Share this Page URL

Chapter 14. Worry About the Other Shoe D... > View from the Bridge—Some Background... - Pg. 141

Worry About the Other Shoe Dropping-- Violence 141 View from the Bridge--Some Background on Violence We need to put workplace violence in perspective. We need to look at any hint of violence as serious, and not ignore the possibility. On the flip side, we don't want to run around in terror, thinking the next employee who walks into the office is going to do something crazy. Both extremes put you at higher risk. Ignoring a threat is just plain dumb. In fact, some of the literature on workplace violence suggests that it is more likely to occur when smaller work problems have been ignored or handled badly. Being overly paranoid or reactive can also be problematic. Apart from the misery of living in fear, it may encourage you to use a heavy hand in some situations, creating a siege mentality for you and those around you. This Won't Work! The very techniques people use to protect themselves from violence may increase the chances of violence occurring. That's because the use of power is often violence provoking. Use minimal force at all times, but when there is a clear threat, focus on safety. One more point on this. It's an unfortunate truth that the methods we take to defuse hostile situations through interpersonal communication and dialogue are the opposite of what we do when we shift to a concern about safety. Heavy security, for example, or even immediate removal from the prem- ises of a dismissed employee may enrage a stressed-out person or push him over the edge. So, there's always a trade-off. The more power you use to protect people, the more likely the potentially violent person will feel a loss of dignity. When someone is stripped of self-worth, he or she is more likely to act violently. To address the issue of risk, it might seem that violent crime is increasing. We hear about it all the time in the media, but that's partly a function of how the media works. We don't hear of the thousands of instances where employees have been dismissed in an amicable manner with no problems. We do hear about the one person who flips out and attacks a manager. While it's no consolation, over the last few years statistics show that violent crime in general has been dropping in both the U.S. and Canada. Now, the bad news. According to U.S. Justice Department, workplace violence is the leading cause of death on the job for women, and No. 2 for men. Sounds terrifying, right? We need to look more carefully at the numbers to gain a perspective here. First, the majority of those deaths result from other crimes that go wrong, such as rob-bery. That's why most workplace homicides occur in service and other high-risk areas that are frequent targets for robbery. Second, our North American work- places are extremely safe, and there are few occupational deaths from accidents. So because there are so few deaths from other causes, it makes homicide look far more frequent than it would oth- erwise.