This is our first newsletter of 2016, wishing each and every one of you a happy, prosperous, healthy, and safe New Year.
The end of 2015 was a busy one for us, as organizations became increasingly sensitized to the realities of high-risk events in the workplace.
As we move forward into 2016, it is hard to ignore the level of anxiety and concern that many understandably experience on the heels of San Bernardino, the Planned Parenthood attack, the incidents in Paris, and so forth.
There have been many discussions and debates on the issue, that may be exacerbated somewhat by the ongoing ramp-up to our presidential election here in the U.S. Additionally, many of the more recent events are particularly anxiety-provoking, due to their lethality and because some were perpetrated by those who were not known to the victims.
In many of the cases in which we are involved, we enter a situation that was dangerous to begin with, but sometimes became more dangerous due to the perceived threat. Sometimes, those in management quickly responded in a manner that appeared on the surface to be a rational one, that was emotionally satisfying, and which fulfilled everyone's expectations that they had "done something." However, this quickly-decided "default" response backfired and actually escalated the risk, sometimes to a point that was difficult to recover from.
In our field, it is often said that "good management is dependent on good assessment", and that applies not only to what we do on a case-by-case basis, but can also apply when society is making decisions at a more systemic level. Before reacting in a manner that may somehow "feel right", it is always important to make certain that our response to any perceived threat is one that is well considered, addresses the specific dynamics of the threat, is proportional to the risk, considers the consequences, and above all, does not escalate the risk.
It is also important that we rely on those who have the expertise and knowledge to assess the kinds of risks that confront us and to recommend the appropriate response. When the anxiety level is high, it is easy to grasp for, or advocate for, easy and quick solutions. Fear and anxiety are normal responses to these events, and should help to push us to find solutions, but at the same time, this fear should not drive the decisions of how to best prevent and manage these events.
Whether we are dealing with an identified high-risk workplace event, a dangerous domestic issue, active shooter events, or terrorist attacks, a carefully considered response based on accurate assessment remains essential. Quick decisions that serve to temporarily relieve our anxiety may only lead to greater dangers in the long term.
Just a few thoughts that I wanted to share as we head into the New Year. Again, I hope that you have had a great holiday season, and hoping further that 2016 is a prosperous, healthy, happy, safe year for all of you.
I will be traveling fairly extensively the first three months of this year in various parts of the country for training and client meetings, so always feel free to send me a note if you would like me to visit if I am in your area.
Marc McElhaney, Ph.D.
Critical Response Associates