It’s Easy to “Explain Away” Concerning Behavior—But Don’t...
Even when someone's behavior might seem a bit off, people tend to explain it away. Why? It's because we all understand that everyone has a “bad day” now and then and it doesn’t necessarily mean someone will act out violently. Our tendency as humans is to avoid conflict, which means it’s easy to talk ourselves out of saying something, even when we know we should.
Consider a few examples:
- Behavior of Concern: Hypersensitivity to Criticism
Haven’t we all encountered someone who always seems a little bit “touchy?” You know, someone who just can’t seem to receive even the gentlest, most well-intended, constructive criticism? And don’t we tend to explain behavior like that away by saying things like, “you know Jeremy… he’s just a bit of a hothead…”
But, Hypersensitivity to Criticism can be an indicator that someone is reaching the limit of their personal coping skills in dealing with some sort of stress in their life. This could be a signal of a change in a co-worker’s state of mind; one where violence might be a possible outcome.
- Behavior of Concern: Sudden Withdrawal or Other Changes in Demeanor
This Behavior of Concern can often get lost in the "noise" of day-to-day life and busy workplaces. Again, our tendency is often to find a logical reason as to why someone might be stepping back from social interactions, or why they might appear more sullen than normal. But, it’s the change in behavior we want to pay attention to here. Sudden Withdrawal or Other Changes in Demeanor can indicate that someone is moving from being “stressed” to a state of being “dis-stressed.” This can narrow a person’s sense of potential solutions to any problems they may be facing and, sometimes, people in these situations can come to the false conclusion that the only solution to their problem(s) is violence.
- Behavior of Concern: Outward Signs of Disgruntlement with Co-workers, Managers, or Company Leaders
This Behavior of Concern can often be minimized as normal stress coping mechanisms, like employees “blowing off steam;” particularly in the wake of organizational restructuring or changes in job role. But Outward Signs of Disgruntlement with Co-workers, Managers, or Company Leaders can also point to deeper, more systemic issues related to a person’s ability to adapt and respond positively to their work environment. Some individuals with limited coping skills can also become known as “Injustice Collectors.” These people often blame others for their problems, and when their behavior begins to emerge into open and outward expressions of disgruntlement, that can often be an indicator that something more serious is brewing.
As you can see, the above examples help to show that independent behaviors, by themselves, may—or may not—be cause for concern. Interpretation isn’t always easy and is almost never clear-cut. Overall context and circumstances must be considered, which is why trusting your intuition can be a powerful way to determine your next step. If something doesn’t “feel” right, it probably isn’t and you should err on the side of action. And, remember, if our motivation is making sure “we’ve got each others' backs,” then coming forward with a concern isn’t being a “tattletale.” In fact, your commitment to action could be the difference between someone getting the help they need or not, which just might be the difference between a violent or peaceful outcome. Most times, it’s the little things that matter and the fact is, you CAN make a difference. AWARENESS & RECOGNITION + ACTION = PREVENTION
For Managers, Leadership Responsibilities Require Additional Training
Getting Real About Workplace Violence empowers us to override our natural tendencies to try and explain away troubling behavior. It recommends bringing any concerning behavior—anything that makes us uncomfortable or seems out of the ordinary—to the attention of our managers and/or supervisors, HR, or even Security. Because managers are often approached first, the training provides additional instruction especially for them—helping them become more critically aware as to whether or not an employee might be on a pathway toward violence.
Does that mean managers are expected to become amateur psychologists or FBI profilers? Certainly not. It does mean, however, that managers need a deeper understanding and a greater confidence in recognizing potential signs of trouble at their earliest stages, when intervention methods are most effective. Early intervention provides the greatest flexibility in meeting someone’s needs and optimizes the opportunity for success in defusing an escalating situation.
The more aware and comfortable managers are in recognizing and understanding the potential of workplace violence, the better able they are to create a safe and respectful environment; one in which employees readily adopt the I’ve-got-your-back mindset and feel comfortable coming forward with concerns.
To explore more behaviors that might be cause for concern in the workplace, view a free full-length preview of Getting Real About Workplace Violence.
And start now...there's no reason to wait for September 25th to become a champion of safety and respect at your work and in your community—If You See Something, Say Something®