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Remain calm and civil to keep workplace violence in check

May 8th, 2018

By Jack McCalmon

A South Carolina Taco Bell employee threw a hot burrito at his supervisor, hitting her in the arm and leaving melting cheese on her body. Workplace violence.

The employee was upset because he was assigned to work the morning shift. Other employees were telling the upset employee to stop being a “cry baby.” At that point the employee slung the burrito, hit the supervisor, and then took his headset off and broke it. He then left the restaurant.

The manager called the police and made a complaint of assault.

Stay cool, calm

When employees flash anger and become physically violent, it is important that managers not respond with anger or violence. Instead, remain calm. This will help keep other employees from becoming violent in response.

In this matter, the employee was suddenly violent, destroyed property, and then he walked away. This was a good outcome for everyone involved.

Calling the police was also a smart move on behalf of the manager for two reasons: (1) it creates a record of the event for the termination and (2) should the employee return armed the police are present. There have been occasions when employees leave their employment upset and return to commit acts of catastrophic violence.

What is troubling is allowing other employees to call an employee a “cry baby.” This creates an uncivil environment and uncivil environments create more risk of violence and other wrongdoing. Not everyone reacts to ridicule in the same way, but there are some people who will reach a breaking point and become violent.

If this particular manager was aware of the name-calling or participated in the name-calling, she indirectly helped spark the violence by allowing an uncivil workplace.

When employees turn on another employee, the smart management move is to pull the target away from the other employees and allow him or her to vent. Often a little bit of venting will calm things down, and keep burritos on the tray.

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Written by Jack McCalmon, The McCalmon Group, Inc. and published with permission from GenRe Workplace Risk Solutions.

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