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Part I–Acknowledge that workplace violence will happen
The workplace has become a dangerous place. Just ask staff and faculty at Virginia Tech University or the people at NASA. People prone to committing violent acts are in fact mentally unstable, and they work alongside us every day. Organizations of all kinds must develop policies and contingency plans to deal with the potentialities of workplace violence.
Unbalanced people cause disruptions
Many Americans are mentally ill. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older–close to 60 million people–suffer from an identifiable mental disorder. The killer at Virginia Tech clearly fell under this category, and while mass murder at work or elsewhere remains a rare event, worker-against-worker violence and on-the-job homicide happens all too often. No matter who studies the matter, the numbers are gloomy. Statistics from the Occupational Health & Safety Association claim that 2 million Americans are victims of workplace violence each year. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, each year about 1.7 million workers in the United States are injured during workplace, and, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2005 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), the years 1992 through 2004 saw an average of 807 workplace homicides annually. While the most recent of these years, according to the CFOI, have seen a modest drop in incidents in the United States, the problem is growing worldwide, as found by a United Nations’ International Labour Office study released last year.
Guidelines restore order and prevent violence
Officials cannot control the behavior of others, but they can incorporate guidelines to follow. They just need help. Faced with a range of threats, such as disgruntled employees, domestic violence, stalkers, and, of course, robberies, rapes, and assaults, American businesses and organizations are hiring consultants in record numbers to design programs that train employees and employers in how to predict and prevent violence on the job. By developing official policies that include safety procedures, hiring and firing practices, threat management, crisis intervention and supervisory training to address the “red flags,” the organization and security consultant can join forces to reduce the risk of violence.
Understanding human behavior is a key ingredient in countering this violence, and management must learn this skill, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “Bosses Have to Learn How to Confront Troubled Employees.” The same article points to major corporations that have implemented programs that train managers in how to spot troubled, potentially violent workers and have instituted hotlines employees may use to report workplace violence.
A study by the Society for Human Resource Management finds that 68 percent of employers have a formal workplace violence policy. A survey by the American Society of Industrial Security finds 25 percent of firms turning to employee training, 15 percent to zero-tolerance policies, and 13 percent to limited building access in their attempts to prevent workplace violence.
What’s clear is the need for intelligent anticipatory strategies. The next installment of this series will look at the behaviors employers must anticipate in determining who might be a perpetrator of workplace violence.
Part II–Anticipate workplace violence before it happens
In the previous installment of this three-part series, “Workplace Violence: Acknowledge, Anticipate, and Act,” we acknowledged the problem by looking at statistics on workplace violence worldwide and touching upon the prevalence of various guiding policies that organizations have already put in place to counter the trends. We will now explore how organizations can anticipate workplace violence before it happens.
As mentioned last time, zero-tolerance policies are among those gaining in popularity. Behavior that was at one time looked at as harmless is now considered hazardous, and it is possible to create psychological profiles of people most likely to commit a potential act of violence. Causes for concern are any employees who:
o Constantly make slighting references to others
o Consider themselves superior
o Are never happy with what is going on
o Exhibit a need to constantly force own opinions on others
o Have a compulsive need to control others
o Seem paranoid (convinces that other employees are “out to get them”)
o Are consistently unreasonable
o Makes coworkers feel uneasy just by their mere presence
o See a conspiracy to all functions of society
o Own firearms and share what seems to be obsessive interests in military, law enforcement or underground military groups
o Don’t take responsibility for any of their behaviors or faults or mistakes (always “someone else’s fault”)
o Take legal action against the company, constantly filing one grievance after another
o Blow everything out of proportion
o Have many hate and anger issues on and off the job, whether with co-workers, family, friends, or the government
o Applaud certain violent acts portrayed in the media such as racial incidences, domestic violence, shooting sprees, executions, etc.
o Make statements like “he will get his” or “what comes around goes around” or “one of these days I’ll have my say”
o At once lack people skills and are good at their tasks, paying attention to the details
o Are sometimes sexist or sexually harass others
o Have had trouble with the law, even just a minor incident
o Might be addicted to alcohol, prescription or street drugs
Any combination of these is enough to lead to workplace violence. Even just one is a red flag. In days or weeks prior to a violent act, significant emotional events may push questionable employees to commit violent acts. They might feel humiliated as a result of being proven wrong, or lose out on a promotion or pay raise. Love interests might reject them. Marriages might end. The ensuing emotional storm and physical symptoms (e.g., trouble sleeping, fatigue, sudden weight loss or gain, and other maladies) resulting from any of these scenarios can overwhelm the fragile soul, one prone to acts of rage in the absence of a social safety net; managers, therefore, should encourage employees to maintain strong social networks at work. Peers have a way of anticipating disaster before it happens.
Downsizing might upsize aggression
Organizational downsizing may be a major contributor, too. Employee termination can cause a significant degree of trauma. We equate our “selves” with our job titles. We introduce ourselves to others by give both our name and job title: “Hi, I am Robert; I am a personal security consultant.” Being a personal security consultant is what I do, but it is not who I am. While layoffs alone are traumatic, most of us ultimately see the difference between what we do and who we are; take away a mentally unbalanced person’s job title, however, and the loss of identity may seem, to him, much more profound and lead to violence.
The next, and final, installment in this three-part series will look at the actions we can take to prevent full-blown workplace violence if aggression has already escalated conflicts to the brink.
Part III–Act to prevent workplace violence
The previous, second installment of this three-part series, “Workplace Violence: Acknowledge, Anticipate, and Act,” included tips organizations can follow to anticipate workplace violence. Ideally, anticipatory strategies will stop workplace violence long before it happens. But aggression in the workplace has a way of becoming difficult to manage. If anticipatory strategies have failed to catch potential violence before it has begun to escalate, organizations can still act to quell the aggression before becoming a statistic.
The University of California, Davis’ Division of Human Resources identifies a number of tactics that managers can use to respond to aggression at work. Many of these are mainstays of conflict resolution that others have developed, on their own, and adopted.
o Respond quietly and calmly. Sudden movements or outburst may provoke retaliation.
o Ask questions. The aggressor may simply want attention, which he or she interprets as respect.
o Consider offering an apology. It’s a tactic to create a sense of calm.
o Summarize what you hear the individual saying. There’s a better chance that the aggressor will understand that you’re actually listening.
o Calmly and firmly set limits.
o Ask the individual to stop the behavior and warn that official action may be taken.
o If the disruption continues, reiterate the possibility of legal action and involvement of law enforcement.
o Direct the individual to leave the office.
At this point, if the situation has yet to diffuse, signal for assistance. You will, most likely, need to involve law enforcement.
Random acts of violence hold their own
Disgruntled employee syndrome is just one form of workplace violence. High risk professions such as taxi driver, gas station attendant, grocery clerk, liquor store cashier, and jewelry store merchant remain. It is estimated that 85 percents of assaults and 55 percent of murders happen in service industry worksites or retail trades. Those whose occupations find them handling money or engaging in person-to-person contact with the public should exercise caution. Random acts of violence continue to hold their own in these spheres, and physical assaults are common in health care and social service-type agencies.
Any company whose workforce’s duties fit the abovementioned descriptions can improve its security by incorporating or utilizing the following:
o High-watt external premise lighting (paying special attention to visibility in high-risk areas)
o Timed drop type safes and signs explaining that a “timed drop type safes in use”
o Robbery response training
o Violence in the workplace consultants
o Silent alarms
o Video cameras everywhere
o Guards, badges, and checkpoints
o Employee assistance programs
o Crisis intervention training
Onus of responsibility falls upon the employer
Ultimately, every organization needs a prediction-prevention plan that incorporates elements of anticipation and action. Proper hiring and firing practices are essential, too; employers must know what to look for when prescreening potential employees–and what signs to look for in long standing employees. Without taking proactive measures, the company risks huge losses in lawsuits, reputation, and, of course, human life.
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If you are tired of sitting home watching TV and your local area does not have much to offer in the form of regular entertainment, have you considered attending a trivia night? Pub trivia or trivia night quiz competitions are great for a regular weekly get together with friends. They offer something for all ages, they are stimulating and interactive, they leave you plenty of time to talk and give you lots of things to talk about!
Trivia nights usually organize their competition so that someone books a table and then people sitting at the table compete as a team, so 2-8 people are needed and they need a team name.
People often have a preconception that trivia nights are for brainiacs. But don’t bother racking your brain and flicking through address books looking for someone with a university degree. Trivia nights generally include trivia questions about pop culture trivia, not really university degree type knowledge.
Most people have more knowledge than we think. Instead of looking for intellectuals, you’ll be better off looking for team members who are avid fans of something.
Do you know someone who watches a lot of TV? People who have watched every episode of the Simpsons, or South Park, Friends or Neighbours have a brain chock full of TV characters and their foibles. Music lovers with a CD collection spanning several decades are useful. Travellers have a wealth of knowledge about locations and cities and rivers and if they also speak several languages it’s a bonus. Amateur chefs can also tip the balance if you get a tricky food trivia question. Sports lovers are a bonus.
Getting a good trivia night team together may be the prime objective for those with a highly competitive streak who are playing to win jackpots and prizes. Most of us are just happy to pick up a bar voucher or a free dinner coupon at a trivia night. We’ll keep going out to a trivia night for the social interaction, so long as the host and our friends make us laugh and we don’t come last every week.
Here are 10 Trivia Night tips for people who haven’t attended a trivia night before.
- 1. Turn up around 15-30 minutes before the trivia night starts. You’ll be able to pick a good table, where you can see the screen and are able to hear the questions better, and you won’t be holding up the trivia host from starting the quiz as he explains the rules to you.
- 2. Don’t be afraid to be uncool enough to drag along a younger or older acquaintance to a trivia night. People from different generations have a vastly different knowledge base, that can make all the difference.
- 3. Turn off or simply don’t take your mobile phone in with you. Serious trivia night competitors can suffer from highly aggressive “cheat rage” if they see you checking your messages, and many clubs and hosts take a dim view of anyone bringing in mobile phones as well.
- 4. As competitors compete as a trivia team, if you drag a friend or two along with you, you’ll enjoy yourself more. Trivia hosts will often try and fit singles into an already established team, but you take pot luck as to who your team mates are. You might be lucky and make new friends or you might be stuck at a table with a rowdy crowd who are more interested in each other and the beer, than the trivia night competition or you.
- 5. Don’t overdo the know it alls on your trivia team just to fill up the table. Too many strong personalities arguing they’re right can spoil all the fun for the rest of the team. Friendships have been known to die at trivia nights because a dominant personality over ruled a friends correct answer with his own wrong one.
- 6. If you intend to question the trivia host about an answer you “know” to be correct, be prepared to back it up with a reputable source. These do not include Wikipedia or an internet website unless they also cite a reference source with more weight.
- 7. A prize is often given for the best trivia team name. So put your thinking cap on and come up with an inventive team name. A clever play on words is trumped by the name that gets the most laughs.
- 8. Make sure the person chosen to write down the answers to the trivia quiz questions, writes clearly and can spell. You don’t want to lose points on technicalities. It helps if this person is also very decisive, he or she can then play referee when two team members are both certain about two different possible answers.
- 9. Trust your instincts. The first answer to pop into your head at a trivia night is most likely to be the true one. Don’t over think it.
- 10. Beware of trick questions. Ignore the tip above and think carefully before you commit to an answer that seems too easy. Quiz masters love to throw a spanner in the works by playing on obvious answers that are false. Want an example? This is a good one. How many months in a typical year have 28 days in them? Did you answer “One – February!”? It’s true that only February ends after 28 days apart from a leap year but it’s also true that all 12 months in a normal calendar year have at least 28 days in them. So the answer is actually 12.
So if you want a stimulating entertaining night out, why not give a trivia night a go? Stretch the brain, improve the memory, have a great night out and enjoy the company and conversation of friends.