Should Zero Tolerance Come to an End?

by todaystrainingblog

Should Zero Tolerance Come to an End?

                My thoughts on this particular issue is a resounding yes! Zero tolerance policies are never a good thing for anyone, be they in school or at work. The only thing that zero tolerance does is put a false sense of lawsuit liability protection to rest – in the minds of legal and HR professionals.

                Zero tolerance policies simply don’t work! They lump each and everyone into one category as an offender to be punished with no thoughts to what may have provoked the incident. This blanket policy in our schools and businesses is usually carried way too far in its implementation.

                How can we forget about the innumerable news reports we hear at least once a week from our schools, and these are just a few examples from the past;

Student suspended for pointing finger at another student

Student expelled for biting his pop tart into the shape of a gun

Teenager suspended for bringing kitchen knife to school – by accident and turning it in

                And the list goes on and on and on.


                And the corporate world is no better, but it receives so much less attention. If 2 co-workers get into an argument and one picks up a pipe wrench to defend themselves and is seen, what happens? He gets suspended and possibly terminated. No remediation, no statements, and no questioning. How fair is that to anyone.

                Using football as an analogy, for those who watch it, how many times have you seen one player instigate an incident on the field and the 2nd player respond by swinging or pushing back? Who is the one that usually gets the yellow flag and fined by the league? Normally it’s the 2nd player. And in the NCAA, the same player can be suspended from playing the rest of that game and possibly the next.

                In the corporate world disciplinary action is usually warranted for innumerable reasons, and I’ll not argue that point. What I do argue about is the automatic suspension of an employee before all the facts are known or an investigation has been completed. This kind of action, blanket policy, can cause a backlash in the form of a lawsuit.

                It is a knee jerk reaction. And in my opinion, the HR department simply doesn’t want to mess with the issue at that time and put it off until it’s more convenient. Many times these policies simply make life easier for the HR people.

                Whether they are lazy, incompetent, or just too overworked in the world of cut backs and do more with less. And that kind of attitude can foster the attitude of an employee who wants/needs to get even at the world.

                Remember one of the attitudes of an employee who is likely to ‘go postal’ is that they believe they are receiving disparate treatment from the employer/co-workers/supervision/management. And a blanket policy of zero tolerance can lead to a deadly incident of WPV.

                I’m sure that you can think back to any number of events of a employee that went on a rampage in the workplace for some sort of blanket policy, whether they were being ‘conspired against’ or not. Some will believe that they are.

                Not all blanket policies are bad. The ones that usually are, are the ones that call for immediate termination, suspension, or expulsion for the offense whatever it was, with no investigation at the time.

                In the United States, we treat people fairly and with a jury trial. In the corporate world the HR department is generally the judge, jury, & executioner after such an incident. And because of this, the zero tolerance can instigate an incident of WPV.


            Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace/school violence prevention. He has appeared in more than 130 media outlets in the past 30 years of being in the field and 22 studying, writing, and speaking about WPV/SV.

            He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or visit his website at; is too Many to see incidents of WPV/SV you may not have seen or thought about.