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Workplace Violence

The most recent act of workplace violence in this country occurred in my backyard.  The idyllic home of theme park characters and palm trees is not immune to horrific events like those that occurred this week and the Pulse nightclub disaster last year.  Workplace violence is on the rise and many of us wonder why.  What contributes to a person having an intermittent explosive disorder or a total lack of impulse control?  Obviously nothing justifies this behavior, but there are a multitude of factors that contribute to this problem.  Violence today is more accessible, acceptable, and anonymous. We are surrounded by violence through our continuous media exposure, whether it be television, movies, video games or even music.  Our exposure only helps to desensitize the impact and increase acceptability.  But what would cause an embittered worker to kill innocent people?

Community violence or workplace assaults occur when individuals build up rage, hostility, and resentment without any regard for the repercussions of their actions.  They are usually loners who are disconnected from society and believe they have few options left and little to lose, even if it’s their life.  Many of these killers have low self-esteem, some are narcissistic, and most have difficulties with impulsivity.  They have limited coping skills and justify their actions because of what others have done to them.  Some may struggle with mental health problems, feel misunderstood, and blame everyone else.  They may have grown up with violence and believed it was an acceptable way to express anger, but for some depression is an underlying factor.  What can be done to prevent a person from acting on their aggressive thoughts and feelings?

Teaching students, workers, and managers to communicate more effectively and learn conflict management strategies can be a good start.  It would also be helpful for people to be better educated and have greater awareness of signs and symptoms of an individual who would benefit from mental health services or law enforcement involvement.  Obviously we can’t prevent or control others from acting on their aggression every time, but some preventative measures could possibly save a life.

Many aggressive people want so badly to be heard and haven’t figured out a better way to express themselves.  Being able to listen, validate their feelings, and offer an alternative solution can possibly redirect the person.  Also giving them hope and a sense of empowerment for choosing a healthy and positive option can prove beneficial.  Providing a genuine, caring and compassionate response to their anger and resentment assuming they can express it respectively will build trust and connection.  Obviously many of these solutions work best at the early stages of conflict and aggression.  If we nip anger in the bud, we can possibly prevent it from blossoming to out of control rage.

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