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Hi everyone....

I'm just going to spill some stuff because it's been so stressful that it's eating me alive! Feel free to ignore me....

I've been dealing with a workplace violence situation recently that continues to escalate. There were lots of threats involved and this morning I learned that they may be serious rather than just talk. It was just vandalism...no one hurt but the car has dents on every panel and was start on fire. Don't even know for sure if it was the staff who was making the threats who did it.

I'm trying to stay logical and composed but I just keep wondering what might happen next. I wish I could just disappear for a few days but I'm the emergency on-call person for the agency this weekend so I'm on call from tomorrow until Monday morning. No escape for me :)

That's it....thanks for listening.....

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Danni, that sounds upsetting. Is there a chain of command at your place of employment where you can report these type of things? I would be concerned about the safety of everyone there especially if the violence seems to be escalating. Starting a car on fire is very serious. Can you call the police about this?

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Hi Danni,

Workplace violence is so common now that even the phrase "going postal" has gotten into everyday usage and understanding. I find it a bit scary, especially after having spent 12 years working in an inpatient setting-- there wasn't an escape. My car sat out there daily, I walked into the facility daily, everyone seems to know where I lived or could easily find out. I truly do understand your concerns, just like I understand road rage and how/why some people get violent behind the wheel.

Does your agency have a workplace violence policy, one that even protects employees who report incidents? Is addressing workplace vionce a part of the facility's strategic planning process or even just an action plan for how to address it? When we began to address the issue, we first went to the OSHA guidelines (and who says OSHA is a useless agency in the fed?):

Management commitment, including the endorsement and visible involvement of top management, provides the motivation and resources to deal effectively with workplace violence. This commitment should include:

  • Demonstrating organizational concern for employee emotional and physical safety and health;
  • Exhibiting equal commitment to the safety and health of workers and patients/clients;
  • Assigning responsibility for the various aspects of the workplace violence prevention program to ensure that all managers, supervisors and employees understand their obligations;
  • Allocating appropriate authority and resources to all responsible parties;
  • Maintaining a system of accountability for involved managers, supervisors and employees;
  • Establishing a comprehensive program of medical and psychological counseling and debriefing for employees experiencing or witnessing assaults and other violent incidents; and
  • Supporting and implementing appropriate recommendations from safety and health committees.

Some books that may help are:

The Violence-Prone Workplace: A New Approach to Dealing With Hostile, Threatening, and Uncivil Behavior

Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and Management Guide for Businesses

I realize you don't work in a hospital setting, so you may not need to take as drastic a set of measures. Because we were a psych hospital, the issue was always front stage, especially b/c many of our patients were forensic.

The part that was always of concern to me was the basic fact that violence was in my back yard daily... I worked in the same setting as those who would commit such acts, and it wasn't always pleasant.

Good luck,


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yes...the police have been called and protection orders filed. thank you for your concern. Yes....it was a bit scary and I guess I have to admit I'm a bit shell shocked.

david: We do have a workplace violence policy and it is a zero tolerance one. I was on my own today though because I was the only director in the building. I'm on call this weekend anyway so it wasn't a big deal for me to be the one "present" today and tomorrow.

The employee we suspect was let go with the result of the investigation last week. Probably a retaliation thing. The police have all the info so at this point, it is turned over to them.

I did give the other employee who was a victim of this our EAP info so she can seek counselling if she desires. It does feel like a violation. She is the direct supervisor of the person we suspect and I supervise her. I can make it mandetory but I'll let her decide that for herself.

What scares me is that we have vulnerable clients at this place who could be put in harms way too. What if this person had come in instead of just targeting cars????

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It sounds as if you did a great job with protecting the safety of the vulnerable clients there, Danni. It is frightening when anyone goes to such extremes. I'm glad that no one was hurt.

Do you think, David, that a person who displays "road rage" type of behavior feels "protected" and anonymous due to the huge metal contraption surrounding them? I've wondered about that. Almost as if this type of behavior seems acceptable because they're hiding behind the car. It's misplaced rage. Maybe it is a result of too much pressure? A time-pressured society? Workplace rage and road rage usually don't match the circumstances, so where exactly does all of that anger come from? Does this become a place to release past repressed anger?

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Hi IrmaJean,

I've thought the same thing, that the car not only becomes an extension of the person, but that it becomes a way of creating distance (like a mask would for someone) and thus allows for more aggressive behavior. I was reading about this awhile back and ran across an interesting tidbit written by Colorado State University, counseling psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, whose research has found that high-anger drivers (who identified themselves as such) differ from low-anger drivers in five key ways.

  • They engage in hostile, aggressive thinking. They’re more likely to insult other drivers or express disbelief about the way others drive. Their thoughts also turn more often to revenge, which sometimes means physical harm.
  • They take more risks on the road. High-anger drivers are more likely to go 10 to 20 mph over the speed limit, rapidly switch lanes, tailgate, and enter an intersection when the light turns red.
  • Not surprisingly, high anger drivers get angry faster and behave more aggressively. They’re more likely to swear or name-call, to yell at other drivers, to honk in anger. And they’re more likely to be angry not just behind the wheel, but throughout the day.
  • High-anger drivers had twice as many car accidents in driving simulations. They also report more near-accidents and get more tickets for speeding.
  • Finally, short-fused drivers experience more trait anger, anxiety and impulsiveness. Perhaps from work or home stress, high-anger drivers are more likely to get in the car angry; they also tend to express their anger outward and act impulsively.

There’s a large amount of research on Driver Psychology by Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl if you really want to look at this.

Danni, sorry to hijack your thread. I was wondering tho if there is any correlation between the above ideas and workplace violence. Actually, I suspect that workplace violence probably has more to do with other issues, such as depression, poor problem solving skills, anger management, impulse control, excessive life stressors, (maybe these are the underlying issues with road rage too???) etc. But then again, have we created a culture of violence, and one where self expression, even anger, is viewed as positive and constructive, especially when one feels self righteous indignation in the behavior? At this point, I too wonder if all of this would have been enough to drive someone to hurt clients while en route to do damage to those who hurt them in their eyes?

Anyway, looks like I waxed a little too eloquent on this topic, so we’ll stop here,


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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Danni,

The type of situation you experienced in your work place is always scary. Believe me, I know because I have seen the experience in at least one place I worked. The idea now is to not get too "parnaoid." Did you read carefully? Not "Too Paranoid." There is some reason for concern but, mostly, these situations calm down. So, just be alert and do not hesitate to call the police, if necessary. My prediction, based on what I have seen, is that this will just go away. It is good that the employee was dismissed.


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Allen.... That's what I feel so bad about.... i thought it would all blow over and didn't take it seriously to begin with. I underestimated the distress of this staff. I don't care about how I was affected but I do care that it affected another employee and worry for her safety. This employee is pretty new and is having a hard time with all this.

My hope is that it is done now....like you said. I keep going over and over in my mind what I could/should have done differently but am coming up empty.

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