Article 43


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Work Threats

Have You Even Been Threatened at Work?

It seems as though our society becomes less courteous and polite with each passing year.  Rebecca Donatelle, an associate professor of public health at OSU, was quoted as saying,

“Violence is woven into the very fabric of our society and there seems to be an increasing disrespect for life and property.”

When people returned from service in World War II and entered the workforce, there were some things you simply did not do.  It was acceptable, to a point, to complain about some things such as working conditions, long hours, and other stressors.  One thing that was not tolerated then, and was very rare, was threatening co-workers or supervisors.  It was disrespectful in the extreme (respect and courtesy being the norm, and not the exception, back then).  And it was a quick way to lose your job.

Today, threats in the workplace are alarmingly common. According to a study by Northwestern National Life Insurance Company, six million workers in the United States were threatened with violence in the year 1992.  We’ve gotten accustomed to them.  In some companies, it’s actually considered “cool” to threaten co-workers or supervisors. Instead of earning respect through hard work and dedication, people try to get “instant respect” by intimidating others. In the opening scene of the movie “Grand Canyon” Danny Glover is negotiating with a young gun-toting gang member.  Danny Glover’s character asks the hoodlum to let him go on his way.  The youth replies, “I’m gonna grant you that request, but first I want you to answer a question. If I didn’t have this gun, would you be asking my permission?” Danny Glover answers, “If you didn’t have that gun, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” As he turns to go, the young man says, “That’s what I thought - no gun, no respect.  That’s why I always got the gun.” Instead of earning respect, this young man mistakenly thought his only way to get it was through intimidation.

Threats can come in two forms - verbal and non-verbal. Both can range from extremely subtle to highly overt.  Non-verbal threats may come in the form of gestures, notes (including emails), or damage to personal property.  Verbal threats can come in the form of innuendo ("if Fred doesn’t knock it off, he might not be coming in tomorrow"), general threats ("I’m gonna make sure Fred regrets he said that"), or specific threats ("tonight after work, I’m gonna go to Fred’s house and set it on fire.").

While few threats are as clear as this last example, ALL threats should be taken seriously - verbal or non-verbal.

It’s illegal to make a joke about a bomb at an airport.  For the safety of air travelers, every single comment about bombs or explosives - even those seemingly made in jest - are investigated.  Would you rather have all comments investigated or lose a loved one because a security guard was pretty sure someone’s comment was a joke, and turned out to be wrong.  The point is it’s never worth the risk to ignore a potential threat. 


Posted by Elvis on 09/02/10 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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