Special Topics

Domestic Violence in the Workplace:
Threat Management Responses

Various studies and surveys indicate the impact of domestic violence on the workplace is significant: nearly 75% of battered women are harassed at work by phone or in person.  The estimated annual cost of domestic violence to corporate America may be $3 to $5 billion.  More importantly for threat management representatives, rejected or jealous partners commit an estimated 13,000 violent acts against women at their workplace each year and are responsible for approximately 20% of the women murdered at work.

This half to full-day workshop addresses the various dilemmas and needs employers face in confronting the issues presented by domestic violence: workplace safety, risk assessment, privacy and boundaries, responding to the victim, work expectations, and workgroup reactions.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Understanding domestic violence
  • Abuser types and characteristics
  • Stalking as related to and distinct from domestic violence and abuse
  • The victim in the workplace
  • How domestic violence affects co-worker and supervisor responses
  • Overview of employer legal issues and responses
  • The role of the threat management team in case response
  • Assessing abuser lethality
  • Interviewing, communicating, and collaborating with the victim
  • Investigative methods and issues
  • Response options with abusers who disrupt and threaten the workplace
  • Security management and effective police liaison

Three types of case examples will illustrate various issues and responses specific to domestic violence workplace threat management: 1.) employee-victim of domestic abuse with no direct workplace involvement; 2.) employee-victim of abuse with outsider threats to workplace; and 3.) dangerous romantic triangles in the workplace.  A fourth case of an actual domestic violence incident resulting in three workplace homicides is presented in detail, revealing the warning signs, escalation toward violence, and missed opportunities to intervene.

This workshop is presented by either Stephen G. White, Ph.D. or Jolee Brunton, Ph.D., of WTS.

Suicide Prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of suicide in the United States has been increasing since 2000, reaching nearly 37,000 deaths in 2009.  Nearly 1,000,000 people make an attempt every year.  However, up to 75% of suicidal people communicate their intent to kill themselves in advance of the act.  A small but critical proportion of suicidal individuals are homicidal.  It is essential for the safety and well-being of the workplace that those in management helping roles understand the indicators of suicide and have appropriate screening and intervention systems in place to avoid tragic and costly outcomes.

This half-day workshop is designed to help attendees better understand and prevent suicide.  Specific case examples will be used and discussion encouraged.  Topics to be covered include:

  • Suicide statistics and how they inform prevention
  • Why people commit suicide
  • Suicide, work and achievement issues
  • General risk indicators for suicide
  • Suicide and homicide
  • Types of suicide situations
  • Suicide prevention pathways
  • Major factors in lethality screening
  • Workplace suicide indicators
  • What management interveners can do: General guidelines
  • Treatment option overview
  • Threat management team responses and dilemmas: when should we get involved?
  • Possible personal reactions and issues for helpers
  • Work re-entry issues for the previously suicidal employee
  • When the worst happens – what to expect, what to do

This workshop is presented by either Jolee Brunton, Ph.D., or Stephen G. White, Ph.D. of WTS.

Bullying in the Workplace

School shootings bring national attention and bullying has been recognized as a possible precipitator of school violence. What is less discussed is that bullying is not confined to the elementary school playground or high school hallways. Bullying is an everyday occurrence in many workplaces and thrives when inconsistently responded to by management.

Aggressive, intimidating individuals use their menacing behaviors for personal entertainment, achieving personal goals, and professional advancement. While these behaviors may infrequently escalate to violence, the level of threat and intimidation, and resultant workplace disruption, can be severe. A bully’s behavior raises concern for safety in his or her targets. It can also result in violent acts against the bully, as targets defend themselves from perceived danger, or attempt retribution.

This half-day workshop is designed to help management and threat team responders better understand and manage both the bully and the target in the workplace.  Specific case examples are presented. Vignettes are provided to illustrate the issues and stimulate discussion. Topics covered include:

  • Defining the problem of bullying
  • Bully dynamics and motives
  • Examining the scope of bullying in the workplace
  • Identifying characteristics of targets
  • Effects of bullying on targets, morale, and productivity
  • Macro-organizational contributors to bullying
  • Managers who bully
  • Management intervention options and the steps to resolution
  • Indicators for threat management team involvement
  • Screening bullies and targets for violence potential
  • Creating a civil workplace: the ongoing work

This workshop is presented by  Jolee Brunton, Ph.D., of WTS.

Sexual Deviance, The Internet, and The Workplace

The issue of sexual compulsivity or sexual addiction has transcended the world of magazines and videos and entered the age of the Internet.  Individuals enabled by the world of cyberspace may become compelled to engage in explicit sexual talk and risky conduct, view sexual graphics, and attempt to act out fantasies in the realm of electronic media.

Sexual compulsivity is often a driving force by which people hope for power, intimacy, escape from complex problems, and self-validation through sexual conquests.  Contrary to the rolled-up magazine in the attic or the video locked away at home, the immediacy of electronic media has brought this behavior into the workplace.

This half-day workshop will help human resource, security, and threat management team members understand the dynamics and recognize the evolution of sexually compulsive behavior.  Case examples are relevant to workplace misconduct, disruption and harassment.  Appropriate multi-disciplinary response protocols will be delineated.

Topics will include:

  • Roots, triggers, cycles, and varieties of sexual deviance
  • The power of electronic media to increase compulsive sexual behavior
  • Detecting workplace cases and counteracting secrecy
  • Identification of cases at risk for re-offending, violence, or suicide
  • Identification of cases appropriate for professional help or other options
  • Personal and professional issues for in-house investigators and responders

A WTS-produced videotape of an offender interview will be used to illustrate various issues, including workplace misconduct.  Discussion is encouraged.

This workshop is co-presented by Paul Isenstadt, LCSW and Stephen White, Ph.D. of WTS.

Managing Organizational Trauma:

Succinct Guidelines and Coping Tips 

The following information is offered as a public service. Please seek consultation if your organization is faced with the aftermath of a violent or life-threatening incident.

A Dozen Reminders About the Trauma of Workplace Mass Victimization

  1. In incidents of mass victimization, there are very predictable but varying trauma-induced emotions, perceptions, and behaviors depending on the nature of the stressor and an individual’s exposure.
  2. People will focus on the leadership reaction and the employer response to the incident. 
  3. Individuals very much want their losses and experiences to be understood, validated, and respected by those in positions of responsibility and authority, and will respond positively to concrete expressions of concern and demonstrations of help.
  4. There is an immediate, intense seeking of information among those affected, which if not anticipated, will add to the negative impact of the incident.
  5. There is a brief period of time for the leadership to act decisively in demonstrating a compassionate response, or those affected will judge the organization as “uncaring”. 
  6. Affected individuals will naturally seek out others with whom to compare and share information, vent strongly felt emotions, and engage in natural coping processes. This should be facilitated.
  7. Family members will appear at recognized sites in large numbers seeking information and contact with their loved one’s colleagues on an ongoing basis.
  8. Anger and the need to blame is prominent, immediate, and will be expressed, whether deserved or not.
  9. Organizational responders may suffer from “compassion fatigue” and the related distress of high exposure to death, injury, and traumatized people, resulting in trauma and stress management needs of their own.
  10. Human resilience, especially when exemplified and fostered by strong crisis leadership, will emerge among survivors as a positive force for recovery.
  11. Resuming work, when understood as a self-directed pacing process, is healing.
  12. No written plan will ever adequately match any real critical incident. Rehearsal is the best teacher.

Coping Tips: This template may be used to construct a document tailored to an organization’s specific situation and experience

Coping With Our Stress, Grief, and Trauma

              The recent incident of violence at our workplace has shocked and saddened us.  Many of us experience varying degrees of distress.  Not only terrible sorrow for those we have lost, and concern for those injured, but continuing worry and pre-occupation with our own safety.  Some members of our work family went through “life or death” experiences, or felt a terrible sense of helplessness during the incident.  In ways that often follow such tragedies, we feel a bond amongst ourselves that only we can understand.  Outpourings of support from others at home and in the community have touched us.  There are moments when we may wonder if we will ever overcome this and resume some semblance of normalcy.  We have had professionals here to assist and support us through these trying days.  It has helped.  We can do a lot to help each other as we move forward.  Listed here are some of the guidelines they have provided us for coping with such extraordinary experiences.

Any of the following are normal reactions during this time of healing and recovery:

  • Feelings: fear, sorrow and grief, crying, anger, guilt, high and low mood swings, or emotional numbing
  • Thinking: difficulty concentrating, thinking clearly, making decisions; feeling disoriented, periods of   tuning-out mentally
  • Physical: sleep disruption or changes, nightmares, exhaustion, head and muscle aches, change in appetite, easily startled; feeling “like a motor is running inside me”
  • Behavior: fear of being alone, leaving home or family, fear of returning to work or where you were during the incident; being extra vigilant in public or at home for possible signs of danger
  • Memories: “echoes” of past traumas, losses, being victimized, or other incidents where you experienced extreme helplessness; “flashbacks” of the incident, or having the “what ifs…?”

These reactions require our patience and pacing.  They generally continue to fade with time, support, and some active coping strategies.  However, if they persist or become extreme in nature, remember to seek help through our personnel or medical function, EAP, or your own trusted resources.

What You Can Do to Cope: A Dozen Ways to Help Yourself and Others

  1. Continue to talk about and ventilate your experiences and feelings with trusted, supportive listeners, at a frequency that suits you.  If this is not helpful do not partake in these rituals.
  2. Explain to your family and close friends that you have experienced something extraordinarily upsetting and that you need their time and patience.  It is hard for those who weren’t there to really “get it.”  But explaining yourself reduces their anxiety and helps them know how to help you.
  3. Take care of your body: Exercise is one of the best ways to replenish yourself.  Rest, and try to maintain healthy eating (watch the sugar, caffeine, and alcohol).  Try to work in some play and relaxing pastimes.
  4. A key for those who were most exposed to danger and harm to others is to feel safe and in control.  Find a suitable pace and give yourself credit for small steps in approaching anxiety-provoking places.  Avoid them if possible.
  5. Participate in the creative solving of problems.  Resuming the familiar also helps.
  6. Do something for others less fortunate. Pay reverence to those we have lost. Get out of yourself. 
  7. If your beliefs so incline you, find solace in spiritual and religious rituals.
  8. If you have been extremely busy performing necessary recovery and business continuity tasks, you may be subject to various delayed reactions which surface when you slow down.  Find time to let go, get replenished, and sort out your personal reactions and feelings.
  9. Identify your personally meaningful motivations for being at work during this time of recovery.
  10. Appreciate the wide-ranging differences in people – the degree of personal impact, emotional reactivity, and styles of coping.  We are as strikingly different as we are alike.  Patience will be next to Godliness in interpersonal realms, at work and at home.
  11. Be realistic and allow for setbacks.  Experience shows that those who bend are less likely to break.
  12. What else do you know is helpful? __________________________________________________.