A rubber band doesn’t snap without being stretched

by todaystrainingblog

When I hear about a workplace violence (WPV) incident, there is always some talking head on the television or radio, a current or retired law enforcement official, psychologists, and others who are glad to tell you, ‘They just snapped with no warning’. And then discuss how we can prevent these things with usually nothing more than vigilance and physical security measures.

THEY ARE WRONG! And granted they say those because they make excellent sound bites. But do we need good sound bites or the truth in this issue of importance to American business and the lives of their employees, not to mention our friends, family, and co-workers?

                There will ALWAYS be warning signs before someone commits one of these incidents, a rubber band doesn’t break without being stretched. And it doesn’t matter whether they use their fists, pipe wrench, pencils or staplers, or knives and firearms. There will always be signs they are about to injure someone.

I’m sure you can recall the incident in Roanoke, VA. On August 26th this year when two reporters from television station WDBJ were murdered, while on a live remote, and a woman with the local Chamber of Commerce, was wounded, by Vester Flanagan. He then drove off but killed himself several hours later. His anger, resentment, & perceptions of persecution had been growing for nearly 2 decades.

And the incident in Minneapolis on September 27, 2012. Andrew Engeldinger Was in a termination meeting with his supervisors and the owner of Accent Signage Systems and opened fire at the termination meeting. He then calmly walked past numerous female employees on his way to the loading dock. When he got to the dock, he opened fire killing 3 more, including the UPS driver, and wounded 4, before killing himself.

If you look at the thousands of WPV incidents over the past 30 years, you’ll find innumerable accounts of a shooter who, literally, either ignored or didn’t shoot people who were right in front of them. In several cases the shooter looked them straight in the eye and then ignored them. In the case of ConEd of Southern California in December 2011, the shooter went looking for his victims in the cubicles to ensure they were actually there.

The Key

The master key to unlocking the ‘secret’ of this is we can choose to act upon the warning signs or ignore them. Which way we decide to act could determine whether or not someone will get injured or die. And in reporting the warning signs there are several excuses, amongst others i.e. trust of management that stand in the way of reporting them.


The first excuse that most people can relate to is ‘I don’t want to get involved’. This can be quite dangerous if it prevails in the workplace and the mistrust of management. And it is unfortunate but the culture of the business might also be encouraging this attitude as well.

So what are some of those excuses that people give for not reporting the warning signs to their supervisor, manager, human resources, or an anonymous tip line? They are many and varied and many times they can be comical. Here is a partial list of the ones I’ve heard in my 24 years in the WPV field. And more importantly, how many of these ring true with a problem employee that you know now?

  • He was just going through a tough time
  • He’ll come out of it
  • He’s not capable of doing that
  • He’s got problems, who doesn’t?
  • I don’t want to get him in trouble
  • I don’t want to get involved
  • It’s not my problem
  • I hate this place, why should I warn them?
  • This company needs a wake-up call anyway
  • They won’t listen to me

Connecting the Dots

I stated above that a rubber Band doesn’t break unless stretched because there are always warning signs of the band being stretched to the limit. Unfortunately, it’s as much the companies fault as well as the employees that these signs are ignored. The reason for this is that, in addition, to the excuses above, no one can or is willing to ‘connect the dots’. And sometimes the company doesn’t want to add extra hassle to their stressed days.

Connecting the dots is a simple exercise, especially when you know what to look for. And it’s up to the company to inform their employees what they need to look for and connecting those dots.

And it’s not just that simple either. Supervisors, managers, human resources, security, C-suite, & literally everyone needs to know not to brush off what an employee brings to them.

Some employees will cry wolf too many times and therefore not be credible when reporting such things. But even if they aren’t credible in all cases, it may be the one case that they are and an incident occurs. After that it’s all about cleaning up, the blood, brains platter, broken machinery, lives, bad publicity, litigation and potential bankruptcy.

Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 32 years in the security field. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many. Here you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear