January 6, 2021: Workplace violence of Constitutional proportions in Washington D.C.

Screenshot from the Washington Post

Quite understandably, the January 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol Building is being framed largely in the context of America’s divisive political dynamics and the final days of the administration of Donald Trump. This was, after all, an unprecedented event, a violent occupation of one of the nation’s most important houses of government, at a time when the Congress was meeting to approve electoral votes for the next President and Vice President. It was preceded by a lengthy rally led by Trump and his minions, spurring members of white supremacist groups and conspiracy cults to storm the building, in an attempt to stop the Constitutional transfer of power inherent in every national election.

This event will rightly prompt a long and deep investigation, and many questions about how this could happen and what parties were responsible remain unanswered for now. True, the loss of life was minimal compared to other signature events threatening national security, such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, or the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. However, this could’ve been much, much worse, with considerably higher fatality and casualty rates, hostage taking, and an extended occupation, had things transpired even a little differently.

I’d like to add another perspective on the Capitol attack, and that is to see it as a significant act of workplace violence, prompted by leaders who favor bullying and mobbing behaviors as ways of getting what they want. Anyone who is interested in preventing and responding to workplace violence should consider January 6 as a massive leadership, organizational, and systems failure and, quite possibly, corruption. I am confident that once we grasp the enormity of this event, it will become a case study of failed workplace violence prevention and response in public sector workplaces.

We also may eventually learn more about psychological trauma emerging from that day. It is likely that a good number of people who were lawfully in the building will experience post-traumatic symptoms. This includes elected officials, staff members, security personnel, media representatives, and others. Especially for them, working in that building may never again feel safe or secure.

It is no exaggeration that January 6, 2021 will be remembered as one of the most disturbing days in U.S. history. For those of us who study abuse, aggression, and violence in our workplaces, comprehending the events of that day will take on this added dimension.

4 responses

  1. I am rapidly recovering from the traumatic events as they unfold via media reporting. The continuation of the vote confirmation greatly helped. Introducing the Healthy Workplace Bill in the Massachusetts Legislature will be of further help toward regaining a sense of agency.

  2. Pingback: Workplace violence at the top. – #Digniworld

  3. The event is similar to the OK city federal building bombing. The folks were at work as normal doing their jobs for the public. Members of the public were in the building getting those services. Suddenly the building just came apart. I got a call from my union’s national health and safety officer about it. My initial response was “is everyone OK?” The concept that our normal every day lives can easily be shattered irrevocably is stunning. All of us were potentially in the same situation those workers were! I know some of the survivors they will live with that experience forever! Their sense of safety in normal spaces and conditions was demolished. There was some closure in the memorial dedicated to those who died in the building and in the trial and incarcerating of the bomber. It is disturbing that this kind of event continues to happen here. As I read some of the detailled articles about how they ended up with insufficient safety staff; it became apparent that was deliberate on the part of some senior staff. They interfered with preparing the national guard and the military for deployment because of “optics”. I hope those folks are no longer in positions of responsibility. All those people in the Capitol deserved much more respect.

    • Carol, thank you for reminding us of the significance of the Oklahoma City bombing. It underscores the vital necessity of demanding accountability and aggressive prevention of future insurrection. Wow, I never thought I’d be using the term insurrection so easily, but it fits….

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