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Posted by on September 21, 2019

We teach organizations how to survive workplace violence but as always, we strongly advocate prevention. Prevention, of course, requires awareness knowledge, and vigilance. As Gavin DeBecker, author of The Gift of Fear, writes, “there are almost always several people in a position to observe the warning signs. Those who study workplace violence know that there are signs that someone is likely to commit an act of violence. Business owners and employees should know and understand the signs. 

A combination of a few (or more) of the following behaviors should evoke concern. Please keep in mind that these are potential signs that need to be placed in context. Some of these behaviours might be linked to other factors. 

Interpersonal Problems

  • Difficulty getting along with others: He is unreasonable and often makes inappropriate remarks about others. He is never content with the status quo. 
  • Interpersonal conflict: Engages in bullying and intimidation. Confrontational and unreasonable. Holds grudges. Spreads rumours, sabotages reputations, work projects.  
  • Socially Isolated: Few or no family or friends. He is obsessed with the job to the exclusion of a life outside of work. 
  • Interpersonal obsession. Romantically obsessed with a member of the workplace. Harassment and stalking.   
  • Institutional conflict: Unwarranted legal actions and/or grievances against employers. Issues are blown out of proportion

Mindset and Mood

  • Entitlement: In his mind, he is superior and deserves privilege and exceptions to the rules. He might have a history of insubordination and work performance issues.   
  • Expresses persecution theories.: The world is against him – friends, family, fellow employees, government—are out to get him. He might be a conspiracy theorist. 
  • A victim attitude: He does not take responsibility for his behaviors, faults, mistakes or actions. He blames others as it’s always someone else’s fault. He may have had trouble with the law. Again, not his fault.
  • Chronic anger: Displays unwarranted anger. Coworkers, family, friends and the government “make him” angry. Easily frustrated.

Expressions/Demonstrations of Violence

  • Violent preoccupations:  Very interested in violence and violent events. A preoccupation or even obsession with weapons. He owns firearms, is a member of paramilitary groups, subscribes to numerous military, law enforcement or underground military group chat communities or newsletters.
  • Violent demonstrations: Violence against objects. E.g. smashing his desk or throwing objects. Fist clenching, clenching the jaw. A history of violent behaviour. Threatens someone – verbally or written. This is especially alarming if he expression a plan.
  • Vindictive references: They say things like, “He will get it someday,” or “He better watch himself,” or “What comes around goes around.”

Workplace Performance and Attitude

  • Physical Health: Sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, dramatic weight loss or gain, poor hygiene. Addiction issues.
  • Deteriorating Work Performance.  Shows up late or not at all. Work projects are done poorly. Deadlines ignored or not met.
  • Recent layoff: A combination of any of these traits that leads to job loss can lead to despair and/or anger that inspires an ex-employee to pursue violence retribution.   Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay Physical Health: Sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, dramatic weight loss or gain, poor hygiene. Addiction issues.
  • Deteriorating Work Performance.  Shows up late or not at all. Work projects are done poorly. Deadlines ignored or not met.
  • Recent layoff: A combination of any of these traits that leads to job loss can lead to despair and/or anger that inspires an ex-employee to pursue violence retribution.   

Again, these behaviours need to be situated in context. Someone might suffer from chronic depression or grieving the passing of a friend or family member. Perhaps there are marital problems they are coping with. During these times, employees need support. There are, however, those instances where the person is displaying a variety of warning signs that could lead to violence. Be aware of these signs.  

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

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