It’s never an easy subject, but every business, no matter how large or small, can experience workplace violence. Even the smallest businesses need to allocate the appropriate resources toward workplace security and must take the proper precautions to keep everyone safe.
In the first of this two-part series we will help employers identify signs of potential workplace violence. Next month we will dive deeper into steps you need to take if there’s reason to believe a violent situation could happen in your workplace.
Warning signs and signals
As a business owner, it is crucial that you know and can recognize the warning signs of potential workplace violence. While it can be very difficult to know when a person is going to be violent, and not all people will show the exact signs we discuss here, workplace violence can often be prevented by understanding the behaviors that may result in physical injury or even death. While every situation is unique, there are some warning signs that are generally exhibited by individuals in need of assistance.
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It is important to note that just because someone exhibits one or more of these behaviors, it does not necessarily mean they are going to become violent. However, you should always be aware of sudden behavior changes.
When it comes to workplace violence, there are many general warning signs.
Warning sign No. 1
Crying, sulking, throwing temper tantrums, or being unable to handle criticism.
Warning sign No. 2
Exhibiting excessive absenteeism or lateness.
Warning sign No. 3
Pushing the limits of acceptable conduct, or disregarding the health and safety of others.
Warning sign No. 4
Showing disrespect for authority or testing the limits of behaviors.
Warning sign No. 5
Increasingly making mistakes and errors, producing unsatisfactory work quality, making poor decisions or refusing to acknowledge job performance problems.
Warning sign No. 6
Swearing or making inappropriate or emotional statements.
Warning sign No. 7
Being forgetful, confused, distracted or unable to focus.
Warning sign No. 8
Blaming others for mistakes, complaining of unfair personal treatment, or insisting that he or she is always right.
Warning sign No. 9
Misinterpreting communication from supervisors or co-workers.
Warning sign No. 10
Being socially isolated.
Warning sign No. 11
Having poor personal hygiene, complaining of unusual and/or non-specific illnesses.
Warning sign No. 12
Holding grudges or making threats, especially against his or her supervisor.
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There are also some specific physical signs that you should be aware of.
Warning sign No. 13
Flushed or pale face, sweating, pacing, restlessness, or repetitive movements.
Warning sign No. 14
Signs of extreme fatigue.
Warning sign No. 15
Trembling, shaking, clenched jaws or fists, exaggerated or violent gestures.
Warning sign No. 16
Changes in voice, loud talking or chanting.
Warning sign No. 17
Shallow, rapid breathing.
Warning sign No. 18
Scowling, sneering or use of abusive language.
Warning sign No. 19
Glaring or avoiding eye contact.
Warning sign No. 20
Violating someone’s personal space (getting too close).
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And lastly, be aware of anyone who shows these traits.
Warning sign No. 21
Has a history of, or is enthralled with, episodes of workplace violence.
Warning sign No. 22
Shows an extreme interest in or an obsession with weapons.
Warning sign No. 23
Has demonstrated violent, intimidating or threatening behavior toward a person or objects.
Warning sign No. 24
States intentions to hurt someone (verbal or written).
Warning sign No. 25
Holds grudges or exhibits excessive behavior (repeated phone calls, stalking, gift giving).
Warning sign No. 26
Is argumentative and uncooperative, displays unwarranted anger, is impulsive or easily frustrated, or appears to be unusually stressed.
Warning sign No. 27
Challenges peers and authority figures.
Warning sign No. 28
Has an unreciprocated romantic obsession.
Warning sign No. 29
Is experiencing stressful family or financial problems.
Warning sign No. 30
Displays negative personality characteristics, is suspicious of others, feels victimized or has a difficult time with criticism.
Warning sign No. 31
Displays a sense of entitlement.
Warning sign No. 32
Shows a lack of concern for the safety or well-being of others.
Warning sign No. 33
Is socially isolated or blames others for his or her problems or mistakes, appears depressed or exhibits a sense of hopelessness or heightened anxiety.
Warning sign No. 34
Shows low self-esteem, changes in mood or extreme behavior and/or irrational beliefs and ideas, or demonstrates a sudden or a drastic change in his or her belief systems.
Warning sign No. 35
Sees the company as their "family" or displays an obsessive involvement with his or her job; and
Warning sign No. 36
Abuses drugs or alcohol.
Even as a small business, it is important to have a workplace violence prevention policy and program that takes a comprehensive approach to identifying hazards and reducing the risks for your organization. Remember, employers have a legal obligation to provide employees with a safe workplace.
Be sure to check out the second of this two-part series next month as we discuss specific action steps you should take if you do suspect an employee exhibits any of these signs toward physical violence.
President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security Expert Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.