CAUTION under -- REACTION: Lessons From Ft. Hood

Roselle, Bruce
April 2010
T+D;Apr2010, Vol. 64 Issue 4, p50
The massacre at Ft. Hood, in which an Army major killed 13 and wounded 42 military and civilian personnel, raises important questions about a little-examined behavioral problem: under-reaction. The media seems mostly focused on the question of whether this was a terrorist act or another example of someone "going postal" due to psychological problems. We will not address that question here. The more compelling question for those of us who coach and train organizational leaders is why so many people suspected issues with this Major Nidal Hasan but neither reported them nor took them seriously enough. The question we explore in this article is what "under-reaction" is and why it exists in the repertoire of human behaviors. There may be excellent reasons as to why no one connected the various "dots" of events with Major Hasan and concluded that he could be a danger to himself and others. These issues involved unconnected agencies and individuals, occurred over several years, and could have been dismissed simply as cultural insensitivity on the part of the observers. Yet, we cannot help but ask, "what if someone had stepped forward and acted decisively?" The broader question that becomes a lesson from this tragedy is why people, in general, observe situations and fail to respond appropriately to them. More specifically, why do organizational leaders at multiple levels under-react?


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