Companies focus on preventing workplace violence in wake of shootings in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Manhattan

In today’s Boston Business Journal, an article was written suggesting, “Companies focus on preventing workplace violence in wake of shootings in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Manhattan,” but how can this be achieved?  Is this more hopeful but disappointing rhetoric?  I don’t know about you but I am fed up with claims of “prevention,” when the only offering is “reaction!”

This article touts that, “About 300 people attended the ‘Active Shooter Preparation and Response’ workshop.”  But where is the “prevention” in “Active Shooter Preparation and Response;” it doesn’t exist!  Studies have shown that from the Moment of Commitment (when the shooter begins firing) to the Moment of Completion (when the last round is discharged) is less than five seconds!  If your organization intends to react to an Active Shooter, they will do so over those slain during those horrific first 5 seconds. This is not effective, responsible nor defensible. Most importantly, this is not “prevention!” 

In the article, Randy Spivey, chief executive of the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, suggests that “Employers should do a better job, listening to workers’ concerns about potentially odd and alarming behavior by fellow co-workers. Also, any type of expressed threat muttered by an employee has to be taken seriously.”  This statement points out one of the most taunting challenges in the workplace, distinguishing between aberrant behavior, misconduct and truly aggressive/threatening behavior.   Because most organizations are not making this distinction, they tend to overreact to simple aberrant behavior and misconduct, but worse yet, they tend to underreact to truly aggressive/threatening behavior.  This makes for some very dangerous circumstances opening an opportunity to that horrific Moment of Commitment.

We hear about the use of Threat Assessment?  But Threat Assessment, by its definition, is an assessment of an existing threat; you are reacting to a threat, not preventing it!  It is their hope that they can identify lesser threats and thereby prevent greater threats but there is no way to assure that the “lesser threat” will not be a threat to life or limb. There is no reliable “prevention” in Threat Assessment. 

That begs the question, “How can we truly prevent workplace violence?”  We must first isolate “aggressive behavior” specifically and judge it on its merits; when we do, we will be able to foresee, engage and prevent any level of emerging aggressive behavior, including violence!  According to the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education’s report on Targeted Violence in Schools, the only reliable means of violence prevention is that “An inquiry should focus on a student’s behaviors and communications to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.  The ultimate question to answer . . . is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible.”  

At the Center for Aggression Management, we have spent 18 years developing a reliable means to achieve “prevention” of workplace violence.  Assessing objective, culturally neutral, reflective body language, behavioral and communication indicators of emerging aggression is the only effective means to foresee (“on a path to a violent attack”) and prevent a violent attack.  This is what the Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS) achieves through its Meter of Emerging Aggression.  Learn more in this 3-minute CAPS Impact Movie:

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