|“Going Postal” Identifying Factors|
|By Tracy E. Barnhart|
“Going Postal” is a verbal identifying phrase so coined in the 80’s because of a rash of postal employees that engaged in workplace violence during that time period.
I have been requested to write this particular article in light of the recent shootings on the Army Base located in Texas. The question was posed to me in this format, “can we identify potential correctional employees that could go postal inside the facility?” Knowing, that we have several weapon available correctional posts that could give disgruntled correctional employees opportunity to go postal ay any time. So the question is this: Can potential aggressors be identified? Yes they can! In fact, 99% of workplace violence perpetrators exhibit clear warning signs before "going postal". Almost never, do disgruntled employees go off and just snap before they engage in workplace violence. Over 80% are male, usually white and over the age of 30.
Here's a scary thought: More than 23 percent of workers report feeling "angry all the time" at work, according to a Yale/Gallup study. With numbers like these, it's no wonder public violence is becoming more and more common in the United States. AAOHN's American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, study found that nearly 20 percent of the entire workforce claimed they have experienced an episode of workplace violence first-hand, yet the majority still does not know what to look for when it comes to determining potential offender characteristics.
I am going to give you a lot of information as it relates to characteristics and identifying factors of potential individuals who can demonstrate workplace aggression. This article is not a know all or tell all informational but should give you enough basic information to probe further and start asking questions about particular employees. Some characteristics include:
The personal Web site for a radical American imam living in Yemen who had contact with two 9/11 hijackers praised Hasan as a hero. The posting Monday on the Web site for Anwar al Awlaki, who was a spiritual leader at two mosques where three 9/11 hijackers worshipped, said American Muslims who condemned the Fort Hood attack are hypocrites who have committed treason against their religion. Awlaki said the only way a Muslim can justify serving in the U.S. military is if he intends to "follow in the footsteps of men like Nidal." "Nidal Hassan is a hero," Awlaki said. "He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."
First of all, the value of the Profile is that much of it can be learned about prospective employees during the hiring process through careful interviewing and background checks. Now here are the benefits of the profile itself; most potentially violent persons have a combination of at least several of the following six characteristics:
Let me ask you some questions supervisors:
It was posed to me from a propionate administrator responding to this article, “I have over a 1000 inmates and 350 to 400 employees it would be difficult to get to know each one like you want.” I know it would, but your attempt to complete this task should be made each day and eventually your presence, inquisitive nature and rewarding compliments will give you a working knowledge of problems, concerns and events that are occurring within your facility. Just because things are difficult should not be an excuse in completing your leadership responsibility.
Administrators don't need to be experts on violent behavior; but they should be in light of where they are working and recognition of potential violence is a positive trait. What is needed is a common- sense recognition that, "Something seems wrong here," plus a willingness to seek advice from those who are knowledgeable about different parts of the problem. Your employees need to know that employee on employee intimidation is totally unacceptable in the workplace, and that they should inform supervisors if they feel threatened for any reason. And you must give them reason to believe that you will respond in a mature, constructive way if they do share their concerns.
As the supervisor, you may find yourself shrinking from the task of counseling an employee because you feel afraid or intimidated of the person. All of these should make the alarm bells go off in your mind. At this stage it's appropriate to listen to "gut level" reactions. You're not making any decisions yet; you're just identifying a situation that needs to be explored. Document and inform administrators as soon as you find out.
Observable Warning Signs (often newly acquired negative traits): These are often newly acquired negative personality traits. Their value is that they can be detected in your day-to-dealings with current employees or non-employees with whom you have contact. Like the profile, which it parallels, there are six categories of warning signs:
Before the wheels fall off the wagon:
Actor behaviors: Acting out on anger; actions as yelling, shouting, slamming doors, etc.
Fragmenting behaviors: Not taking responsibility for their actions, blaming others for their mistakes, unable to see consequences for their actions.
Me-First behaviors: Taking breaks during crunch-time when everyone else is working, putting their wants ahead of everything else, regardless of negative outcomes.
Mixed-Messenger behaviors: Saying they are part of the team, but not acting like it.
Wooden-Stick behaviors: Unwilling to try new technology, withholds information, wants to be in charge, is rigid and controlling
Escape-Artist behaviors: Lying to relieve stress, practicing addictive behaviors like taking drugs and gambling.
Shocker behaviors: Acting out of character or too intensely for the occasion, not showing up for work when previously they were reliable.
Stranger behaviors: Fixating on an idea or person, becoming isolated, social skills become poor.
Triggering Event (the last straw, no way out, no more options): Being fired, laid off or suspended; passed over for promotion Disciplinary action, poor performance review, criticism from supervisor or coworkers, Bank or court action foreclosure, restraining order, custody hearing, Benchmark date, company anniversary, chronological age, Hitler's birthday, as was the case for Columbine, Failed or spurned romance; personal crisis, divorce, death in family. Organizations can prevent employee-initiated violence during the hiring process through careful interviewing and background checks. For the existing work force, they can use a combination of benevolent, motivational, management practices, a zero-tolerance violence policy effectively communicated and enforced, employee training, and appropriate use of counseling, EAP referral and disciplinary action.
People who exhibit these behaviors may be on the verge of committing a violent act. Such attacks "are the products of understandable and often discernible processes of thinking and behavior." So it's up to you and your co-workers to keep an eye out for these warning signs.
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