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Ten Tips on Recognizing and Minimizing Violence

September 3, 1999
Related Topics: Workplace Violence, Safety and Workplace Violence, Featured Article
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The Department of Justice estimates that workplace assaults claim more than 1 million victims each year. Other studies indicate the figure to be closer to 2 million people. The annual cost of workplace violence to U.S. corporations is between 20 and 35 billion dollars.

Though deceivingly random, most episodes of workplace violence are preceded by numerous warning signs. In many instances, being able to recognize warning signs in time can prevent a potentially explosive situation from occurring.

The following are 10 tips to remember to help prevent violence from occurring in your workplace.

  1. Be familiar with common traits of potentially violent individuals. Common traits include individuals feeling singled out for unfair treatment; needing to be in control; believing that they’re always right; and having significant self-destructive or even suicidal inclinations.
  2. Observe how individuals interact with others. High-risk individuals may act withdrawn or exhibit dispositions of jealousy, resentment of authority, paranoia or have an abnormally high preoccupation with personal privacy.
  3. Be aware of suspicious interests or habits. Potentially violent individuals often embrace extremist views such as conspiracy theories, publicized violent events or extreme political or religious convictions.
  4. Pay attention to signs of psychological instability. Such signs may be manifested in dramatic changes in personality, withdrawal or depression. Other symptoms include extreme stress, intense guilt or shame, excessive self-criticism or hopelessness.
  5. Be familiar with late-stage indications of violent eruptions. Possible signs may be anxiety related such as rapid breathing, broken speech patterns, shaking and abnormal sweating. Conversely, an individual may simply seem detached and distant showing a blank expression or an inability to concentrate.
  6. If you are faced with aggressive behavior ...

  7. Obey the demands within reason. Stall for time until help arrives by complying with all reasonable requests the aggressor makes. Don’t threaten or ignore the aggressor at any time.
  8. Warn others. Remain calm and compliant but look to alert others as soon as possible. At a minimum, get help from your coworkers and never hesitate to call the police.
  9. Look for any opportunity to get away. Always look for possible ways to escape a possibly explosive situation. If you are able to escape, get help immediately and do not return.
  10. Avoid any actions that may set off an aggressive person. Keep the aggressor as calm as possible by maintaining eye contact, speaking slowly and clearly, and refraining from making any sudden or startling movements.
  11. And finally, NEVER IGNORE A THREAT. It’s better to err on the side of safety by reporting all threats and possible indications of violence to the appropriate authorities. All too often, threats of violence are ignored or brushed off with tragic consequences.

SOURCE: Corpedia.com, Mesa, AZ, August 4, 1999.

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