Sticks & stones may break my bones but…

by todaystrainingblog

Words will never hurt me. So says the nursery rhyme. And that would be wonderful if that kindergarten attitude could hold true throughout our life. But it never does. Eventually words will get to someone and then… it means that they will add up and make someone go nuclear, or if you prefer, postal.

The question is can we prevent any form of workplace violence (WPV), without the totalitarian method of the future use of drugs to pacify the masses? The answer I’m going to give is a bit oxymoronic for most people. But the simple out N out truth is yes and no. I did say it was a bit oxymoronic, didn’t I?

For WPV that starts inside a business with employees. the answer is yes we can lessen the liability of the company and reduce the risk of an incident. It’s not simple nor can it be a one size fits all solution. But it can be done for these kinds of WPV incidents. Or at the very least reduce the likelihood of one;

  • Bullying – sometimes the buck up & take it like a man approach doesn’t work
  • Vandalism – no matter what it is can be greatly reduced
  • Harassment- sexual, teasing & all other forms, good natured or not
  • Assault – both physical & verbal, from co-workers & customers
  • Even from customers we can mitigate the damage

But on the other hand we can’t prevent many other kinds of WPV. And these far outnumber the ones we can. Here is a small sampling of what we can’t prevent;

* Robberies with assault which accounts for 79%-85% of all WPV incidents

* Arson- which can be nearly impossible to stop at any time

* Domestic abuse from customers against customers

* Child abuse by a customer

* An employee committing WPV against a co-worker off duty or at their residence

* Random acts by people who don’t know how to act civilized i.e.  Throwing an alligator through a drive thru window (Wendy’s Florida 2015)

In this society we live in, free, we can’t protect everyone from everything, not even from violence. Therefore, we have to be as protective as we can and take the steps to lessen the impact or possibility of violence occurring in our businesses and schools. And we have to do this without curtailing the freedoms we’ve been granted by the U.S. Constitution.

From the stereotypical ‘angry employee’ to the customer who comes in and begins verbally assaulting everyone & everything in sight, we need to have the training, policies, procedures, & people to stop it. And as I said above, there is no way we can prevent everything and all types of violence in our businesses. It would cost, literally, millions of dollars in financial resources and would entail one possible scenario; having a person track every single person in the business at all times 2 steps behind.

But those who are there to protect us, or trained to do so, need to know that you are there to back them up and not down grade or denigrate what they do. If they are in the right, no matter how asinine it may seem, we need to back them up. If they’re wrong, then it’ll be rectified by management (or at least we hope so anyway).

And as far as whether an incident can be prevented, we need to look at other possibilities for responsibility other than just the security people. From those making the policies/procedures i.e. human resources & the c-suite, to the individual managers in charge of their people ignoring warning signs of someone who may turn out to be violent. And of course the innumerable regulations those businesses are now charged with upholding which can be crippling in the fight against crime and violence within the business.

The nursery rhyme that I used to start this post is applicable in the idea that unless the words are hurtful, threatening, or implying something of the sort then they won’t hurt you, unless you hire a good defense attorney. It’s only when someone uses a weapon, which can be innumerable in the extreme, to physically harm someone. Like what you ask?

  • Coffee cups
  • Hot liquids & chemicals
  • Metal rods/poles/scrap metal
  • Maintenance tools
  • Pens &pencils (if sharpened…I have a story about that!
  • Any office equipment
  • Vehicles
  • Human or animal waste including urinating in the break room coffee pot (Wire Rope Corporation of America 1988)
  • Cigarette lighters
  • Books, notebooks, paper bundles
  • Landscaping equipment

Need I go on with the number of weapons around you?

The answer to can we prevent any incidents of WPV is simple. Yes & no. It just depends on which facet of WPV we encounter in the course of the day. But also keep in mind that nothing, absolutely nothing, is ever guaranteed. Some people will defy the attempt to quantify their behavior and actions into a comfortable zone of being inside the box and go off on you or someone.


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where 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