Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Employee Violence in the Workplace: Part 1

10 Identifying signs of a potentially violent employee

Jan just came back to the office from her lunch break. She sits down at her desk and continues working on the report that she had been focused on in the morning. Hearing the sound of somebody walking quickly in her direction, Jan looks up to see Sue standing in-front of her desk and is obviously upset. Sue begins to yell at Jan about something that occurred the previous week. Soon, Sue shows signs that her emotions are getting out of control. Within moments, Sue reaches across Jan’s desk and slaps her. This situation appears to have come “out of the blue”. However, there are usually signs or behaviors that would have warned a supervisor that something was wrong, before the situation became violent.

Employee violence in the workplace is a very serious matter. Most people think of violence as a physical assault. However, workplace violence is a much broader problem. It is any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in his or her employment.
Rumors, swearing, verbal abuse, pranks, arguments, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, pushing, theft, physical assaults, psychological trauma, anger-related incidents, rape, arson and murder are all examples of workplace violence.
Identifying an employees’ behavior that could lead to violence, is a big step in avoiding most violent situations in the workplace. Glassdoor.com compiled a list of the 10 signs of a potentially violent employee.

A combination of a few (or more) of the following behaviors should be reason for concern.
1. Excessive tardiness or absences: An employee who consistently leaves their workday early without authorization, or presents numerous excuses for shortening the workday, should set off an alarm. This is a significant sign for an individual who is typically prompt and committed to a full workday.
2. Increased need for supervision: Generally, an employee requires less supervision as he or she becomes more proficient at their work. An employee who exhibits an increased need for supervision, or with whom the supervisor must spend an inordinate amount of time, may be an individual who is signaling a need for help. Managers should be alert to such a change and consider offering professional intervention if needed.
3. Lack of performance: If an employee who is normally efficient and productive experiences a sudden or sustained drop in performance, there is reason for concern. This is actually a classic warning sign of dissatisfaction, and the manager should meet with the employee immediately to determine a mutually beneficial course of action.
4. Change in work habits: As in the case of reduced productivity, an employee exhibiting inconsistent work habits may be in need of intervention. If you think about your peers at work, they are typically quite consistent in their work habits. If habits change, the manager has reason to suspect the individual is in need of assistance and action should be taken.
5. Inability to concentrate: If an employee is suddenly unable to concentrate, this may indicate that they are distracted and in trouble. A manager should be notified to try and encourage the employee to seek assistance.
6. Signs of stress: If an employee who has traditionally adhered to safety procedures is suddenly involved in accidents or safety violations, this is often a sign that the employee is under a large degree of stress, which can be a significant contributor to workplace violence.
7. Change in attitude: A sustained change in behavior is often an indication of an employee in difficulty. People are typically quite familiar with the personalities of their peers and are often quick to notice major changes. Your work environment should be managed in such a way as to ensure trust and open communication.
8. Weapons fascination: A classic behavioral warning sign is someone who is fascinated with weapons. This should be easily recognized and reported.
9. Drugs and alcohol: Watch for changes in the person’s mood or character when drugs and alcohol are used. Often people who have substance abuse problems act out in the workplace, and it’s important that every organization have some methodology in place to identify and assist victims of drug or alcohol abuse.
10. Not taking responsibility for their actions: A person who uses excuses and blames others is a classic behavioral warning sign that is easy to identify but just as often ignored by managers. A worker who engages in this behavior is typically signaling for assistance and may require counseling.

While the 10 signs above do not guarantee an employee is going to become violent, they are signs to look for in helping prevent violence in the workplace.

Coming soon: Part 2 in this series of Employee Violence in the Workplace – Potentially Violent Employee Identified . . . Now what?

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