Workplace violence often grabs media attention, and attacks from employees can often put companies and communities in the spotlight. For example, in September 2014 a recently terminated UPS employee working in Alabama opened fire on his coworkers. After killing two, the gunmen then turned the gun on himself. While attacks like this are rare, they can have lasting impacts on the organizations affected.

Although the rate of workplace violence in the US has been in decline, the brutal nature of these crimes demands that organizations focus on prevention. Fortunately, the issue of workplace violence has been researched and studied for years and common characteristics have been identified as red flags for future violence. Some common indicators of workplace violence are listed below.

10 Potential Indicators of Workplace Violence

  1. History of criminal misconduct or workplace altercations. In many cases, those who commit workplace violence have a criminal past or have had workplace disputes with previous employers.
  2. Emotional outbursts and threats towards others. Paranoid or emotionally unstable people can have unprovoked outbursts and uncontrolled emotional reactions that could lead to violence against themselves or others. As such, management should take incidents of threats or verbal abuse seriously.
  3. Significant change in personality or behavior. Sudden and dramatic changes in mood, job satisfaction, social interaction, or personal organization may be a sign that an individual is under a potentially harmful amount of stress.
  4. Depression, mood swings, and withdrawal. Depression can have many symptoms. Some examples include deteriorating personal hygiene and appearance, withdrawal from others, and change in normal daily habits. Additionally, mood swings, sadness, poor job performance, and increased irritability may also be a sign that more attention is required.
  5. Resistance and over-reaction to changes in procedures. Although many people do no like change, refusal to adapt to new procedures could be a warning sign. This is particularly true if accompanied by angry reactions or outbursts against co-workers or managers.
  6. Unexplained absenteeism. Unexplained absenteeism can be a sign of depression, increasing dissatisfaction, and domestic problems. If an employee is frequently absent, managers should make an effort to discern the cause of missed workdays.
  7. Unusual fascination with graphically violent images or acts. Preoccupation with violent or gory imagery or footage may be indicative of someone more prone to violence.
  8. Domestic issues at home. An employee’s issues at home may sometimes boil over while at work. Being aware of a co-worker’s mental state and domestic problems may help prevent these issues from escalating.
  9. Unusual financial activities. Giving away treasured items, making large cash withdrawals, and making inordinately expensive purchases are all potential indicators of suicide. However, this can become a workplace violence warning sign when accompanied by animosity towards an employer, manager, or co-worker.
  10. Alcohol and drug abuse. The use of drugs can affect a person’s mental state while exaggerating depression and other issues. Abuse of alcohol and drugs can also be a sign of mental instability.

None of the factors listed above necessarily demonstrate that violence is imminent. After all, many people suffer from personal problems and anxieties that sometimes spill over into the workplace. However, managers should be aware of the warning signs of workplace violence and take proactive measures. A well-trained human resources department that listens and responds to employee concerns can also be an effective defense against workplace violence. HR professionals can help monitor workplace stress and ensure that employees are treated professionally and fairly by managers and co-workers. Additionally, organizations should ensure that all incoming employees undergo a thorough background check. Depending on their circumstances, some companies may find it appropriate to have job candidates undergo drug and psychological screening.

Learn More About IMG’s Experience in Workplace Violence and Corporate Security Consulting.

As a leading corporate security consulting firm, IMG has extensive experience in workplace violence prevention. To learn more about the solutions offered by IMG, please visit:

About Incident Management Group (IMG)

The IMG Group is a leading corporate security consulting firm with considerable experience in preventing workplace violence. Corporate or business organizations requiring corporate security consultation can reach out to the IMG Group for assistance. The company’s expert security consultants provide services such as employee security, VIP and executive protection, risk and threat assessments, workplace violence prevention, protective services, crisis management planning, and more.

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