Workplace Violence Can Be Predictable - - Jackson, MS

Rankin County 07/08/03

Workplace Violence Can Be Predictable

By Stephanie Bell Flynt

Just outside of Meridian, stunned Lockheed Martin employees witness the nation's deadliest workplace shooting in two and a half years. And the reasons could be numerous, including our conditioning to violence.

"Unfortunately, when you're exposed to it and experiencing it, you also use it as a tool," said Dr. George Davis. He is a psychiatrist at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield.

Mental health experts say this type of workplace violence is rare but many times predictable.

"Certain personality profiles...irritable, intimidating, disregards rules, preoccupied with fire arms and even talking about killing people," Dr. Davis said. He adds those are certainly some red flags that everyone needs to listen to and take seriously.

The killer at Lockheed Martin had reportedly exhibited those characteristics to many people. There have also been suggestions that Doug Williams was racist, but Dr. Davis says it's not the likely root cause for his killing spree.

"His prejudice may have contributed to who he picked out to express his anger. But I suspect there were other circumstances belying what was going on that led him to do this," Dr. Davis said.

State hospital psychologist Dr. Steve Smith points out that anger is the basis of violence and frustration is the basis of anger. But he says we may never know exactly what sent Doug Williams over the edge.

"Because they are so rare we don't often get a lot of data and most of the time the perpetrators kill themselves last," Dr. Smith said.

The doctors at the state hospital say only nine percent of workplace violence involves an employee attacking fellow employees. And most workplace violence is white against white or black against black.

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