I have been involved in workplace violence (WPV) for over a quarter century. I have also been interested in school violence (SV) for nearly 30 years due to an incident just south of where I lived. Most people I talk to are surprised to learn that I believe that workplace and school violence are more alike than dissimilar.
Many people, law enforcement, media, and experts, will say that there is no commonality or similarity between incidents of WPV and SV. I beg to differ on this. Other than minor differences they are related. A few of the commonalities;
- Warning signs
If you check out the 22 warning signs that I have collected and put together, you will notice that they are almost identical with those who perpetrate this kind of violence and terror in a business or educational institution. Sometimes you have to make some minor modifications to them, but they are the same. This is mainly to account for the difference in ages.
This goes for all 22 of them, including the cruelty to animals and listening to violent music, movies, and video games. Many of the millennials have grown up with these things and therefore feel that it is normal to lash out when offended by…anything.
- Perpetrator Profiles:
The average perpetrator profiles are also virtually identical. Both feel they are receiving disparate treatment or rejected or etc. The other issues involved again may need some minor wording changes but are the same.
Even the ages of those perpetrating is coming together. In the past WPV was perpetrated by someone between the ages of 25 and 45. I have noticed in the past few years it is becoming more along the lines of 20 – 60 are the ages to watch for. Of course after you read the statistic below about SV…you may change your mind even more.
The attitudes that are prevalent with perpetrators of this violence also run together in both WPV and SV. From stereotyping, Can’t Happen Here (CHH), Not Invented Here (NIH), and the myriad of others.
Attitudes in the country are changing, overall not in any particular form. Unfortunately, violence seems to becoming an acceptable way of settling or handling problems. Of course it isn’t, but for some people…they can’t be easily persuaded.
- Where it occurs:
I have also used a tag line for my seminars and workshops for nearly 20 years as well. WPV and SV can happen; to anyone, anywhere, for any reason, at any time. This has proven to be true more often in both instances. It can follow the victim home and have their home lives disrupted. This may be more prevalent in SV than wPV, but it does occur.
While the instances of fistfights seem like it should be relegated to the playground or the bathrooms of our schools it spills over into businesses as well. If you look at youtube.com for fistfights at work, or some derivative of that phrase you’ll find thousands of them.
- How it occurs:
While this is generally only accepted when a firearm is used it is not, any item can be used to harm another person. Sometimes they are improvised but most of the time. It is here they become related.
You see reports of students, as young as 8 and 9 years old attempting to poison their teacher or other students. If you don’t remember in 1988 at the Wire Rope Corporation of America corporate offices in St. Joseph, MO., one employee was disciplined for making ‘Euro-pee-an’ coffee, he urinated in the coffee pot, for his co-workers one morning. This was at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Several years ago a study was completed that stated that if you put WPV and SV together, SV would account for more than 55% of all WPV incidents. But why put them together you now ask after this far? I will give you a very simple answer in the form of a question.
While educational institutions are places to gain knowledge about the world we live in, do you realize that the number of people who actually are employed there number almost as many as the students? Some colleges and universities count as many as 10,000 staff members or more for a campus that hosts as few as 25,000 students. So is an educational institution a place of employment? Of course it is
You can think of it this way: The staff at a school is the employees, which in fact they are. The students on the other hand are the customers to that business, and in fact they are the customers coming to gain something close to where they live, like most consumers do.
Do we need to have different approaches to WPV and SV incidents? Absolutely. You can’t prevent an incident by utilizing a cookie cutter approach. The government and corporations may think it works but in these instances it doesn’t. Even with an incident within the same city or school district it will be different every time. Individuals are different and therefore their motivations for committing such violence will be different.
Bullying, harassment, romantic liaisons gone bad (mainly with unchecked teenage hormones but not always, and many other factors will come into play. That is why cookie cutters need to be left to the making of wonderfully delicious chocolate chip or peanut butter soft ones. And we need to maintain awareness of what is happening inside of our businesses and schools.
The overall conclusion is…WPV and SV. Should be counted together in the statistics because in effect they are the same. Keep in mind that WPV and SV can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime, for any reason.
Robert D. Sollars assists businesses and their employees to lessen their risk of WPV as well as other security/customer service related issues. You can follow him on his Facebook page, facebook.com/oneistooomany, or twitter@robertsollars2.
I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear