With the recent rash of shootings in America’s offices, it’s more important than ever to spot dangerous behaviors in co-workers. Lynne McClure, author of Risky Business (Haworth Press, $19.95), argues that identifying such employees early can prevent tragedy later.

McClure, an Arizona-based management consultant, provides signs of potential violence. She begins with a “high-risk profile” to help you assess whether an employee could explode.

If someone poses a risk, McClure warns you not to ignore the red flags and not to give unsolicited advice. Instead, she outlines a three-step response:

1. Say what you see. Rather than judge behavior, describe it based on what you observe. For example, say, “You yelled and swore,” not, “You were rude.” This applies even for subtle behavior. “Your eyes look glazed and you’ve been staring off into space” is better than “Are you on drugs?”

2. Define what’s appropriate. Explain why the behavior you observed is potentially dangerous. Focus on work-related consequences, not your own disapproval. Say, “If you’re staring off into space instead of monitoring your machine, it becomes a safety issue,” instead of, “Quit zoning out.”

3. Document the incident. Write down the date, time and place of the risky behavior. Include what you saw and said and what the employee said and did in response. Ideally, you should direct the individual to an employee assistance program or outside counselors through a referral source. Don’t announce what you think should be done or ask other employees for their opinions.

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