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Workplace Violence Myths

Updated: Jul 6

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The same can be said for crisis management.

Choosing to believe the myths about workplace violence is setting you up for failure, and this is not something that you want to fail. Workplace violence kills more employees than any other cause.

Workplace Violence Prevention
Workplace Violence Prevention

Myth #1: Violence Just Happens

This is an extremely dangerous myth. Believing that workplace violence just occurs, and that there is nothing that can be done to prevent it, allows employers and employees to avoid the issue completely. Every perpetrator of workplace violence has had a reason for his/her actions. This person has shown signs leading up to the violent incident. Growing aggression, threats, increased absences are all signs of escalation. These signs could have been noticed and reported.

The belief that violence just happens, it is luck, is a belief that encourages the employees to not be aware of their surroundings, to not report suspicious behavior, etc. This belief also causes companies not to have training, practices, and programs concerning workplace violence. This belief will end in tragedy eventually.

Myth #2: It Is Uncommon

“Workplace violence would never happen here.” Do not ever mistake what has not happened in the past, would never happen in the future. Believing this myth can cause you to ignore any indications or hints that something is about to happen. Believing this myth can cause you to ignore risks that are obvious to those who are aware of the possibility of an event occurring in your location.

Do not believe in luck, and that it just happens to other people or businesses. Often, after an act of violence has occurred, the survivors are quoted as saying, “I had no idea,” or, “I never saw it coming.” Do not be that person. Be aware of your surroundings. Even if it seems harmless at the time, behaviors can escalate and need to be reported.

Myth #3: Problems Will Solve Themselves

Another myth is that workplace issues between employees, or employees and the company, will eventually solve themselves. Wrong! Simply hoping or wishing a problem away is not a successful plan of action. Ignoring a problem only reinforces the behavior, and often allows the problem to grow. Issues that are left ignored give a bad reputation to the team and the manager.

There are many reasons that a manager may ignore personnel issues. Some feel that it is none of their business, when in fact, everything involving the team is the manager’s business. Some managers feel that it is not their job, that they have more important things pending. But what could be more important than the safety of their employees and customers? Providing programs that employees can use to report issues, and work through their own issues, like an EAP, is not the manager getting involved in personal issues, it is being responsible.

Myth #4: It Is Not Possible to Prevent Violence

Many people believe that it is not possible to prevent violence because it is unpredictable. “He/She just snapped!” We have heard this phrase a lot of times. But is it true? No, this is a myth and a way of avoiding the issue at hand. In fact, statistics will say that in most situations of workplace violence, there were in fact warning signs to the impending acts and in fact preventable.

Usually, these acts of violence are planned, and focused on specific targets. The perpetrator has had a long time of build of negative events such as a bad breakup, a termination, or financial problems. Very seldom is the trigger a sudden and traumatic event. Knowing this can make you more aware of others and their possible changing behavior. Being aware can not only save costs, property, but also lives.

We must not be hampered by yesterday's myths in concentrating on today's needs.

- Harold S. Green

About the Author

Joseph “Paul” Manley is the Founder and Principal of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC, a Training and Independent Consulting Firm with a focus on violence detection, prevention, response, and recovery. Paul is a retired Massachusetts Police Lieutenant, Adjunct Lecturer, Board-Certified Workplace Violence and Threat Specialist, Security Expert, and Trainer.

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