Physical violence in the workplace can lead to immediate termination based on the zero tolerance policies we, by now all have in place. It’s not always the silver bullet to a career ender but it certainly is a good indicator that somebody is spiraling quickly. Having said that, let’s look at what might drive an individual to commit a physical act toward a co-worker.
If I was a betting man I would always put my chips down on the catalyst being…words. Words can without a doubt heal or steal the emotion from anyone on the receiving end and leave a lasting impression that can create or decimate a relationship in the workplace or any other setting. The reality is that even a long lasting marriage can be ended with less than 3 words, whether those words are influenced by a confession or otherwise. As parents, we continuously remind our children to not ‘tattle’ or don’t be the one to ‘cry wolf’. Why do we do this? The short answer is we want them to maintain integrity no matter what age they are. We continuously make attempts and efforts to influence honest character traits to promote success both socially and professionally as they grow into productive citizens.
Comedians create routines that embellish stories based on truths in their lives, to enhance their routine for the paying customers looking on with raised expectations forcing the act to earn their hard earned money. History’s greatest moments will forever be etched due to words; the greatest moments in anyone’s personal lives are memorialized by words. Two simple words ‘I’ and ‘do’ can arguably be the most important words anyone can say. Words evoke emotion and have an incredible ripple effect as ears accumulatively receive the messages; and in the end it is words that will memorialize us in our legacy.
As obvious as all this is, it is only recently that we have started to take serious action against those in the workplace that hurtfully utilize words with intentions as serious as automatic weapons. The truth is that even simple innuendos of workplace romances can cause generations of hate and misfortune. Allegations of workplace romance can quite easily ruin already delicate marriages where several children may be involved; not only for one family but in most cases two. This is something I like to call The Madoff Effect – the wake that he left we will never know as generations will be forced to grow up with alternate plans due to one man’s malicious agenda. Slander, libel, character assassination, defamation; these are all terms that can now be descriptors as a result of the misuse of words.
We recently conducted a workplace harassment investigation in a reputable organization where somebody’s world had been turned upside down both personally and professionally based on a co-worker’s spiteful use of words with the intention of simply getting the target off of his shift. The result turned the town upside down; this is the story of Paul and Bill.
The angry co-worker (Bill) decided that he would start a rumour stating that Paul had been showing inappropriate videos to an 18 year old female summer student with the hope that Paul would simply be removed from the same crew as Bill. The fact that the organization and most of the workers resided in the same small town caused this plan to end with catastrophic results. The fact that the summer student’s father began to threaten Paul was the least of his worries. Paul’s family was in turmoil. He could no longer walk the streets in town; he could no longer go to the grocery store or even attend church as a result of this vicious lie. Even Bill was shocked at the result of his diabolical plan which continued to spin out of control. Eventually we were called in to conduct an investigation through interviews of several co-workers who were well aware of this ongoing feud. The investigation opened a Pandora’s Box that unveiled and implicated Bill in years of bullying with even further intimidated co-workers. Although the result for Bill was less than desirable, the result of this slander for Paul was irreparable. In the eyes of the public he would forever be labeled as ‘that guy’ regardless of his innocence because after all, as far as the public was concerned, there must have been some truth to it.