Violence in the Workplace and in Schools

With the recent school shootings, I want to give some thoughts on prevention and dealing with violent people in the workplace and in schools. This topic is extremely serious. When you are around a person showing anger that produces violent acts, you have one major goal - protect yourself. If a person is so angry that he wants to hurt people, he can’t be reasoned with, he can’t help himself, he is out of control. Don’t try to calm the angry person unless it is the only way you can leave the area. Don’t confront the person, agree with what he says - GET OUT! Once you are out of the immediate scene, call the police and stay clear of the area. Schools and businesses need to have a pre plan to deal with violent people and training needs to take place regularly with staff, students and employees. At a school I teach, the lock down procedures include: having the classroom doors always locked. A small flat magnet is in the door frame keeping the door from completely closing. If a lock down situation occurs, the magnet is quickly removed, the door closed is “locked” and the students hide away from the door and windows. Businesses should have a plan for protecting employees, such as doors being locked quickly and or quick exits from the building.

At a business If you are alone at the work place after hours, follow these guidelines: • Do not open the door to a stranger before or after regular work hours. • When you work early or late, let security know so they will check on you regularly for your security. • If anyone calls while you are alone in the office, never mention that you are alone. • Report any “strange/unusual” people or events to security - note their description (their looks) on a piece of paper in case you need it later. • Walk to your car during non-business hours with a security guard or friend. • During work hours and non-work hours the work place building should have limited entrance access to unauthorized people.

Early recognition and treatment of a troubled person is an important prevention measure to prevent violence at the workplace or in schools.

Indicators to look for in a person who is potentially deeply angry and possibly dangerously violent include:

• Is basically a loner. • Likes guns and talks about them often. • Makes remarks like “They couldn’t get along without me around here. I am going to get them for what they did to me. I hate them”. Says these things in person and on social media. • Is unusually argumentative. • Does not cooperate well with others. • Has a problem with authority figures. • Frequently blames others for their problems. • Displays marked change in work patterns like tardiness or absenteeism. • Demonstrates extreme or bizarre behavior. • Frequently appears depressed. • Involved in alcohol and/or drug abuse. • Has a history of violence.

Keep in mind that a potentially violent person may not exhibit all of these signs. Also a person that shows some of these signs might not be dangerous at all. Beware and use good judgment. If you encounter a person who presents a threat, take it seriously and report it orally and in writing to your supervisor/principal. If you are the supervisor, talk to the employee/student about their behavior - follow company/school policy. Encourage the employee/student to seek psychological counseling if his threats appear to be more then idle talk. Give support and assure him that everyone wants him to succeed. If this employee becomes a problem and is ultimately discharged, take exceptional steps to bar him from the premises. If the former employee is seen on company grounds, alert security and the front door people that he is not allowed in the building. Those employees should not confront the individual but call security or police.