Mass Shootings: ‘It’s Time to Listen to Each Other’
The latest wave of mass shootings in the U.S. once again strikes at our core as a society, a country, a community, and as individuals.
These incidents make us wonder what kind of future we and our children can look forward to.
We all want a solution, a way to fix this, a silver bullet—please make it all stop.
As you read on, please know I am not going to tell what you don’t already know.
But I do want to give you some food for thought—about making your workplace environment safe.
Here are some thoughts on two fronts:
Violence and shootings can happen in our workplaces or in all the soft targets of our communities, including stores, churches, schools, and public places, to name a few.
There is an endless amount of information available on these topics that range from vulnerability assessments, active shooter prevention, training, action plans, security, infrastructure hardening, and technological solutions, including the use of artificial intelligence, etc.
The list goes on forever and can be overwhelming.
On the workplace violence topic—yes, site security, access control, training, and tabletop drills all play into the need to be prepared. But let me drive the focus more to what I would argue is the root of this issue.
Cause and Effect
Recent data shows in almost every active shooter incident, a single person is responsible.
The FBI has been tracking active shooter incidents since 2016.
The active shooter universally is a person who commits these horrific acts that has all the same needs as you and I.
The need to be respected. The need to be relevant. The need to feel like they are contributing members of society, and most importantly the need to be listened to.
In all cases they feel they have been wronged and are determined to—in their minds—“make it right.”
Go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As human beings, we all begin at the bottom of the pyramid, right?
Diversity and Inclusion
I recently participated in a virtual meeting following the May mass shooting in Buffalo..
The focus was on diversity and inclusion.
All participants were offered an opportunity to share their stories. Many did. They were powerful.
So let me ask you this—as an employer, do you have a process to allow employees to share their concerns about workplace safety?
I guarantee you for those who want to be listened to, they have a lot more going on in their lives, that always shows up in those conversations.
In my 20-plus years in the safety profession, I have seen that many times when someone incurred a workplace injury or near-miss, there was a lot more going on that contributed to the issue that had nothing to do with a hazard in the workplace.
We often only found this out when we took the time to work with the employee after the incident.
Of course, we can solve everyone’s issues, but everyone has a story, and many want to tell them.
Employees may reach out in different ways to be listened to. When they feel they are not listened to, we have seen this can result in a workplace violence incident, that in some cases involves an active shooter.
For the up and coming leaders, managers, supervisors, or engaged employees, I challenge you to take an active role in listening to your employees or each other.
Create forums for open and respectful dialog.
It is your future and you need to have skin in this game.
Become an active participant rather than a reflective observer. Learn to listen with empathy and educate all leaders and supervisors this critical skill. Create that culture of open reporting.
Finally, one of my favorite tools to use as you promote active listening is Steven Covey’s story about the Native American talking stick.
Simply stated, the person who has the stick has the floor. Everyone else must listen until that person feels they have finished and are understood.
As I stated earlier, some of the most effective solutions to all these mass shootings and workplace violence predictions and preventions will mostly be technologically driven.
These types of solutions will most likely take time—and be way past my lifetime.
‘How Are You Doing?’
In the meantime, to get to the root of the issue quicker than later, here is my advice.
Take the time to listen to each other with empathy, create an open culture of dialog, and look to get everyone involved.
The most important source of what is going on comes from the ground up.
This is true if we are talking about the work environment as well as our local communities.
As the broader issues of gun violence, mental health, and access to assault type weapons are debated, there is no time to lose.
Put down the smartphone, look each other in the eye and ask—“how are you doing?” Then allow everyone to be heard and tell their story.
About the author: Michael Miele is the president of Safety Security Emergency Preparedness and Response LLC. He has more than three decades of experience working in various manufacturing sectors and a master’s degree in both management and homeland security leadership. Questions can be directed to his email.
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