American Survival Guide - - FIRST WORDS - —Mike Mccourt

Like it or not, work­place vi­o­lence is “a thing.” It’s al­ways been an is­sue on some level, but it seems to have reg­u­larly got­ten to the point at which, rather than hav­ing to be con­cerned about fly­ing sta­plers or fisticuffs in a cu­bi­cle, it ends with one or more GSWS and a ton of me­dia cov­er­age. Of course, the main­stream me­dia gives these un­for­tu­nate events a lot of play, be­cause they boost rat­ings and fit their agenda ... but we’ll leave that topic for an­other time. As I re­call, I be­came aware of se­ri­ous work­place vi­o­lence as the spate of U.S. Postal Ser­vice-re­lated shoot­ings mounted in the mid-1980s. There’s no doubt that sim­i­lar events oc­curred in other in­dus­tries, but the com­mon theme, other than the con­nec­tion with the Postal Ser­vice, was that the per­pe­tra­tors were past or cur­rent dis­grun­tled em­ploy­ees. While it’s likely that men­tal and emo­tional is­sues con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to these crimes, the pri­mary im­pe­tus was job and gen­eral work­place dis­sat­is­fac­tion and con­flicts with su­per­vi­sors. Be­cause a pri­mary rea­son for em­ployee res­ig­na­tions in most oc­cu­pa­tions is un­hap­pi­ness with a su­per­vi­sor, it’s easy to see how this sit­u­a­tion af­fects more or­ga­ni­za­tions than just the Post Of­fice. Whether the trig­gers in these vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions were valid, un­der­stand­able or inane isn’t the point; what’s im­por­tant to rec­og­nize is that “in­no­cent by­standers,” as well as the of­fender’s spe­cific tar­gets, were caught in the car­nage. Some of those who were in­jured or killed suf­fered that fate be­cause they at­tempted to stop or re­strain the cul­prits. How­ever, most were sim­ply in the wrong place at the wrong time and failed to take ef­fec­tive ac­tion to pro­tect them­selves. If you’re con­cerned about work­place vi­o­lence or other threats to your safety and se­cu­rity and how they can be min­i­mized or pre­pared for at work, I sug­gest you read Sean Cur­tis’ ar­ti­cle in this is­sue (“Wis­dom in the Work­place," be­gin­ning on page 22). As part of his role at work, Sean re­cently per­formed a work­place risk as­sess­ment, and he shares a num­ber of use­ful sug­ges­tions for mak­ing all work en­vi­ron­ments less sus­cep­ti­ble to risk. As well as in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal hu­man con­cerns, Sean’s eval­u­a­tion in­cluded nat­u­ral and in­dus­trial threats to the safety and se­cu­rity of the work­ers in his build­ing. Be sure to in­clude those haz­ards in your own eval­u­a­tion, should you de­cide to per­form or pro­mote one. The de­gree to which your em­ployer takes work­place se­cu­rity and safety se­ri­ously can be a com­pli­cated sub­ject. If you feel their prepa­ra­tions lack in ways you can’t over­look or over­come, you might con­sider ask­ing them to have a bona fide risk anal­y­sis per­formed and up­grad­ing their em­ployee safety plan as ap­pro­pri­ate. Even per­form­ing a once- or twice-an­nual fire or evac­u­a­tion drill is a good, low-cost ef­fort that could also ex­pose ar­eas of con­cern that would cause man­age­ment to take the topic more se­ri­ously. Many com­pa­nies are ei­ther too small, too fru­gal or they are ba­si­cally dis­in­ter­ested in em­ployee safety con­cerns to pro­vide any sub­stan­tial pro­tec­tion from ex­ter­nal or in­ter­nal threats. If that’s the case, you ought to con­sider what you can do on your own to im­prove your sit­u­a­tion—with­out caus­ing con­cerns about you among your co-work­ers or lead­er­ship. The sim­ple act of dis­creetly keep­ing a get-home bag or emer­gency kit at your workspace will en­hance your abil­ity to ad­dress ad­verse sit­u­a­tions. If your con­cerns are grave, and you don’t feel your em­ployer is in­ter­ested in pro­vid­ing a safe and se­cure work­place, you should con­sider find­ing an­other place to work or seek op­por­tu­ni­ties that al­low you to work from home. Tele­work­ing is grow­ing faster than the work­force is ex­pand­ing; so, de­pend­ing on your oc­cu­pa­tion, you might be able to lit­er­ally be the “mas­ter” of your workspace. No mat­ter what steps your em­ployer takes to min­i­mize the po­ten­tial threats to your safety and se­cu­rity, this is your re­spon­si­bil­ity first. Chances are, you spend over 25 per­cent of your week at work and com­mut­ing. From the time you head to your job, do ev­ery­thing you can to en­sure you’ll get home again—safe and sound.

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