Lessons from the Field: Deflating Workplace Violence

Football fields are rife with workplace safety lessons, and that makes sense. A lot can happen when you put 22 of the world’s strongest, fastest athletes in a confined space and let – rather, encourage – them to collide with each other at high speeds. Most of those things are bad.

But two of the best lessons in workplace safely recently offered up by the guys who suit up on Sundays happened off the field. Take the case of Jeremiah Ratliff, aptly reported by Yahoo Sports.

Earlier this season, Ratliff showed up to the Chicago Bears facility in no condition to practice. After a few animated arguments with teammates and coaches, the team sent him home. Clearly, he wasn’t going to be very productive that day.

Upon further review, team officials thought it was in everyone’s best interest to encourage Ratliff to be successful somewhere else. In short, they fired him.

Ratliff didn’t take the news well. He reportedly returned to the facility to get his personal belongings and took the opportunity to inform anyone who would listen that he “felt like killing everybody.” Team officials believed Ratliff owned multiple firearms, so they wisely called the police.

And this wasn’t Ratliff’s first blowup.

Yahoo reports that Ratliff was excused from practice last season after behaving belligerently. He later returned, destroyed a game clock and shoved an assistant coach to the ground. Amazingly, the head coach never intervened. In fact, he made Ratliff a captain for that week’s game.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case of one “bad apple.”

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has taken heat all season for putting up with, some say enabling, Greg Hardy’s violent behavior. During a mid-game meltdown a couple of weeks ago, Hardy knocked an assistant coach’s clip board out of his hand. It took multiple teammates to subdue him.

And if you follow the National Football League even marginally, you know the violence doesn’t always play out between the hash marks. The league has been navigating turbulent public relations waters in the midst of high-profile domestic violence cases. In fact, Dallas’ own Mr. Hardy is at the center of one of those cases.

The point is that workplace violence can happen in any industry. In fact, it’s the second-leading cause of workplace fatalities, behind only transportation accidents.

Fortunately, workplace violence typically doesn’t come out of nowhere. Layoffs, terminations, relationship conflicts, domestic disputes, work-related stress and job performance counseling are just a few events that could cause an employee to lash out.

Management and workers should learn to recognize the red flags. And everyone should understand what to do if they suspect an employee might act violently. Texas Mutual encourages you to revisit our blog post titled “Let’s Take the Anonymity out of Workplace Violence” for details.

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