The recent Navy Yard shootings were a harsh reminder that, while studies show violence is down overall, workplace violence is a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away.
I recently appeared on CNBC to discuss the shootings, and addressed what can be done to prevent this from happening in the future. Everyone seems to be looking for a silver bullet to solve these problems, and many think technology will solve the problem. Interestingly, the anchor pointed out that if the NSA monitors people’s chatter online and in the social media sphere, then surely it should be able to step in and thwart a crime.
If it were that easy, there’d be no crime. (And the NSA might only look at less than 1 percent of the data it has access to.)
What can be done to prevent this from happening in the future? Those who study workplace violence know that there is a psychological profile of someone who is likely to commit an act of violence. Every business owner should know and understand the signs. A combination of a few (or more) of the following behaviors should be reason for concern.
- Difficulty getting along with others: They are unreasonable and often make inappropriate remarks about others. They are never content with the status quo and are always upset by everyone and everything.
- Controlling behaviors: In their minds, they are superior and everyone else is beneath them. They always force their opinion on others. They are control freaks and can’t deal with change.
- Clinical paranoia: They may not yet be diagnosed, but they think others—including their friends, family, fellow employees and the government—are out to get them. They are conspiracy theorists.
- Power obsession: They own firearms, are members of paramilitary groups, and subscribe to numerous military, law enforcement or underground military group chat communities or newsletters.
- Victim attitudes: They never take responsibility for their behaviors, faults, mistakes or actions. They always blame others; it’s always someone else’s fault. They may have had trouble with the law, even just a minor incident, but it wasn’t their fault.
- Litigious nature: Taking legal action against neighbors and employers and constantly filing grievances is their way of virtually controlling others. Everything is blown out of proportion.
- Constant anger: Hate and anger are how they get through the day. Coworkers, family, friends and the government are all the reasons why they are mad, mad, mad.
- Violent opinions: They see acts of violence in the media, such as shootings, mass murders, racial incidences, domestic violence and executions as reasons to celebrate. They say victims “got what they deserved.”
- Vindictive references: They say things like, “He will get his someday,” or “What comes around goes around,” or “One of these days I’ll have my say.”
- Odd behaviors: They might be good at their jobs but lack social skills. Their presence makes others feel uncomfortable. They have an edge to them that makes others not to want to be around them.
- Unhealthy habits: Sleep disorders, always being tired, dramatic weight loss or gain, or numerous health-related problems issues plague them. They are often addicted to drugs, alcohol or numerous other substances or experiences.
- Recent layoff: A combination of any of these traits that leads to job loss can set an ex-employee off. As a society, we introduce ourselves by our job description: “Hi, I’m Robert Siciliano, and I’m a personal security and identity theft expert.” But really, I’m also a dad, son, husband, etc.—and if any of these things are taken away, resulting in significant emotional despair, it can sometimes push people over the edge.
Knowing the warning signs is a good start to preventing the unimaginable from happening at your workplace, but you'll also need to stay vigilant and educated. Preventing active shooters involves multiple layers of security. Make sure all your managers and employees know the warning signs. Workplace violence isn’t a technology problem that can be cured with a fence or a security camera. It's a serious people problem that can only be fixed with intervention.
On CNBC, when I gave an example of a worker who demonstrated all these behaviors and the necessity of the fellow employees or even a family member to drop a dime, the anchor said, “Yes, but there’s always been a cultural resistance for fear of implicating the wrong person.” My response: “So what!?” My view is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take precautions to protect yourself, your employees and your business, and if something doesn't feel right, speak up. It could save lives.
Robert Siciliano is the author of four books, including The 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. He is also a corporate media consultant and speaker on personal security and identity theft. Find out more at www.RobertSiciliano.com.
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