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Red alert: The 8 warning signs of violent employee behavior

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Preventing Workplace Violence

When workplace violence occurs, employees may say their violent co-worker "just snapped." But, the truth is, people usually don't snap.

They display warning signs long before they actually act out. The key is to talk to employees early in this "previolence" stage to offer assistance and/ or let them know their behaviors are unacceptable. Too many supervisors let things like threats and argumentative behavior slide until it's too late.

"A lot of people think violence hasn't occurred unless someone is bleeding, and that's not true," says Dr. Dennis Davis, author of Threats Pending, Fuses Burning: Managing Workplace Violence.

Some in HR or management don't confront such people because they fear that conflict will trigger violence or that they'll become a target of the violence. Again, not true.

"Ignoring the individual will only encourage more violence because that person isn't getting the reaction they want from you," says Davis. He suggests employers be on the lookout for workers who display any of these eight warning signs of violent behavior:

1. Fascination with weapons. That's different than ownership of weapons. (Think Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.)

2. Substance abuse. Research shows a big correlation between substance abuse and violence.

3. Severe stress. Stress is a function of modern society but people with a propensity toward violence allow that stress to become an excuse for violence.

4. Violent history. "Once people cross that moral, ethical or professional barrier into violence," Davis says, "it's a lot easier for them to do it the next time."

5. Decreased or inconsistent productivity. Employees with a tendency toward violence have a harder time keeping a consistent level of productivity.

6. Social isolation and poor peer relationships. Loners are more likely to act violently because they don't have a social network to work out problems.

7. Poor personal hygiene. These people have moved into the dangerous "I don't care" phase.

8. Drastic changes in personality. It's a myth that you need to watch out for ultra-shy or ultra-outgoing employees. Davis says, "You need to pay attention to the person who flip-flops between the two."  

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Janice Cregger August 30, 2015 at 11:13 am

I am manager of a small bread store. I often work alone. I receive deliveries from 6 trucks five days a week. One of my drivers who is a relatively new hire has very odd behaviors. He is very much a ‘loner’. All but one of my other drivers want nothing to do with him. He has avoidance behaviors. He avoids eye contact. He sometimes will not return if I am there. He sometimes paces the warehouse back and forth. I hear from others that he ‘thinks I am against him’. To me that is paranoia which frightens me. He has lied about statements that he says I made to him.
He is a poor performer in my opinion and I have shared that with my supervisors. I am not for or against him…I am simply honest about all my drivers performance. It is part of my job as store manager.
He has a conviction as a sex offender and is registered as violent. He has not said or done anything to me personally to date. I just don’t feel comfortable being alone with him. I feel he has a propensity for violence and that if his job performance leads to disciplinary action he might blame me. I have offered to sit down with his supervisor and him to resolve the issue. I spoke with HR by telephone and their response was basically that his conviction involved an x-wife so no worries. What should I do?
This whole situation his creating a difficult work environment. Everyone, including his supervisor, is aware of the undercurrent of tension. I fear being designated as the problem if I complain. I have nothing concrete to complain about. It’s his behavioral ques that worry me. I have voiced some concerns to my immediate supervisor with little response.
So what do I do about an employee who is demonstrating signs of mental instability and meets 4 of your 8 warning signs?
I have informed my family of the situation and advised them that if something should happen to me look for him. He is half my age and twice my size.


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