Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twenty-six percent (26%) of employed adults say they have seriously thought that someone in their workplace was capable of mass violence...

I read this poll over at Rasmussen and wasn't surprised:

Twenty-six percent (26%) of employed adults say they have seriously thought that someone in their workplace was capable of mass violence, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Most working adults (64%), however, say they have not seriously thought a co-worker would be capable of such violence. Another 11% are undecided.

One-in-three men (33%) say they have held that thought before, compared to only 17% of women.

Forty-three percent (43%) of government workers say they have felt a fellow employee was capable of mass violence, more than double the number among those who work for private companies.


A few thoughts about this. First, why do so many government workers think their co-workers want to commit mass violence? Could it be that there are just so many government workers that some may seem or act in a way that makes people think they are violent? Could it be that government workers are more suspicious of their co-workers, or could it be that the government does a poor job of screening and hires people who have behavior that is unstable, and never gets rid of them?

Second, are men just more suspicious of people or better at sensing dangerous behavior than women? And finally, with 26% of respondents to this poll thinking that their co-worker is the next mass murderer, it is reassuring to know that there are only about 1000 people murdered at work each year. But, less reassuring is 1.5 million are assaulted in the workplace each year.

A good book that I use if you are looking for one on the topic is Preventing Workplace Violence: A Guide for Employers and Practitioners.

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30 Comments:

Blogger Professor Hale said...

The ability to commit mass violence is pretty much part of the job description for members of the armed forces. In fact, the one question that the Army recruiter never asks is, "do you have the ability to committ mass violence". It is assumed everyone has the capability, needing only to learn the tools that make it efficient. I expect that this is really refering to unwarranted mass violence. But even then, I expect MAJ Hassan felt his actions were warranted.

A more useful question would be, "do you ever feel the desire to committ mass murder in your current workplace"? Then you would get a real usable gage of potential violence instead of a gage of the herd's fear of potential violence.

3:54 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger Michael said...

If more people acted on this impulse, America's unemployment problems would be quickly resolved.

4:39 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

it suggests people are paranoid and that for employers to focus on violence between employees is wasteful and possibly contributing to the paranoia.

only a thousand murders in the workplace each year?

seems like a pretty safe place to be actually.

and the job of the military is to kill people and btreak things, unless you live in canada, in which case it`s like any other government job.

4:42 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

Dear lady, everyone is capable of mass violence. Many of us, in our cubicle sweet cubicles, contemplate it several times a day.

Such as when the microcephalic in the cubicle next door starts playing rap "music" through his computer's speakers.

Such as when the imbecile in the doored office across the hall uses his speakerphone, at the top of his lungs -- without first closing his door.

Such as when an officemate plays "cubicle gaoler" -- i.e., he stands in your cubicle's entrance, arms spread and hands resting on the tops of the adjacent gray fabric partitions, and talks your ear off when you have a mountain of work to do and an unforgiving deadline to meet.

Such as when the PA system operator blares out a pain-threshold page for someone with a six-syllable vowel-free Eastern European name he has no idea how to pronounce...for the twentieth time in the past hour.

Such as when a middle manager you see once a year shows up without warning for your performance review...at the start of your lunch break.

Frankly, it's a wonder the stock phrase for an outbreak of individual violence is "going postal" rather than "going cubical." It speaks very well of American white-collar workers' capacity to absorb and detoxify the daily abuses to which we're subjected. Now if you'll excuse me, I must be off; the voices have just told me it's a good day to clean all the guns.

4:54 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger Omnibus Driver said...

Having worked for one boss who locked herself in the file room and destroyed every lease for the entire complex we managed, and who was taken, kicking and screaming, by paramedics to the local psychiatric ward, and having had another coworker who had to be sedated before she could be dragged out from under her desk and who also spent serious time on a psych ward, this does not surprise me one bit.

In both cases, there were red flags everywhere, some raised by me, and yet management in both cases was astonished when the meltdowns occurred.

People have a remarkable ability to see what they want to see, rather than what is.

4:59 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Helen
RE: Heh

Twenty-six percent (26%) of employed adults say they have seriously thought that someone in their workplace was capable of mass violence.... -- Rasmussen Poll

I'M capable of 'mass violence'. But then again, I and my compatriots have been trained in it. At the behest of our rich Uncle Sam.

So, maybe that's an argument our friends in DHS can use to justify THEIR desire for 'mass violence' against US....me and my compatriots....

Regards,

Chuck(le)
P.S. HEY! Hasan was in the Army....

6:47 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger Aurelian said...

Dr. Alistair

You really need to rethink your position on the Canadian Armed Forces. I do not think you have any knowledge of operating with those fine men and women or you would not have made such an uninformed comment. I have recently returned from Kabul and Kandahar Afghanistan and, from my experience, you will not find more professional soldiers than the Canadians. I am still wearing a como wristband in honor of the 11 Canadians we lost in two weeks to IED's. For a country with a relatively small population that is a huge loss. But the Canadians gave as good as they got and their snipers are some of the best. You owe them an apology.

7:10 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I've thought, on occasion, that someone at my place of employment was capable of mass violence. The most recent was a woman who ended up committing suicide a few years ago.

Frankly, I'm surprised the number who thought someone was capable of violence is so low. Maybe, it's a measure of the present situation and not "have you ever..."

7:26 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Aurelian
RE: dr.alistair

But the Canadians gave as good as they got and their snipers are some of the best. You owe them an apology. -- Aurelian

Interesting report, that.

Things must have 'changed' a LOT since I last had occasion to notice the Canadian Royal Army. And for the better, too!

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[God is alive....and Airborne-Ranger qualified....]

7:42 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

People change sometimes. What might have been a happy healthy well-adjusted person at the point of hire, can devolve into an angry bitter psycho over several years. Government employees tend to keep their job for years, where in private companies there is more employee turnover.

I have on 2 occasions not felt right about people with whom I have worked. Those very people were let go by my employers a few months after I started feeling uncomfortable. When a coworker starts talking about how angry they are, their problems are all someone else's fault and that they are very excited about their gun collections I start getting jittery.

9:18 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Civil Service is a breeding ground for discontented, angry people. In the seven years I worked CS, I had next to nothing to do most of the time; I figure I did 18 months of work in 7 years. This is not because I was not willing to work, but because there was simply no work available to be done, no projects to be had. All day every day was find some way to pass the time.

Many people will say, "wow, that sounds just great," but believe me, after an extended time, it is like checking in to prison each morning when you sign in. You dread ever day. I only did it for seven years and then I was eligible to retire (I was an old man before I started working for the government.) I worked with many younger people who had been doing this for 20+ years, and many of them were at the end of their rope.

Some may ask me, "why did you take such a job?" The answer is, I had no idea it would be like that. When I interviewed for the position, it sounded like they had some interesting research projects starting up (this was a government lab), and we would be funded to do work that private industry simply could not afford to do. It was really attractive. In actual fact, there was never any funding, but there was endless red tape, meetings, Navy brass to impress, dog and pony shows to do, and days and days of sitting in the cube. Looking back, had I realized what it was really going to be, I could have easily written several books on the government's time.

I worked with several very strange, scary people whom I think had definite potential for mayhem. They certainly could not be dismissed; they were CS employees, and they logged in every day. Nothing more was required. But they were angry, bitter, and they talked pretty violently at times.

10:42 PM, November 17, 2009  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

I think men are naturally better at sensing dangerous behavior in other people than are women.

Women try to see the best in everyone, even when everyone includes some really weird and dangerous people. A woman will often stay in an abusive relationship with a man or a woman thinking that she can overcome the bad behavior with patient understanding.

Understanding plus a .45 will often be more effective than understanding alone.

9:41 AM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

aurelian, my girlfriend`s son was in afganistan...too many mother`s sons being killed while under orders. he won`t be going back.

canadas military, like it`s government, corporate structure and social life...is hugely bureaucratic and socialist.

individual canadian soldiers are amongst the best in the world in spite of the headshed mentality. canadian soldiers aren`t in afganistan to kill people or break things. they are there to police the unpoliceable...and that`s why they get picked off.

a soldier`s soldier knows the validity of my prior comment and needs no apology.

9:50 AM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

When I was training at a VA psych ward, the patients would occasionally get assaultive. SOP was to page Dr. Armstrong over the hospital wide P.A. system. Able bodied staff would drop what they were doing and run to the identified location to surround the agitated patient. I counted 44 adults around one patient on the only occasion I bothered to count.

The point was to surround the assaultive psych patient with overwelming force. These were often very ill men trained in hand to hand combat. Every time I saw and participated in this show of force, the patient accepted confinement without a fight. I bet it was about 6 for 6.

I wonder how things would have been different at Fort Hood if the soldiers were allowed, or even required, to carry their weapons.

Trey

9:53 AM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger Matthew said...

First, why do so many government workers think their co-workers want to commit mass violence?

Well, it was 'capable of' and not 'want to', but I suspect that the reason why government workers may view their coworkers to be more dangerous is that our employer leads us to believe that they are.

That is, since I've become a government contractor, I've had to take yearly one-hour training courses that help me identify the signs of violence in the workplace and tells me what to do if I see the signs.

Checking my coworkers for evidence that they may snap and kill us all is not something that ever crossed my mind before I started working at a government facility.

Also, I wonder how well the survey adjusted for workplace size. I used to work in a small office with 30-odd people. Now I work at a NASA facility with a few thousand. Logically, the chances that one of my coworkers will lose it have gone way up.

So given that my employer has asked me to look at my fellow employers and make a judgement call as to their dangerousness AND that I've suddenly got many more coworkers, I would have to say that I would probably say 'yes' to this question.

9:57 AM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

dr.d, a close friend of mine`s older brother worked for the planning department of a large canadian city some years ago. in five years they had no budget to do anything and so he applied to other cities planning departments and finally went to the west coast to another large cities planning department, only to find the same situation going on there.

he did manage to complete his phd while there though....and it doesn`t snow as much, and he really likes japanese women, so he`s happier.

regarding the scary people with violent ideation....some of my clients have the wildest, most violent fantasies imaginable...especially corporate executives.

i`ve suggested one or two of them write a book.

9:57 AM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger mariner said...

What would you like to bet most of those people are leftists who believe their conservative colleagues to be capable of just about any evil?

11:53 AM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

...All day every day was find some way to pass the time. That's why we invented the internet. Solitare just wasn't cutting it.

12:48 PM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

This also explains the popularity of games like DOOM. No one minds when you kill the zombies, demons and/or space aliens.

12:50 PM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger Health and Beauty Care said...

Even i can point out people in my office that can go for mass violence. There mental state is too imbalance and they react impulsively on little bit stuff.
Gold prices today

1:17 PM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger MikeT said...

Dr D is right, but doesn't go far enough. A lot of agencies have severe personnel problems where anti-social behavior that is either from the "right group" or not blatantly violent is openly tolerated. I've seen peers who are government contractors suffer abuse at the hands of government employees and contractors who have the right connections that is so bad that it has left serious lasting psychological and physical health damage.

What's actually ironic is that people don't realize that the "high salaries" that government contractors often get comes from the fact that they are often the only IT staff and engineers willing to actually put up with the government's abuse.

2:15 PM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger Penny said...

My guess is that all of the percentages are much higher than they would have been before the Ft. Hood massacre. That may also account for the significant difference in responses between government workers and others.

5:11 PM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Aurelian
RE: By the Way....

....with which outfit and in what MOS did you serve?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[You haven't lived, until you've almost died.]

6:09 PM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger Gooch said...

Different subject - but didn't find an Email address for you so I am asking here. I am new to your blog. I noticed the "Death" T shirt photo. What is the story behind that?

11:08 PM, November 18, 2009  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

...with which outfit and in what MOS did you serve?

Having served several decades, I always am amused by this question. I changed jobs and units every 2-3 years.

8:49 AM, November 19, 2009  
Blogger jlbussey said...

Part of the reason for the government employee numbers is that unless you actually break the law, it's almost impossible to get fired. You have to actually hit someone, steal something or do drugs at the office to get fired. The bad eggs just keep accumulating because there's no safely valve for getting rid of them. (Disclosure: I have worked for the Feds for 20 years).

12:36 PM, November 19, 2009  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

What's surprising is that we do not see more workplace violence.

Why? Because the social contract has been broken. Getting into the middle class -- and staying in the middle class -- are no longer "givens" for those who work hard. Just look at the foreclosure and unemployment numbers, the one-sided bankruptcy system and the movement of jobs and dollars overseas.

Peter G. Miller
OurBroker.com

10:09 AM, November 20, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Peter wrote: "Because the social contract has been broken." I agree. I think that our spiritual contract was first broken, and led to the second default.

Trey

10:11 AM, November 20, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...

Gooch,

My email is on the right side of my blog. The story of the shirt is here:

http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2005/10/more-than-you-wanted-to-know-about-my.html

12:30 AM, November 21, 2009  
Blogger Words Twice said...

dr.alistair: “canadas military, like it`s government, corporate structure and social life...is hugely bureaucratic and socialist.”

So is the US military. One of the biggest myths is the notion that the military is some kind of ruthless meritocracy. Generally speaking, that is simply not true.

2:36 PM, November 21, 2009  

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