"13 dead in D.C. shooting", "Mass Murder Stuns Friends of Victims", "Gunman Kills 5 Co-Workers and himself", these types of headlines are getting to be the norm in our society these days. The question for workers and employers is how do we identify these potential perpetrators through behaviors, and how do we deal with issues before they escalate.
There are eight behaviors that may help predict who these people are and indicate the need for management intervention. These high-risk behaviors are everyday behaviors that occur in certain patterns - they occur long before threats or actual workplace violence actually takes place.
The eight categories of workplace violence are:
- Actor behaviors: The employee acts out his or her anger with such actions as yelling, shouting, slamming doors, and so on.
- Fragmentor behaviors: The employee takes no responsibility for his/her actions and sees no connection between what he/she does and the consequences or results of those actions. As an example, he/she blames others for his/her mistakes.
- Me-First behaviors: The employee does what they want, regardless of the negative effects on others. As an example, the employee takes a break during a last minute rush to get product to a customer, while all other employees are working hard.
- Mixed-Messenger behaviors: The employee talks positively but behaves negatively. As an example, the employee acts in a passive-aggressive manner saying he is a team player, but refuses to share information.
- Wooden-Stick behaviors: The employee is rigid, inflexible, and controlling. They won't try new technology, wants to be in charge, or purposefully withholds information.
- Escape-Artist behaviors: The employee deals with stress by lying and/or taking part in addictive behaviors such as drugs or gambling.
- Shocker behaviors: The employee suddenly acts in ways that are out of character and/or inherently extreme. For instance, a usually reliable individual fails to show up or call in sick for work. A person exhibits a new attendance pattern.
- Stranger behaviors: The employee is remote, has poor social skills, and becomes fixated on an idea and/or an individual.
When a manager, supervisor or HR person sees these behavior patterns, they must document the behaviors, talk to the employee, discuss the behaviors in terms of their negative effect on work, and require training, counseling, or both. Employers may also see the need for disciplinary action.
The manager, supervisor or HR person must then continue to monitor the employee's behavior. The goal is either to get the employee to change his behavior, via skills acquisition and/or dealing with problems in a positive manner, or leave the workplace by choice or company decision. If the latter is the case all personnel must be alerted to ensure that the individual is not allowed back into a facility without proper notice supervision during the visit.