How to recognize the potential for workplace violence

Most incidents of workplace violence don’t involve an active shooter, but everyone should be able to recognize when a violent situation may develop. Consider that the source of the violence is often a current or former employee, or an acquaintance of a current or former employee.

People typically do not just “snap,” but rather display indicators of potentially violent behavior over time. If these behaviors are recognized, they can often be managed and treated. Alert your supervisor or human resources department if you believe an employee or coworker exhibits potentially violent behaviors. Common motives for active shooters include anger, revenge, ideology and untreated mental illness.

Some possible indicators of potentially violent behaviors include the following:

  • Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs

  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism

  • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene

  • Depression/withdrawal

  • Resistance and overreaction to changes in policy and procedures

  • Repeated violations of company policies

  • Increased severe mood swings

  • Noticeably unstable, emotional responses

  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation

  • Comments about suicide or “putting things in order”

  • Paranoid behavior or comments (such as, “Everybody is against me”)

  • Increasing talk of problems at home or severe financial problems

  • Escalation of domestic problems into the workplace (angry phone calls or visitors)

  • Talk of previous incidents of violence

  • Empathy with individuals committing violence

  • Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons and violent crimes

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