Violence in America is a Workplace Responsibility. It’s about management commitment, investment and leadership if workplace violence prevention is to have any real societal prevention value. I would like to make the leap in searching for a paradigm shift in how workplace violence prevention and violence response is taught in workplaces. For example, teaching warning signs alone will not help in identifying at risk employees or students without observable acts of aggression. “Merely teaching warning signs without connecting behavior and patterns can lead to false positives” (Professor James Alan Fox, Professor, Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University and author of Violence and Security on Campus: From Preschool Through College).
Recent violent acts of aggression suggest a correlation between workplace violence and violence in America. If we accept the leap that workplaces reflect a microcosm of our society, it’s safe to reason that workplaces have a responsibility to introduce credible workplace violence prevention and violence response policies, procedures and training. If management commitment believes in the effect of the disgruntled employee, the potential for the “workplace spillover into society” then is a reality. Can workplace management exercise more leadership in its responsibility to manage the potentially hostile workplace settings? The following are employee first hand accounts of just this.
If one believes the news accounts, law enforcement and employee reports, there appears to be a disgruntled employee involvement, and its “workplace spillover into Society” may be a new threat between the recent incidents at San Bernardino, CA and Orlando, Fla.
“In the San Bernardino Shooting incident, “Investigators believe there were three gunmen and one of them had worked at the facility and recently had a dispute with fellow employees, according to law enforcement officials.” (Michael Schmidt, New York Times, Details Emerge of a Deadly Plan)
“Farook… was a 28-year-old public health employee for San Bernardino County, where he had worked for the past five years. According to witnesses, he began to argue with another employee at the office holiday party. He then left the party and retrieved his wife, and both returned around 11 a.m. armed with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns and dressed in black tactical gear.” (San Bernardino: Workplace Violence or Terrorism?, Stratfor Analysis, December 3, 2015)
The correlation between public violence and the angry/disgruntled employee threat may be an “ambiguous and present danger.” That being the case, I believe that workplace management has a leadership role in implementing and managing robust, agile and proactive workplace violence prevention and violence response policies and programs. Unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent incidents of workplace violence entirely. However, by implementing comprehensive procedures, educating employees on necessity of recognizing and reporting threatening, suspicious or otherwise troubling conduct, and taking other preventive measures puts an employer in a better position to recognize, confront and perhaps eliminate some of the risk of workplace violence.
“The recent tragic events at San Bernardino, CA and Orlando, FL serve as a reminder of the evidence that forthcoming violence may start in the workplace. In the case of the Orlando shooter, the subsequent investigation had revealed that the shooter made threatening and/or menacing statements at work about his ties to different terrorist organizations. He is also reported to have made statements of support, at work, for the violent and extreme actions of others, such as the Boston bombing perpetrators. Such reports question whether the employer even had a credible reporting policy in place.” (The Workplace Report with Ancel Glink, Workplace Violence – Time for Policy Review, Bob McCabe, Friday, June 17, 2016)
Proper training in aspects of workplace violence prevention teach employees how to best connect the dots between warning signs and aggression as potential indicators of things to come. Employers unintentionally diminish the value of workplace violence prevention by undertaking such training on limited budgets and/or with internal resources using expedient means, measures and time limitations. How does an organization train adults on workplace violence prevention in front of a computer without the benefit of an experienced facilitator to answer hypothetical questions and respond to concerns? Such approaches to training undermine employee confidence, as the training is seen as “checking the box”. Employers have an obligation to attach as much credibility to the importance of the training by not unconsciously sabotaging their own efforts.
Adequate training in active shooter/hostile intruder by an experienced workplace violence prevention consultant who understands organizational design, workplace dynamics and the human relations issues are better suited to correlate workplace violence prevention with the mindset of the active shooter/hostile intruder threat, as a part of the training and consulting process. Employees who are exposed to the 5 (five) stages or 5 (five) phases of the active shooter mindset can make better prevention decisions and draw prevention value from recognizing and reporting strange behavior. The workforce family that spends 1/2 of their 24 hour clock at work often are familiar with co-worker problems and violence prone displays which rear their ugly heads at work. Denial of the importance as a critical workplace safety concern undermines the investment and commitment. Such an unfortunate position reminds me of the old Lee Myles Transmission TV commercial: “Pay me now or pay me later.” The sad truth is that civil liability lawsuits will cost the firm much more that the meager financial investment in the training.
Because employees are a microcosm of our society, those who commit such crimes reflect our communities. Perpetrators exposed to at risk environmental factors such as difficult and domestic and family lives, financial burdens exacerbated by hardships, medical problems and other personal problems increase vulnerabilities and gaps in physical and personnel security. Prone to aggression these employees can become the aggressors, attractive pawns who blame others and likely victims who don’t report the victimization. In his book, “In Search of the Miraculous”, Russian philosopher Peter Ouspensky lists four basic causes of negative emotions: (1) justification; (2) identification; (3) inward considering; and (4) blame. It is blame that especially generates anger. Ouspensky believes that the trigger of anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, and frustration is blame.
Since the Orlando shooting massacre, the phrase, “If you see something say something” has been tossed around by law enforcement.” What better way for workplace management to recognize a leadership responsibility in helping employees recognize warning signs, acts of aggression before some of the signs mentioned above are manifested and overlooked and something like a shooting at work or a public placed tied to a workplace issue ever happens.