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Work Place Mass Killings

“So I took it into my own hands and handled the problem.  I wish I could’ve got more of the people.”  Those are the chilling words of Omar Thornton in a 911 call he made after he killed eight fellow employees at a Connecticut beer distributorship.  A short time later he took his own life.  Thornton told family members that he had been the victim of racism at his workplace, but he never filed any complaints.  In fact, the reason he was terminated appeared to have nothing to do with race – he was caught on camera stealing beer.

People who commit extreme workplace violence have some common personality traits.  Most obviously, they have an inability to resolve life’s frustrations short of violence.   Thornton stated in his 911 call that “This place is a racist place.  They treat me bad over here, and all the other black employees had over here too.”  Whether his racist claims are accurate have little to do with the inexcusable fashion in which he chose to address it which resulted in eight deaths.  Thornton never filed an Equal Employment Opportunity claim, nor sued his employer for discrimination.  If he was discriminated against, he seethed and did nothing – that is until he picked up a gun.   His firing appears to have been based on the grounds that he stole from his employer.  Thornton had apparently been confronted with surveillance tapes of him stealing beer.  Apparently he knew that he had been caught and was going to be fired.  On the day he met with his managers, he arrived carrying  concealed weapons.  He signed a one-line resignation letter, requested a drink of water, briefly exited the room and then casually retrieved his firearms to commence his killing spree.   Thornton had decided the only way to resolve his problem was to eliminate any of those he viewed as discriminating against him.   Instead of filing a complaint alleging discrimination – which would have helped build a case against his employer that would have helped the other African-American employees whom he claimed also suffered discrimination – Thornton chose to be judge, jury and executioner.   His actions reveal that he perceived he had no power to change his situation short of gunning down his managers.  He became the ultimate power broker, deciding who should live or die.  

Richard Ramirez, AKA “The Night Stalker”, once stated, “We’ve got the power in our hands to kill, but most people are afraid to use it.  The ones who aren’t afraid control life itself.”   Ramirez is serving life without parole in a California prison, his every move now controlled by others.  His logic was distorted but it is a logic shared by those who inflict workplace violence to settle scores.

We all know people who cannot be accountable for their actions and who lay blame at the feet of others.  Work place killers take this character flaw to a new level.  Work place killers are usually individuals who blame others for their failings.  They often express feelings of not being appreciated or accepted.  They tend to be loners, who are outwardly angry.  They tend not to have close relationships with co-workers, and often have a history of prior threats.  Not surprisingly, many have an obsession with weapons. 

Thornton had complained to his girlfriend about being discriminated against at work and that there was a stick figure drawn in the bathroom with a hangman’s noose.  Apparently Thornton concluded this stick figure was an overt reference to the lynching of blacks.  Apparently he never brought this to the attention of the company’s managers.  Thornton also referenced a gun shop where he had purchased his weapons, but it is not clear how this came up in conversation or whether it was a veiled threat.

The difficult issue is preventing these tragedies in the first place.  Most experts agree that prevention of workplace violence requires a combination of physical security, education about how to terminate high risk employees, and education to help employees to identify signs of potential violence so they can be addressed before they escalate.  Signs of future workplace violence could include an employee constantly complaining about an issue, blaming the company for his or her problems, making threats and becoming isolated from other employees. 

Fortunately work place mass killings are not common – less than 100 a year on average. Employers should take measures to Identify problem employees and work to diffuse these individuals will prevent future violence as well as improve work environments

Additional resources on this subject can be found at:

Hyperlinks here:

National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence

http://www.workplaceviolence911.com/

United States Department of Labor

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

http://www.opm.gov/Employment_and_Benefits/WorkLife/OfficialDocuments/handbooksguides/WorkplaceViolence/p4.asp

“So I took it into my own hands and handled the problem.  I wish I could’ve got more of the people viagraindian.com.”  Those are the chilling words of Omar Thornton in a 911 call he made after he killed eight fellow employees at a Connecticut beer distributorship.  A short time later he took his own life.  Thornton told family members that he had been the victim of racism at his workplace, but he never filed any complaints.  In fact, the reason he was terminated appeared to have nothing to do with race – he was caught on camera stealing beer.

People who commit extreme workplace violence have some common personality traits.  Most obviously, they have an inability to resolve life’s frustrations short of violence.   Thornton stated in his 911 call that “This place is a racist place.  They treat me bad over here, and all the other black employees had over here too.”  Whether his racist claims are accurate have little to do with the inexcusable fashion in which he chose to address it which resulted in eight deaths.  Thornton never filed an Equal Employment Opportunity claim, nor sued his employer for discrimination.  If he was discriminated against, he seethed and did nothing – that is until he picked up a gun.   His firing appears to have been based on the grounds that he stole from his employer.  Thornton had apparently been confronted with surveillance tapes of him stealing beer.  Apparently he knew that he had been caught and was going to be fired.  On the day he met with his managers, he arrived carrying  concealed weapons.  He signed a one-line resignation letter, requested a drink of water, briefly exited the room and then casually retrieved his firearms to commence his killing spree.   Thornton had decided the only way to resolve his problem was to eliminate any of those he viewed as discriminating against him.   Instead of filing a complaint alleging discrimination – which would have helped build a case against his employer that would have helped the other African-American employees whom he claimed also suffered discrimination – Thornton chose to be judge, jury and executioner.   His actions reveal that he perceived he had no power to change his situation short of gunning down his managers.  He became the ultimate power broker, deciding who should live or die.  

Richard Ramirez, AKA “The Night Stalker”, once stated, “We’ve got the power in our hands to kill, but most people are afraid to use it.  The ones who aren’t afraid control life itself.”   Ramirez is serving life without parole in a California prison, his every move now controlled by others.  His logic was distorted but it is a logic shared by those who inflict workplace violence to settle scores.

We all know people who cannot be accountable for their actions and who lay blame at the feet of others.  Work place killers take this character flaw to a new level.  Work place killers are usually individuals who blame others for their failings.  They often express feelings of not being appreciated or accepted.  They tend to be loners, who are outwardly angry.  They tend not to have close relationships with co-workers, and often have a history of prior threats.  Not surprisingly, many have an obsession with weapons. 

Thornton had complained to his girlfriend about being discriminated against at work and that there was a stick figure drawn in the bathroom with a hangman’s noose.  Apparently Thornton concluded this stick figure was an overt reference to the lynching of blacks.  Apparently he never brought this to the attention of the company’s managers.  Thornton also referenced a gun shop where he had purchased his weapons, but it is not clear how this came up in conversation or whether it was a veiled threat.

The difficult issue is preventing these tragedies in the first place.  Most experts agree that prevention of workplace violence requires a combination of physical security, education about how to terminate high risk employees, and education to help employees to identify signs of potential violence so they can be addressed before they escalate.  Signs of future workplace violence could include an employee constantly complaining about an issue, blaming the company for his or her problems, making threats and becoming isolated from other employees. 

Fortunately work place mass killings are not common – less than 100 a year on average. Employers should take measures to Identify problem employees and work to diffuse these individuals will prevent future violence as well as improve work environments.

Additional resources on this subject can be found at:

Hyperlinks here:

National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence

http://www.workplaceviolence911.com/

United States Department of Labor

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

http://www.opm.gov/Employment_and_Benefits/WorkLife/OfficialDocuments/handbooksguides/WorkplaceViolence/p4.asp

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