Fortunately, workplace violence from other employees is rare and it is the most preventable form of workplace violence. One of the best ways to prevent workplace violence from former or current employees is by conducting thorough background checks–including criminal background checks–before hiring any employee. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s no way to predict or prevent violence. But usually employees don’t just snap one day with no warning and go on a shooting spree. Most often the problems grow slowly, and signs of impending problems are noticeable. Of course you can’t assume that just because an employee is exhibiting problems that they will turn violent, but if an employee does show several of the following signs, it might be time to take action.
HR employees and managers should watch for the following behaviors and carefully monitor the situation. Employees should also feel encouraged to report these signs in their coworkers. If multiple people spot a problem then there definitely might be cause for an intervention.
- Mood swings
- Withdrawal from fellow employees or suddenly strained workplace relationships
- Increase in questionable absences
- Family problems
- Financial difficulties
- Substance abuse
- Tense behavior, often resulting in outbursts or overreaction
- Doesn’t adjust well to minor changes in the workplace
- Insubordination or belligerence
- Signs of paranoia
- Inattention to personal hygiene
- Blames others for their problems, feels like a victim
- Interest in weapons and violence
- Harassing others
- Fantasizes about responding with violence
- Has a history of violence
- Physical or mental health problem(s)
- Caring for an elderly or sick relative
- Childcare concerns
If there is a real possibility for violence management should seek help from a trained professional. These professionals are trained to talk to potentially violent individuals. They can offer counseling to those involved and give suggestions to improve the workplace environment.
For more information on how to handle workplace violence read “Workplace Violence: Understand and Avoid It,” by nolo.com.