rationalizations for ignoring warning signs

rationalizations for ignoring warning signs

Written by Robert D. Sollars

Just like politicians blowing obfuscating smoke out of their pie holes, we simply ignore the warning signs of school/workplace violence (WPV/SV). This in turn leads directly to US being responsible for carnage and destruction within our organizations, no matter what they may be, and there is no excuse for not reporting them as potential problems.

Countless rationalizations are used by students/employees and administrators/employers alike that prevent the reporting of those who may be on the edge of committing violence…either at the organization, as well as away from it somewhere else just as deadly, think other businesses, homes, shopping malls, and other locations.

YOU, the people in charge of your facility and co-worker/student, need to know if an individual begins acting differently for any reason. Whether it is after a serious incident in their personal life or where they work and attend school, doesn’t matter…both can adversely impact your organization.

The organization rarely realizes this, unless a co-worker or student trusts administration enough to report it. In most circumstances, just because someone is beginning to loosen up after a harsh stretch for them or their family could be a reason to worry.

I have nagged about this for decades, but there are always warning signs before someone perpetrates an incident. Whether they are subtle, which sometimes are nearly invisible, or not they are there. Unfortunately, there is always an excuse because the person and signs weren’t reported.

The incidents that I record over the course of the year usually give me as much information as I need for reference points to deliver a presentation. The news reports will give me several warning signs to the perpetrator even if they don’t realize them as such. If I can gather that information from media reports how can anyone around a troubled perpetrator miss those signs?

The answers are relatively simple if you look at it as a simple issue and not convoluted or complicated. It is probably too simple to be accepted by most people, including law enforcement:

It is our choice to either act upon or ignore those signs

Listed here are some of those rationalizations and excuses that you may see or tell yourself about someone you know or someone a loved one may know. And unfortunately, ignoring them could lead to an injury or trauma, psychological or physical, or worse…death. The pronoun he is written although it can easily be attributed to women who perpetrate violence in an organization, although not nearly as frequently;

  • He was just going through a tough time
  • He’ll come out of it
  • He’s not that kind
  • He would never do something like that
  • He’s not capable of doing that
  • He’s got problems, who doesn’t??
  • I don’t want to get him in trouble
  • I don’t want to get involved
  • It’s not my problem
  • Why should I care what happens to him? I don’t like him
  • I hate this place, why should I warn them?
  • This company needs a wake-up call anyway
  • They won’t listen to me

Should I continue with these lies and rationalizations for not reporting someone? We all know and have heard a myriad of these in our careers, both working and while at school. Ah, but employees are not the only ones at fault here either. It all comes down to the most dangerous attitude an organization can have towards SV/WPV. CHH.

The Can’t Happen Here attitude is one that will cause more financial loss and distress amongst schools and businesses than any other. Basically, those three words say it all…complete and total denial. It also places at the top of the list of attitudes that can get people killed while at, or because of, school or work.

Employer justifications:

  • I don’t have time to talk to them all the time; I’ve got other more pressing matters
  • That kind of stuff Can’t Happen Here. We pay & treat them well
  • We can’t worry about that. Let others come up with answers first before we do anything
  • I’m not going to coddle them
  • I’ll get into trouble for profiling them as a trouble-maker
  • I’ll get into trouble for being a bully & picking on them
  • I’ll tell human resources/counselors and let them handle it
  • They’re a good person, they will work it out themselves
  • If we discipline (suspend or terminate, it will…
  • We don’t have time for that crap Lethem work it out themselves

Any of those sound familiar? In my nearly 40 years in the security field, I’ve heard every single one of them. Sometimes it worked out. Other times the individual, even a valued person, exploded, maybe not physical violence but a verbal tirade, because of a personal issue that was dogging them. And had been for days, weeks, months, and in several cases years. The establishment finally took action…after an incident. Fortunately, none ended with a serious injury or fatality.

You may think that these justifications/excuses are a prime example of a poorly run organization. You may think that all good authoritarian people would see the signs and not allow the attitudes that foster violence. But many times, the signs are so subtle that you have to know the individual to realize if there is a problem, such as you do with your significant other or one, you’re committed to.

Then again, you can simply make an excuse and justify your inaction for it and ignore it. Will it bite you in the butt like a rabid dog or rabbit? More than likely yes. And then you’ll be in deep financial trouble, either from bad publicity, financial expenditures, or the lawsuit forcing you out of business, or possibly all of those and more.

Excuses stop us from improving ourselves and from doing what needs to be done. They only lead to failure, not success. Unknown

Like these blogs? Then please feel free to pass them along to friends, colleagues, or anyone who may benefit. Have them subscribe at my website: Sollars Violence Prevention Training & Consulting

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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