Violence by Employees and Former Employees

Workplace violence committed by current or former employees is the most foreseeable because the perpetrators are coworkers we see every day. Although some employees resort to violence without any warning, it’s relatively uncommon for someone to simply snap one day and go on a rampage. Instead, experts say that the problem often builds up slowly, and the perpetrator may exhibit certain signs of trouble before becoming violent.

Of course, no single one of these signs, taken alone, is a sure indicator that an employee may turn violent. But managers and HR professionals should be on the lookout for clues indicating that intervention may be necessary.  If other employees notice these signs and have concerns, they should raise them with a manager.

Things to look for include

  • an unexplained rise in absences
  • substance abuse
  • outbursts at coworkers and customers or poor impulse control generally
  • verbal abuse or threats toward co-workers and customers
  • making harassing phone calls or email communications
  • strained workplace relationships
  • overreaction or resistance to even minor changes in workplace routine; insubordination and belligerence
  • lack of attention to personal appearance, including hygiene
  • interest in firearms or other weapons; access to weapons
  • signs of paranoia (“everyone’s out to get me”) or withdrawal
  • fascination with violent acts or fantasies, or a history of violence
  • seeing oneself as a victim and others as persecutors; blaming others for one’s problems
  • obsessive behavior toward a co-worker or customer, up to and including stalking
  • comments about suicide
  • mood swings, and
  • domestic problems, including money troubles or family disputes.

Source:  Lisa Guerin, J.D.  Nolo Legal Press ©2010

Responding to Emergency Incidents

Although most employers use the highest practical level of security in the workplace, there is always a possibility for a violent incident to occur.  If this happens:

  1. Contact local law enforcement (911) and follow their instructions
  2. Notify security, a manager or supervisor
  3. Get people away from the scene as quickly as possible
  4. Secure the area if possible to preserve the crime scene for later investigation
  5. Most importantly, STAY CALM.

Consider having KeySolutions come in and do a “Preventing Harassment” or “Conflict Resolution” training before problems arise. Contact us at 605-334-5850

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