Seattle’s Workplace Violence Incident Reminds Us To Pay Attention

According to most Washington State media reports, at just before 2pm on Friday, March 7th, 2013,65 year old Bill Keller was shot in the chest by his co-worker, 46 year old Carolyn Piksa. The shooting happened at their workplace, a North Seattle Parks and Recreation maintenance building.

The victim continues to recover in hospital, and the suspect was arrested at her home without incident.

Whatever the motives or background story to this terrible incident, it serves as a reminder to us all that the workplace can be full of dangers and threats in the guise of our colleagues and co-workers.

The trouble is, we’re so used to seeing the people in our workplaces, that we don’t pay attention to the little details someone may show when things are not well. We’re busy doing our jobs and therefore, not focused on trying to identify the change in behavior that the person working alongside us is exhibiting. In fact, if we do notice something, we’re more likely to dismiss it as being the result of that person having an off day and with statements such as, “they have a lot of stuff going on in their lives right now.” (Which in many cases may be true but….)

It tends to be only after the fact….following a tragedy when someone has been seriously hurt or even killed, that the little warning signs begin to make sense, and all of a sudden people are making comments such as “I had a feeling something like this would happen.”

The Number One Rule

We all need to pay more attention to what is going on in the neighboring cubicle to ours remembering the Number 1 rule:

Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.

The warning signs are there for everyone to see, like the forest and the trees.

People  only see what they’re looking for.

Warning signs that many experts agree that colleagues and supervisors should be vigilant for, include the following:

  • Excessive tardiness or absences for work

  • An abnormal need for supervision

  • A lack of work performance

  • An unexplained change in work habits

  • An inability to concentrate

  • Signs of stress (which we have covered in some recent blogs)

  • A unexplained change in attitude

  • A fascination with weapons

  • Signs of drugs or alcohol use

  • Not taking responsibility for their actions (remember the Number 1 Rule)

No one has even regretted paying too much attention to what is going on around them at work. Its how our species has survived on this planet for so long: because we’re supposed to pay attention to what is going on around us.

Pedestrians get killed every day of the year because someone (the pedestrian or the driver) didn’t pay enough attention at a time when they should have been.

It is time to wake up and pay attention.