10 Warning Signs of Workplace Violence

Workplace Violence According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 2 million Americans are impacted by workplace violence annually.

But this situation rarely comes from out of the blue: Behavior indicators exhibited in the workplace have been linked to workplace violence. In a 2004 USA Today analysis of 224 fatal incidents of workplace violence, the attacker had left behind clear warning signs.

Workplace violence is tied a broad range of behaviors falling along a spectrum that, depending their nature and/or severity, significantly affect the workplace, generate a concern for personal safety, and/or result in physical injury or even death.

While every situation and set of circumstances is unique, there are some warning signs that are commonly exhibited by individuals in need of assistance. If you are feeling uncomfortable in any situation with a co-worker, or noticing these warning signs, you should notify a manager or someone in a position of authority within your organization.

Remember that just because someone exhibits one of these behaviors does not necessarily mean they are prone to acts of violence. It is when someone has a noticeable change in behavior, when the behavior is displayed constantly, or when behaviors are observed in combination, that you should consider telling someone about the situation.

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.

Remember that these are only a few of the possible warning signs of workplace violence. As with any work-related issue, you should report unusual behavior to a manager or someone who has the authority to take action. For more information on workplace violence awareness, visit www.AlliedBarton.com/WorkplaceViolence.

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I worked with someone that posted on their facebook page about hating all of us, and wanting to go on an ax-weilding rampage. He was a lousy employee, who was more focused on doing his own thing rather than the work he was being paid to do, but everything bad that happened to him in the workplace was our fault if he got called out on something. Then unbelievably, I was let go from that company while this person not only got a promotion, which included a raise(!?), and he did even LESS work when it happened. Still trying to figure out why I was let go, when I was an employee with a solid attendance history and strong work ethic, even to the point of bringing work home to complete. I was hoping to become a manager, but I was let go instead. Two years later, I am still temping, which pays next to nothing if you can't get a long time assignment(no luck with that yet), just to try and live. But I would hardly go on a rampage, because life is just that way sometimes and I have to keep believing it will get better.

June 08 2013 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is good information/advice. Thank you

June 06 2013 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

these articles about workers are actually eerie. keep reading workers' mail, their personal comments and fb pages, lower their payable hours of work reducing their compensation, disregard the cost of medical co-pays in a lousy medical benefits program and make sure employees "tell" on each other. this will cause a productive, relaxed, industrious team effort to support the company and its profits. the psychos are those policy makers who are ignorant. in denial. and out of touch. the result will be another kind of "spring".

June 05 2013 at 2:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, by following these guidelines, many companies will have no employees left! Jeesh, what a load of crap!

January 17 2013 at 10:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment

Because you are so angry about this article I suspect you fall into one or more of those categories. If you read the story closely you will note that it says these are only potential signs that that should alert co-workers, supervisors, family, friends, etc., that there may be a problem. More importantly it doesn't say that any of the listed situations mean that there are definitely problems, only that these are potential signs. So what would you personally do, wait until an employee goes postal and be shot and maybe killed?

November 13 2013 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Omigod. I just saw a coworker reading Guns & Ammo. I should report them immediately, right? Clearly that person is teetering on the brink, ready to shoot up the workplace!

*** Ignorance. It knows no bounds.

March 31 2011 at 4:40 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to PostItNoteMan's comment

Forget "Guns & Ammo", I think you should worry more if you saw a co-worker reading "Soldier of Fortune"!!

September 21 2012 at 11:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So often when people think of violence they think of the physical not the mental. The definition of mental violence is "Strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force." Many managers unfortunately use mental violence to manage their departments. They are not managing themselves or business. They claim their style of management is _ _ _ _ _. Fill in the blank of whatever their excuse for bad behavior may be. They are what I call management by crisis. The chaos they create and response to that chaos through a lack of self control and knowledge is abusive and violent. This is where the violent problems in the workplace needs to be addressed first.

Like many of you I don't believe a person discussing a new hunting rifle or handgun should send out alarm signals. But if an employee has been under a great deal of professional or personal stress and goes from talking about their hobby to wanting to teach a person a thing or two through physical force a small red flag should go off. They shouldn't be labeled at that point, but someone should care enough to take them out to lunch and discuss what can be done to alleviate the negative attitude in the workplace.

I can't help but wonder where the caring for others stopped.

March 31 2011 at 1:16 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

markin 2500 is right ,worry about your own buisness,somethings are what they are,man up and deal with it stop analizing life and labeling people

March 31 2011 at 1:13 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Sharon is right, except for the sexual harassment part. Everything normal is now harassment. Lighten up. Cordivari is wrong about the weapons talk. Guns and hunting are just hobbies. They make for great conversation. By the way, anti-gun talk is hardly a "yankee" trait. The Civil War is over. Get over it.
Here is a trivial annoyance stirring up my violent desire to throw a pie into Cordivari's face: Notice how often he incorrectly follows "employee" with "they". Incorrect grammar makes me violent. Grrr.

March 31 2011 at 1:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

What a total load of B>U>L>L>S>H>I>T everything the writer described is the result of being screwed by your boss

March 31 2011 at 12:57 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Here's the thing: For those of you older than sixty, you may recall that violence was not the usual way of expressing frustration back in the day. Anger and depression are not illegal, immoral or fattening. The issue is why THIS CULTURE accepts violence as an inevitable consequence of personal discomfort. Once that is determined, perhaps it can be dealt with effectively. In the meantime do us all a favor and do not target people who are experiencing normal human emotions and then tagging them with labels they will never shake.

March 31 2011 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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