Zero tolerance. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? If a corporation tells you that they have zero tolerance for workplace violence, you might be thinking, cool. You want to feel safe when you go to work. Most people do.
But then you go to the training, and you learn just how ridiculous that zero tolerance statement is. No joking about workplace violence is permitted. Um, okay. I hope I don’t get sacked for the jokes I was making during the training. The comparison was made to someone joking, while going through airport security, about forgetting to take their gun out of their carry-on, or having a bomb in their suitcase. That wouldn’t be tolerated, and neither will joking about violence at work.
You’re told about the warning signs for someone who might be prone to workplace violence. One of the items on the list was someone who’s overly dedicated to his or her job, spends long hours at work and doesn’t have much of a life outside work. I work in collections. They’re required to spend long hours at work. Combine that with someone who doesn’t have a lot of friends, and badda bing, badda boom–profile! Other items on that list could apply to shy people who have severe depression, people who are going through a lot of trauma in their lives, or people who have bipolar disorder.
What about schools? Schools have zero tolerance for violence and weapons. Again, sounds nice in theory. But there’s a huge divide between theory and intelligence. In 2002, Texas student Taylor Hess was expelled because of the knife that was in his truck. Whoa, there, it’s not what you’re thinking. It was a bread knife that belonged to his sick grandmother, and was accidentally left behind when he took the boxes to Goodwill. His case isn’t too unusual. A first grade boy boy was suspended for pointing a chicken finger at his teacher and going, “pow, pow, pow.”
What about sexual harassment? Zero tolerance against sexual harassment is a good thing. Isn’t it? I don’t know–ask the fifth grade girl who was arrested for repeatedly asking a classmate if he liked her. Good thing zero tolerance didn’t exist when I was in elementary school. I would have been arrested in third grade for chasing Randy around the playground.
Returning to today’s training session, one of the scenarios raised by the trainers was about two guys who punch each other in the arm every morning by way of greeting. While it may not constitute workplace violence, someone could perceive it as such, and report it, so it’s probably a good idea for those two guys to rethink their greeting. Maybe they should shake hands instead. Massive rolling of the eyes should be happening now. I think I sprained my ocular muscles when this was brought up.
No policy is going to be perfect. No policy will please everyone. No policy can prevent every case of violence, or sexual harassment, or anything else it is created to prevent and punish. I’ve experienced sexual harassment at work, and I’m by no means defending it. And I know what it’s like to be sitting at your desk or out on a client visit, and be afraid for your physical safety.
I just wish that people could use intelligence in these issues. If two guys want to arm wrestle or punch each other in the arm to say hello, let ‘em. There’d be a problem if they were punching each other in the face, or if one of them didn’t really appreciate it. If an honors student, or a failing student, accidentally leaves a bread knife in his truck after hauling a bunch of stuff from his house to Goodwill, you don’t need to expel him. Confiscate the knife, if you must; remind him of the policy; and call it a day. Use your brains. Be reasonable and realistic.