The deaths of the Beth Butler and Butch Baker is, of course, an example of physical violence. Their killing is also an example of workplace violence. Policing was the officers’ work. The Santa Cruz community in which they were shot was their workplace. Theirs’ was dangerous work. As was beautifully pointed out by their family, friends and colleagues, they choose this work not because they liked danger. They were the kind of people who wanted to use their smarts, talents and hearts to help and protect others. Police work helped them enact a first line of defense against those who would assault others, to be peace officers.
In Memoriam, I attended the services for these fallen Santa Cruz police officers. Such events lead us to reflect, and as I was listening to the well-considered and well-delivered speeches, my thoughts lead to the topic of violence. We most often think of physical violence when we say the word. My experience, which unfortunately is extensive, has taught me there are two additional forms of violence – emotional and verbal violence.
All violence always has violent consequences.
- Emotional violence kills hope.
- Verbal violence kills the spirit.
- Physical violence kills the soul.
We are a violent culture and violence occurs in every part of it, including most of our workplaces. That we keep denying this knowledge is an affliction of our society. Emotional violence kills our hope for a better future which, reinforced by verbal violence, keeps our American spirit down. Together they create a psychology that keeps the majority passive and compliant. All forms of violence are hierarchical acts, designed to hold power over another person. All forms of violence are acts of abuse, which is why abuse is so devastating. Your family, your friends, your co-workers, including those in management, should act as your first line of defense, not be the people you fear. This is what these officers were doing, Investigating abuse and acting in someone’s defense.
Squashing the voices of those that stand up and speak up for themselves is an act of violence. At work, this violence kills the hope in management as leaders, the spirit that fuels joy and creativity for the work done and the trust in a safe place to work, the company soul. Workplaces that allow this violence are cultures where command and control enforces compliance and escalation is the only means of settling a disagreement. This is why HR is so wrong-headed. They protect the corporation and the violent perpetrators within. If you dare to speak up, they enact additional violent consequences in forms such as personal and monetary blackmail and character and career assassination. We need to remedy this and hit reset.
It is time to work out loud. Silence sanctions violent actions. Let’s be silent no further. No secrets and bad-mouthing behind people’s backs. No dust bunnies shoved under the rug. No peer pressure and hidden agendas. No hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil. No ‘Pleasantville’ and ‘Stepford’ cultures policed by predator drones, human or technological. We deserve to work protected, by peace officers and each other. We deserve to work free from threat without psychological, career and monetary blackmail and repercussions. We deserve to work secure. We deserve to work in peace.
“Elizabeth Butler made life fun,” said Beth’s sister. Violence took that away from them. Violence takes that away from your work, your sense of accomplishment, your enjoyment in your daily tasks and the work of others. Violence – emotional, verbal and physical – takes away the ability to trust, care a whit, support, cooperate, be considerate, be part of a team and to work and to live life to its fullest.
ACCOMPLISH: What if you went to work tomorrow happy to do work?
CONGRUENCE: What if you went to work able to trust?
DISRUPTION: What if you knew how to respond to a work crisis?