Responding to Threats of Workplace and Campus Violence
- A former employee tells a colleague, “I’ll get even with the company for firing me.”
- Co-workers of a battered woman tell their security manager they fear her jealous husband will bring his threats to kill her into the workplace.
- A residence hall student reports his struggling roommate is “writing violent essays and making increasingly bizarre and angry statements about professors who are giving him failing grades.”
Who actually may pose a risk, of what nature and how soon? What are prudent steps for employers and administrators to take in these threat scenarios?
WTS Assessment Consultation
WTS collaborates with an organization’s multi-disciplinary resources to provide flexible and viable responses to threat cases. Our services extend to public and corporate workplaces, colleges and universities, public figures, and celebrities.
- Risk screening: Typically telephone consultation to determine initial impressions of risk
- Incident management consultation: On steps for further investigation and assessment, intervention strategies, and a plan to resolve situations safely and appropriately
- Formal expert risk assessments: Face-to-face meetings with employees, students, staff or faculty, or other individuals of concern, conducted after reviewing appropriate collateral data
- Continuing analysis and monitoring of available case-relevant data to update opinions of risk that translate into appropriate, safe, and balanced employer or administrative actions
- Education and de-briefing of affected targeted individuals, providing employees or others with information appropriate for their own security decisions and resolution of personal emotions
- Recommendations for additional specialized resources such as attorneys, investigators, and security professionals whom we consider well qualified in the area of workplace and campus threat management.
Threat scenarios are a reality of contemporary work and campus life. Whether or not this is a new experience for you or your organization, here are some helpful response guidelines:
- Hasty, ill-informed actions to terminate an employee for threatening behavior may create feelings of humiliation and rage, thus contributing to the escalation of risk. Prompt but thoughtful screening and review of options is desirable prior to making decisions that could be “triggering events.”
- An administrative leave of absence, often paid, minimizes short-term losses for the employee, provides a “cooling off” period, and time for an investigation to proceed.
- Many cases can be screened or assessed as not presenting a risk of violence with a minimum of expert time and expense. The sooner a case of concern is identified and addressed, the more likely it can be managed successfully. Emergencies needing prompt law enforcement or security responses do occur, but few cases pose an imminent, immediate risk.
- A number of possible response options exist, but seeking a “cook book” to manage all situations is unlikely to guarantee success, or protection from various employer exposures.
- The general warning signs, motives, risk factors, and contexts that lead to or are commonly associated with workplace or campus targeted violence are well known. Many of these can usually be identified as present or not with initial fact gathering, leading to a first impression. Desireable risk-relevant information that remains unknown can then be pursued.
- Effective threat management is multi-disciplinary, typically involving human resources, security, employment law, assessment and incident management specialists, and when appropriate, law enforcement liaison. College and university teams typically include judicial affairs, campus police, mental health and other professionals managing or assisting with student life.
- Employment status decisions and security strategies are greatly improved with risk assessment data, much of which is readily accessible, legally obtainable, and very useful to risk assessment specialists assisting work and campus teams.
Remember to seek appropriate consultation and legal advice for specific cases, as scenarios can vary widely and require individualized strategies.
Our Service Agreement is available as an Adobe PDF file for clients. New clients may contact their consultant or our business office for a password. Adobe Acrobat Reader is available for free download at www.adobe.com.