #1, Disturbing Safety Video. I question how effective a video can be. I know they’re supposed to let you see how bad things can be so, were it to happen, you’re prepared but I doubt there’s any science to show that’s the case.

    I’m retired LE and have had videos on emergency and critical incidents for decades. I can handle the ‘fake’ ones but we often had recorded feed of actual mass shootings. I walked out of the Columbine one. Looking back, I think the only training that actually prepared us was simulated exercises — clearing buildings, looking for a shooter etc. This stuff is muscle memory and working as a team with other officers, EMS etc. As an officer, you’re, in a sense and only at the time (!), insulated from the horror because you’re trained, have a task, and a goal. I don’t think that protection is there for the average person.

    For sure you want a plan so, wherever you are, think about exits, where you’d hide, what you can throw if you have to. Just basic being aware of your surroundings. Don’t obsess but just keep that in the back of your mind wherever you are. As far as these videos go, sit in the back, watch kitten videos on your phone, slip out if you can.

  82. Jane*

    Re: 1. Our office showed a disturbing safety video
    Don’t see what the big deal is. My organization showed something similar during active shooter training. It’s a made up scene with actors. See it as how you watch an R-rated movie with violence.

  83. chickaletta*

    #1 – My company recently showed something very similar. My only issue was that our particular presenter also showed various other videos including actual footage from an active shooter situation *complete with a sountrack*, lengthy tributes to victims of real shootings, and a lot of yelling at us to always be on alert 24/7 instead of just “obliviously sipping on your iced lattes thinking about what to make for dinner” (his actual words).

    Next time I just want a presenter who doesn’t get a hard-on from active shooter situations. I realize they’re trying to get us to think about how to act and not freeze up in a real situation, but really, the guy was borderline glorifying these events like it was HBO and I thought it was tasteless.

  84. Former Employee*

    I don’t understand what good a video does. When we have fire drills, we don’t watch a video of other people in a totally different location go to exits, walk carefully down the stairs, file out of the building, etc. I think it would be much more effective to have a physical drill with a supposed shooter located somewhere in the building that is the actual work place and the employees practice finding alternate escape routes, good places to hide, etc.

  85. P.C. Wharton*

    For #3, I was more surprised that your postal carrier won’t pick up your mail. Have you asked him/her, or your local office, why not? Other than in very rural places with no delivery at all, I thought they did that everywhere (in the US, at least–I guess you didn’t specify).
    Is anyone else able to receive mail but not send it from their home?

    1. LW3*

      It is odd, I’ve asked the post office. There was once or twice where my mail was picked up, and then not delivered. Apparently the mail carriers are expected (asked?) to pick up mail, and the post office told me to tell them which carrier was working when mail wasn’t picked up or delivered appropriately. We have a rotating schedule of mail carriers and I’m not home when they pick up mail, so I gave up. They do pick up one neighbors outgoing mail, and they don’t pick up another’s. Sounds like it’s based on the carriers personal relationship with that neighbor. :shrug:

  86. QuinleyThorne*

    LW#1: I’m based out of Houston, and my employer had us watch that exact same video. It was incredibly uncomfortable to watch, and we had a deadline to watch it by (since it was technically a training), so everyone ended up watching it on the same day. For what it’s worth, everyone I saw watching it was as uncomfortable with it as you were, myself included. I get why it’s necessary, given the times we live in, and I think that was what made me uncomfortable; the fact that this is a *thing* we have to be trained on, because of how prevalent it’s becoming. But the video could definitely benefit from a warning of some kind.

    (Also irritating: the video wouldn’t buffer properly, so I ended up having to restart it like six times :/)

  87. Former airline employee*

    I worked for an airline once upon a time. One of our “first person shooter” videos involved interviews of the survivors of the school shootings – I don’t need to mention the names of the schools here since I am fairly sure all of you could come up with them – and the parents of the students who were killed. I think it was footage from news broadcasts, since I think I had seen some of it before.

    This was also coupled with directives about how to spot a dangerous situation and what to do. Run like h*ll was not mentioned. I honestly don’t remember what we were told to do, because I was crying too hard to listen properly.

    It went on for a hour. 60 FREAKING MINUTES of this.

    It took me ten minutes to stop sobbing afterward.

    Then I had to go to work.

    The very first person I checked in – actually the first group of guys I checked in – were checking their weapons. Several 9mm, several rifles, several high magazine bullets. Per policy, they had to show them to me, to prove they were unloaded, and they had to be scanned by the TSA, also to prove they were unloaded.

    That? Was not a fun day.

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