Warning Signs of Workplace Violence

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 2 million people in the country who are affected by workplace violence every year. However, we can say that this situation seldom comes from out of the blue, as behavior indicators shown in the office have been linked to violence in the workplace. In fact, a USA Today analysis of fatal incidents related to such type of violence in 2004 revealed that attackers left behind some clear warning signs.

Workplace violence is linked to a wide range of behaviors and attitudes that fall along a spectrum that significantly generates a concern for personal safety, affects the workplace and results in physical injury or even death, depending on their severity and nature. While every set of circumstances and situation is unique, individuals in need of assistance commonly exhibit warning signs. And if you are feeling uncomfortable in any situation with an employee and are noticing these signs, you should take action accordingly.

However, you should also consider that not just because a person exhibits these behaviors, it necessarily means that they are prone to acts of violence. It should be a case, where someone is showing a noticeable change in behavior that is displayed constantly or where a behavior is observed in combination, that you should consider dealing with the situation in a formal manner. Here are some warning signs of workplace violence:

1. Excessive Whining or Complaining.
This can be one of the first signs that a worker has experienced a triggering event that could escalate to anger and violence, particularly if he is used to be contented at his job.

2. Excessive Absences or Tardiness.
A staff member who is consistently leaving his workday early without authorization or is presenting numerous excuses for shortening his shift can be considered to set off an alarm. This is a significant sign especially for a person who is typically committed and prompt with a full day of work.

3. Withdrawal.
When you notice an employee who is completely retreating into his shell, he could be demonstrating trouble with coping up.

4. Increased Need for Supervision.
In general, employees should require less supervision as they become more proficient at work. Those who exhibit an increased need for supervision or those whom their superior must spend excessive amount of time can be considered as individuals who are signaling a need for help. As manager, you should be alert to this change and think of offering professional intervention if necessary.

5. Shift from Typical Behavior.
If an employee is usually introverted and reserved but suddenly started socializing and chattering or if he is an extrovert who suddenly grows silent or retreats, he can be showing signs that something is wrong.

6. Lack of Performance.
If one of your people, who is normally productive and efficient, experiences a sustained or sudden drop in performance, this should be a reason for concern. Actually, this is a classic warning sign of dissatisfaction, and you should meet with the staff member immediately to come up with a course of action that is mutually beneficial.

7. Obsessive Conversations and Thought Patterns.
An employee who is starting to rant against those in authority or talk unnecessarily about unfairness could be a significant warning sign.

8. Variation in Working Habits.
With regards to reduction in productivity, a worker who exhibits inconsistent working habits may be needing intervention. You should know that your employees should typically be quite consistent in the tasks they are assigned to, and if their habits change, you can suspect them to be needing assistance, and you should take action.

9. Change in Attitude.
A sustained behavioral change often indicates that an employee is experiencing difficulty. Being typically familiar with the personalities of your own people, you should be quick to notice significant changes. Manage your work environment in a way that you ensure open communication and trust.

10. Inability to Concentrate.
If you observe an employee is suddenly unable to focus on his job, it may mean that he is distracted or having troubles. As manager, you should try and encourage him to seek assistance.

11. Unreasonable and Dramatic Demands.
This is exhibited with impatience and persistence on an immediate response, when an employee knows a certain task takes time. For example, a marketing assistant is demanding to see the CEO immediately, which means the former should be troubled.

12. Sign of Stress.
One indicator that a worker is under a great deal of stress is if he has traditionally adhered to safety procedures but is suddenly involved in a safety violation or an accident. This can be a significant contributor to violence in the office.

13. Personal Insults.
When an otherwise respectful employee is suddenly flying off the handle and engaging in an assault, it can mean his anger is building up.

14. Irresponsibility.
When an individual uses excuses and blames co-workers, it is a warning sign of workplace violence. Though this is easy to identify, it is often ignored by managers. So, do not commit the same mistake and provide assistance and counseling to a worker who engages in this behavior.

15. Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
Changes in a person’s character or mood when alcohol or drugs are used are important things to watch out for. Often, people who are experiencing substance-abuse issues would act out in the office, so it is important that you use some procedures to identify and help these individuals.

16. Fascination to Weapons.
If you notice that someone is overly fascinated with weapons, you should dig into the matter properly. If you see something is really wrong, you should take appropriate actions.

17. Threats.
Obviously, this is the most potent warning sign that violence could occur at work. If a worker starts saying that he wants to hurt someone, it is a red flag. This is especially true if a plan of the act is expressed and the intent to carry it out is eminent.

Remember that these are only a few of the possible warning signs of workplace violence. As with any issue that is related to work, you should deal with unusual behavior and use your authority to take action.