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You can choose your friends, you cannot choose your co-workers

Whenever a new employee is hired,"forced" interpersonal relationships are formed with existing staff.

Hopefully the employer exercised extreme caution in the hiring process and mitigated the risk of adding a bully, a harasser, or a person with violent tendencies to the work force and didn't cut corners to fill an empty position.

If however the employer got it wrong, the result is everyone else will now have to work alongside the new problem employee 40 hours a week, day in and day out. Additionally, the newly-hired worker will be in a position to gain personal information on co-workers - who they are, where they live, the names and ages of their family members - by virtue of this new working relationship.

Unlike in our personal lives where we can make decisions as to who we want to associate with, working relationships are different. They are forced on people. This is because in the vast preponderance of situations, co-workers play little to no role where hiring decisions are concerned. Yet the implications of decisions made by others can have dire consequences on their lives.

Workplace violence is real. It is a growing epidemic in this country. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration tells us at least 2,000,000 Americans are victimized by workplace violence each year with many cases going unreported. Much of the violence is perpetuated by co-workers.

I have studied more than 150 recent employee-on-employee killings that have occurred across the United States in the recent past. The stories are chilling.

Those responsible for the carnage have in some cases exercised extreme rage. In one case where the weapon of choice was a knife, a man did not just stab his female co-worker he actually beheaded her. In other situations, the killers have converted their peaceful businesses into war zones in a matter of minutes, spraying bullet after bullet on all present, with multiple victims shot dead or wounded.

I have spoken with parents of employees who were shot to death at work by co-workers. Beloved children and working Americans who got positions at businesses to pay their bills only to be murdered not by strangers but by colleagues hired by their employers.

I asked: Knowing your children as you did and with what you've learned about their killers, do you think they would have ever had anything to do with their future murderers if they were not forced to work with them? The answer was quick and without reservation: No.

My organization is the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute. There are strategies that can be put in place to mitigate the risk. Get in touch for more information.

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