Why rare violence gets ink

A Connecticut hospital was the scene of a workplace violence incident this week that left two employees in critical condition. The violence was pepetrated by a disciplined employee on his colleagues. I sometimes think about why we give so much virtual "ink" on SIW to workplace violence when statistically these are pretty rare events. As journalists, we're always criticized for the "if it bleeds, it leads" model. Statistically, our readers are right to question us. Incidents like petty theft of things like iPhones, wallets, laptops, car radios and the like are much more common in any environment. If you asked most hospital security managers what their most likely security breach was each day, I'd wager it to be a break-in that happens in the parking lots. Outside the hospital environment, it's probably the same types of thefts, but also occurring in unsecured offices, employee locker rooms and cubicles.

So even though these workplace incidents are statistically rare, the reason we give them heavy ink is that they impact us more. You lose your iPhone because you forgot to lock your office when you went to lunch and you don't think much of it, other than "Wow, you really can't ever trust your office visitors" and "I should have taken that with me or locked it up." You're upset. You talk about it for a bit in the office, but surprisingly quickly it becomes forgotten and you're able to move on and get that spreadsheet done.

But when an employee-initiated workplace violence incident occurs (deadly or not), the disruption factor is enormous. Grief counseling. Investigations. Offices closed. Psychological analysis. Trauma therapy. It shakes the very foundation of a workplace; it shakes the belief that "Even if we aren't all best friends, we're all in this together."

A basic tenant of security and risk management is that you focus resources on the most likely scenario. That's the stolen iPhone in the office. Following this tactic, we put cameras where thieves are most likely to shoplift. You put card access control on the doors that hold the most valuable stuff. But you also plan for the most disruptive scenarios, because while property theft can wake up your employees, a workplace violence incident can wound your business environment and your people.

(If workplace violence is part of your job description, we are offering a webinar on March 8th about handling active shooters in hospital environments. The lessons are hospital-focused, but it's useful education for anyone in the security industry.)