April 19, 2021

People demand security…as long as they aren’t inconvenienced

Written by Robert D. Sollars

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Who in security management or security professional can say this and mean it, to clients or potential clients and keep their accounts, say the knee-jerk reaction to an incident? It really doesn’t matter if it is only a financial loss or if the specter of workplace/school violence (WPV/SV) raises its ugly hideous head and, unfortunately, someone happens to get injured or killed.

No matter what it may be, there will be a knee-jerk overreaction, sometimes spectacularly, to it from the c-suite, employees, or anyone else about how poorly the organization handled the incident, whether minor or deadly.

We, as security professionals, are caught in the middle of it all, whether we want to be or not. We have been for a long time, especially at the field level, the red-headed stepchild, whipping boy/girl, the runt of the litter…and any other adjectives and phrases you can think of. We get the blame for it all.

If it doesn’t work and something is lost…it’s our fault.

If someone ignores the safety/security protocols…it’s our fault.

If someone hacks into the corporate network…it’s our fault.

If something happens to go right and we actually stop an incident…it’s supervisors & managers that soak up the accolades.

Times are a changin, but we are still stuck in that mentality. Everyone in the company, including vendors, visitors, and so on, wants excellent security. However, if they are inconvenienced… then they don’t want to be bothered with any of it. It’s a hassle, slows them down, can’t finish their work, can’t do this & can’t do that.

The biggest & best example of this was directly after September 11, 2001. That day was so overwhelming to the country and its citizens. Staring at the stark horror of the Twin Towers being brutally stabbed, burned alive, and eventually giving up the pretense of standing against everything as they fell into a huge pile of rubble.

Security companies, across the country, were fielding requests for services, both new & add-ons to current contracts, in an overwhelming deluge of service requests. At First Response, Inc. in Mission, KS. We turned down more than 3,000 hours of billable hours because even with 84-hour weeks for everyone we couldn’t do it effectively or efficiently. We did accept an extra 500 hours of coverage for existing clients only, no new ones.

Then the inevitable happened. Within 6 months, employees began complaining about the added security measures and the inconvenience, when just a few months before they were stressed out and had such high anxiety about a possible terrorist attack. They became complacent again and didn’t want security around. It was helped along by the owners, corporate boards, and others who were tired of paying such a high bill rate, which was by necessity over time.

It continues today. Employees want a safe & secure place to work, and as employers, it’s our obligation to give that to them. However, they don’t want any security that interferes with their ‘enjoyment of activities such as web surfing, opening phishing e-mails, online shopping, leaving early or arriving late, taking home 2 X 4’s, propping the door open for a smoke break, allowing people whom they don’t know into the building, and other such security breaches.

So, the knee-jerk reactions continue and it is nothing but show. Far too many times, companies will make a show of increased security to placate the employees and anyone else who may be watching them. Then as soon as the news dies down the, possibly extra, security is gone.

If it was a real show of protecting company assets, which does include their employees, they would keep the security at the same level at all times, except in extreme circumstances. But they don’t, it is at the whim of those who prepare budgets and want to show sensitivity and compassion to frightened employees, at least in the dog & pony show.

While there is nothing wrong with showing your employees compassion &sensitivity, it must be genuine concern. It’s just liked the scene in “Blazing Saddles”, nearly 50 years ago, when the townspeople constructed a fake town for the railroad to run them out of. It’s fake and intelligent people could see right through the façade, despite what upper management wants the employees to believe.

Employees, who say they are frightened and have anxiety about something possibly happening at their facility? For the most part, it’s fake. Very few people have that kind of mental instability, anxiety, stress, & PTSD to feel that way all the time. It doesn’t matter whether it be a terrorist, extremists, workplace violence, or weather-related incident…it’s more than likely very, very remote.

As security professionals, how do we increase security and keep everyone happy from the C-suite to the front-line employees? Unfortunately, it’s a matter of understanding the term/phrase…creep. No matter what the situation may be and how quickly increased security needs to be implemented you have to take the frog in boiling water trick to it.

Don’t recognize that reference? If you place a frog in a pot of tepid water that is comfortable for it and then turn on the burner. The frog will not try to escape, as the water temperature increases at an ever so slight rate. Until it’s too late and the frog is truly, and literally, cooked.

Even then you’ll still have the arguments that I outlined above. It is important to note that few people in this world appreciate the risks that we live with every single day. And not even all security professionals recognize it either, for a myriad of reasons including being ordered to not be concerned…which is unfortunate for everyone troubled about it.

It happens to Anyone…Any Time… Anywhere… For any Reason

I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear

Permission to share? Of course, with full attribution.

Copyright 2021 Robert D. Sollars

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