Defusing The Violent Mind: A Look At Workplace Violence
Bruce Blythe makes his living talking angry people down. Not off the ledge, or from the bridge, but from the potential to inflict harm on their bosses and co-workers. Blythe, Chairman of Crisis Management International, shared much of his insight on the topic to attendees during a session today at the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference in Las Vegas.
Blythe and his company can be hired to intervene when a company is dealing with a potentially dangerous (often recently terminated) employee. He indicates that the understanding of a violent mind is an essential part of this process. The underlying issues for many prone to violence include rejection and failure, with a high correlation to low self esteem. The person prone to workplace violence, statistically likely to be male, must feel superior to others in order to feel better about themselves and to gain a sense of control. This low self esteem often leads to bullying behavior on the job, and leads this type of person to blame everyone else for their problems; it is simply easier than having to look inward and accept personal responsibility.
Such a person, suddenly terminated (often for reasons related to their behavior), will feel that they have been unfairly targeted, and that the action taken toward them is completely unjustified. The violence prone employee will often make verbal threats towards their employers and others they hold accountable for their problems. Blythe indicated that part of the mental process for these people can include fantasizing about how and where they will take their targets out.
Blythe openly shared how they go about diffusing the situation. He will contact the employee as a neutral third party, telling them their employer had concerns about the fairness of the termination. He says it is critical that the potentially violent person be heard and understood, has his self worth bolstered, and feels a sense of fair treatment. He will be sympathetic to their view, and assures them that he will personally take their concerns to senior management.
This process, along with a specific follow up timeframe, is, according to Blythe, critical in defusing the violent mind.
Part of the process includes what Blythe referred to as the "I have a question" technique. This method apparently makes it easy to overcome objections and stop rants in their tracks, simply by saying, "I have a question: What would you want or need to resolve this?" They also work to expand this persons options, in case they cannot get what they want from the process.
This approach raised a few eyebrows, I am sure, but Blythe explained that a skilled Threat Specialist must go in the same direction as the threatening persons energy, and strategically align with them. Once they have gained their trust, listened to their concerns, and instilled a sense of fairness with the person, they can then try to move them in a positive direction. Blythe even indicated that sometimes these people do get some concessions or assistance from their former employers.
He was quite honest with the group, saying that while it might not be fair, the potentially violent employee may get more than a quiet, more reasonable person in the same position. While that might be counterintuitive and somewhat grating to a CEO dealing with this issue, it beats a bullet in the head, any day of the week.
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