Part 2

Threat Management

Learning how preventing workplace violence works is critical to the safety and security of everyone concerned.

Any prevention program should recognize the potential for violence.

Workplace violence is not always predictable, but employers and employees can work together to minimize it's consequences.
workplace violencethreats

The desperate bank robber
A bank teller is handed a note by a "customer" that says this is a robbery and to put all the money she has in a bag. A loan officer notices the suspicious body language of the "customer" and alerts security. The "customer" turned robber realizing he's in trouble, jumps the counter and takes the teller hostage. The robber shoots one of the security guards while using the hostage as a shield to exit the bank.

He then forces the teller into his accomplices waiting vehicle, resulting in a high speed chase to escape police. Unfortunately, the chase ends in a crackup and the teller is seriously injured. The security guard dies from his wounds several days later.

This scenario is an example of the acts of crime type of violence in the workplace.

The robber had no relationship with the workplace, in this case the bank. Both the security guard and teller are employees that become victims the robbers violent act while committing crimes. Workplaces with the highest risk of violence especially murder,are those that involve heavy public contact, exchanging cash, etc. According to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation),

"This type of violence falls heavily on particular occupational groups whose jobs make them vulnerable: taxi drivers (the job that carries by far the highest risk of being murdered), late-night retail or gas station clerks, and others who are on duty at night, who work in isolated locations or dangerous neighborhoods, and who carry or have access to cash."

preventing workplace violence scenarios

Workplace Violence Threats

Employers with cash on hand and heavy traffic are at very high risk of workplace violence normally associated with robbery. In the bank's case, violence prevention is tied to robbery prevention.

(1) Could the bank implement better security?

(2) Should the bank change it's strategy for stopping robbery?

(3) Would any change in strategy put the employees and customers at lesser or greater risk?

The furious fired worker
A supervisor at a textile mill is told by an employee he fired, "I'll see you in hell first if you think you're going to get away with this!" The employee had poor attendance and job performance. For 6 months she had been moody, irritable and had many conflicts with co-workers.

Her minimum job requirements did not improve after appropriate warning stages. The terminated employee yelled her threat in front of several employees and two vendors from whom the company purchases supplies. The ex-employee is also well known for being an avid hunter who owns several rifles.

This workplace violence example deals with the employee-on-employee type. Preventing workplace violence in the textile mill has become a complicated affair. The employer in this example has some additional workplace violence concerns.

  • What does the "I'll see you in hell first..." threat mean?
  • If the threat of violence is genuine what preventive measures can the company take?
  • Since employees heard the threat, the employer has to address it quickly to head off panic.
  • What does the company do to make the vendors feel comfortable about continuing to conduct business safely?
  • Are there any steps that should be taken to protect the supervisor that was threatened?
  • Should law enforcement be contacted immediately?

preventing workplace violence scenarios

Violence Threat Vulnerability Assessment

Everyone in the workplace should be aware of what the employer is doing to ensure their safety.

As an employee I'm also concerned about what steps I can take to protect myself.

Whether a threat of violence is real or not is impossible to predict. Therefore, employers should deal with every threat as being real. Violence vulnerability assessments must begin with an effective workplace violence strategy.

Research reveals three main areas of concern for any workplace violence prevention program to be successful.

Determine who is capable of violence
It should be deciding what standards will be used to investigate who may become a threat. Then employers can decide who inside or outside the company is best suited for conducting an investigation of the individual posing the threat of violence.

Outside resources usually involve some area of law enforcement. All relevant management and employees should be informed about any violence prevention programs in place. After the plan of action is established it should then be handled by those responsible for investigating the threat of violence.

Evaluating the risks
The next step should be to estimate the danger or menace someone threatening violence may cause. The employer should have a personal meeting with the potential threat employee. Then, gathering information about the suspect person should include their behavior, statements of violent intentions, actions, ability to handle stress or pressure and anything else that caused co-workers, managers, vendors and customers concern.

When preventing workplace violence the investigation also involves collecting information from everyone having contact with the potential perpetrator. Assembling all relevant written info the subject may have produced associated with the violent behavior. These may include emails, memos, pictures, blogs, websites, books and magazines.

Supervision, monitor and control
A properly conducted investigation will include an appropriate employee background check of the criminal, problem employee, customer or personal relation of an employee. This will reveal info such as criminal history and mental health issues. In the process of determining the potential threat of workplace violence employers that take advantage of a properly applied pre employment background check will potentially minimize the risk and increase the ability of preventing workplace violence.

preventing workplace violence scenarios

Threat Risk Assessment

Performing an in depth report on the motivation and intentions of the threat employee is essential to the success or failure of any security threat assessment program. For example, has the employee displayed any of the following attitudes glorifying violence.

  • frequently boasts about shooting firearms
  • loves talking about all types of weapons
  • talks a lot about "blowing someone away"
  • has a history of stalking co-workers or others
  • commonly talks about wanting to commit violent acts

As employees we should understand how important it is for our workplaces to make proper decisions when meeting with an individual suspected of becoming violent. If the employer decides to talk to he or she many things have to be considered. What led to the investigation? Does the employer have anyone trained to conduct the meeting? What are the potential legal issues? Does the employer have the proper tools necessary for the meeting? At what point should the employer meet with the person? Is there a workplace violence plan?

Many experts believe the best course of action is to interview the problem individual when he or she has confronted or threatened the potential victim(s). Unfortunately, meeting with the perpetrator may heighten the potential for violence. Therefore any meeting should be performed under a general policy of preventing workplace violence.

preventing workplace violence scenarios

Any plan to prevent workplace violence has to include gathering information on the potential target or victim(s). Meeting and interviewing those in the workplace who have been threatened with violence can help determine if the threat is genuine or not. The following are important questions a threat investigator should ask.
  • Is the potential victim familiar with the perpetrator?
  • What resources are available to protect the potential victim?
  • Does the potential victim fear the "threat" individual?
  • Has the threatened employee provoked the perpetrator in some way?
  • Is the "threat" individual after someone specific or everyone in general?
  • Is the threatened individual a vendor doing business with the company?

We continue our look at preventing workplace violence part 3 which provides solutions for stopping violence before it starts.

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