This is what you get for firing me.
These were the last words that three former coworkers of Paul Calden would ever hear. Fired 8 months earlier from an insurance company in Tampa, Florida, Calden returned to the cafeteria of his former employer, Fireman’s Fund Insurance, on January 27, 1993 and began shooting. Within minutes, two people were wounded and three died. Calden fled in a rental car, only to commit suicide in a park in Clearwater where he used to play Frisbee. Death In The Office: Workplace Homicides Reprinted from The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (April 1995) By T. STANLEY DUNCAN, M.S. Sgt. Duncan serves in the Patrol Division of the Department of Public Safety, Sarasota, FL.
On March 24, 2009 a bus mechanic in San Diego killed two co-workers and on April 4, 2009 a young unemployed man entered the American Civic Association in upstate New York and shot and killed 12 people.
Violence in the workplace is now the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States and is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace. Six out of 10 incidents or workplace violence occurred in private companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides. About 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. Violence in the workplace lawsuits are costing employers $500,000.00 in out of court settlements and 3 million dollars if the case goes to trial.
In 2003 one out of every six violent crimes was committed in the workplace. 20 people were murdered and 1800 were assaulted in the workplace each week in 2003. The static’s for 2004 doubled from the 2003 statistics.
Between 1994 and 2003 there were 164 workplace shootings in America , with a total of 290 people killed and 161 wounded. From 2002 to 2003, the number of workplace shootings increased from 25 to 45 and the number of victims killed in workplace shootings increased from 33 to 69. 51.8% of those who committed workplace shootings experienced a negative change in employment status, including 23.8% who were fired or laid off, and 28.0% who were demoted, suspended, or involved with some type of financial dispute with management. At least 13.4% of the cases reviewed indicated the shooter had a publicly known history of mental health concerns. 9.1% of the shooters displayed warning signs prior to the shootings – warning signs that were usually ignored by those who noticed them. 56.9% of offenders were 40 or older, and 80.3% were 30 or older. At least 13.4% of the incidents reviewed involved the shooting of a current or former intimate partner. 31.7% of workplace shooting incidents occurred in a white collar job setting, accounting for 31.4% of all workplace shooting deaths. 78.5% of the guns used in workplace shootings were handguns, and 81.2% of those handguns were semiautomatics. 32.1% of all workplace shooters took their own life at the end of their rampage. 35.8% of male shooters committed suicide after killing their coworkers, compared to 7.1% of female shooters. Workplace shooters who committed suicide killed an average of 2.45 people and injured an average of 1.51, compared to 1.47 killed and 0.71 injured by workplace shooters who did not commit suicide. California and Florida were the most dangerous states when it comes to workplace shootings according to the FBI.
In 2005 2 million employees experienced a violent crime while at work, 50,500 rapes and sexual assaults occurred in the workplace, 1.5 simple assaults and 395,000 aggressive assaults in the workplace were reported. These workplace violence acts were committed by: 60% strangers, 35% acquaintances, 4% unknown and 1% intimate partner.
In 2006 there were 5840 employees killed while at work and in 2007 this number fell to 5488. However since that FBI report the trend in workplace homicides has been increasing every year.
These are some scary statistics, but all are true and you need to start really paying attention to what your employees or coworkers are doing and saying so that you or your other employees don’t end up being one of these statistics.
Specialist who investigate and report on this growing problem agree that violence in the workplace falls into four broad categories. They are:
Type 1 – Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace, but enter to commit robbery or another crime.
Type 2 – Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates or any others for whom an organization provides services.
Type 3 – Violence against coworkers, supervisors or managers by a present or former employee.
Type 4 – Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there, but has a personal relationship with an employee; such as an abusive spouse or domestic partner.
Type 1 – accounts for the vast majority of workplace homicides – nearly 80 percent according to an FBI study. The motive in this type of workplace violence is usually theft and in most cases the criminal is carrying a gun or other weapon. This type of workplace violence is perpetrated against employees who work in an occupation that makes them vulnerable: taxi drivers, late-night retail or gas station clerks and other who work night shifts and who work in isolated locations or dangerous neighborhoods and who carry or have access to cash.
Type 2 – typically involve assaults on an employee by customers, patients or someone else receiving services from the company. The injuries are normally sustained while performing their normal duties, as in the case of police officers, correctional officers, security guards, mental health workers or the violent reactions of customers or clients.
Type 3 & 4 – can sometimes be prevented by having trained supervisors who know what warning signs to look for in their employees. This type of violence involves past or present employees and acts committed by domestic abusers or arising from other personal relationships that follow employees to work. Usually there are warning signs that can be seen if a supervisor or manager is trained on what to look for.
Tough economic times involving layoffs, reductions in force, increase freezes and small wage increases can put pressure on employees. Also the demographics of today’s workforce combines “seniors”, baby boomers and Generation Xers and this can create problems with communication, disagreements and even violence.
Along with the fear of someone being hurt when violence occurs in the workplace is the liability because you were negligent in hiring and supervising a violent employee. When violence occurs in the workplace you do not only have to deal with the violence but also the aftermath that it causes; lost workdays, low morale, health care expenses, loss of productivity and increased stress.
There are many definitions of workplace violence but the simplest definition is “any actual or threatened physical or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting”. That includes such things as beatings, stabbings, suicides, rapes, psychological trauma, threats or obscene calls, intimidation, harassment of any kind, stalking and being sworn or shouted at. Other examples of workforce violence may include the following:
• Verbally threatening to inflict bodily harm;
• Attempting to cause physical harm by striking, pushing or other aggressive acts;
• Using verbal harassment, abusive or offensive language or gestures, or other discourteous conduct;
• Engaging in disorderly conduct, shouting, throwing or pushing objects, punching walls or slamming doors; or
• Making inappropriate remarks or delusional statement.
Violence in the workplace can be caused by full-time employees, part-time employees, temporary employees, ex-employees, contract workers, independent contractors, consultants, vendors, customers or clients, spouses, ex-spouses, “significant others” and strangers.
Any employee is capable of committing violence in the workplace when the proper circumstances are in place. But employees who are prone to commit workforce violence often exhibit warning signs before the violent act. Be aware of the general profile of a potentially violent employee and heed the following warning signs:
• A criminal record or history of violent behavior, including a history of domestic violence;
• Serious personal or family problems, such as divorce, death of a relative or close friend or bankruptcy;
• Statements indicating depression (over family, financial and other personal problems) to the point of contemplating suicide;
• Direct or veiling threats that some violent action will be taking place;
• A significant change in the behavior, such as mood swings, outbursts or insubordination;
• A significant decline in work performance;
• Paranoid behavior;
• An inability to accept criticism;
• Drug and/or alcohol abuse;
• Tendencies to be a loner – someone obsesses with the job but is not involved with others;
• Revenge by an employee who is fired for conduct that he feels wasn’t committed;
• Times of downsizing and restructuring in which employees may feel their jobs are threatened;
• Intimidating, belligerent, harassing, bullying or other inappropriate and aggressive behavior;
• Management’s tolerance of employees who harass, coerce and intimidate others;
• Numerous conflicts with supervisors and other employees;
• An employee bringing weapons to the workplace, making inappropriate references to guns or showing a fascination with weapons; or
• Statements showing a fascination with incidents of workplace violence, approving of the use of violence to resolve a problem or indicating identification with perpetrators of workplace homicide.
There is no way to guarantee that you will not be a victim of workplace violence but below are listed some steps that can reduce your odds of becoming a victim:
• Learn how to recognize, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations and report all incidents immediately in writing
• Avoid traveling into unfamiliar locations or situations whenever possible
• Carry only minimal money and required identification into community settings.
In the event that an act of violence in the workplace does occur the Director or supervisor should do the following:
• Encourage employees to report and document all incidents of threats of workplace violence.
• Provide prompt medical evaluation and treatment after the incident.
• Report violent incidents to the local police department.
• Inform victims of their legal right to prosecute perpetrators of the violence.
• Discuss the circumstances of the incident with staff members. Encourage employees to share information about ways to avoid similar incidents in the future.
• Offer stress debriefing sessions and post-traumatic counseling services to help workers recover from a violent incident. Talk to corporate first.
• Investigate all violent incidents and threats, monitor trends in violent incidents by type or circumstances and institute corrective action plans.
• Discuss changes in the program during regular employee meetings.
Handling violence or threats of violence in the workplace needs to be swiftly dealt with. If an employer allows an act or threat of violence to go unchecked it could escalate into a more severe situation and eventually could cause the death of one or more of your employees. Upon learning of an act or threat of violence the Director or Supervisor should conduct an investigation following the investigation policy guidelines. Below are some of the steps that the Director or Supervisor should follow:
• Notify the threatened employee immediately that an investigation will be conducted.
• Inform the HR department of the situation and your intention to investigate.
• Separate the two employees by any means necessary. If you have one, consult with the HR department concerning the actions to be taken.
• Consider leave, paid or unpaid, for one of the employees involved.
• Interview the threatened employee and any witnesses to the situation.
• Interview the employee(s) who allegedly made the threats or caused the act of violence.
• Interview all witnesses named by the employee(s) who allegedly made the threats or caused the act of violence.
• Make sure the information from all parties interviewed is well documented. Follow investigation guidelines for this which you should be able to get from your HR department.
• Review the findings with the HR department, if you have one.
• Review the personnel file of both employees and pay special attention to any details uncovered in reference to background checks.
• Be aware of workplace climate or attitudes at the facility.
• Keep tabs on employee’s whereabouts (i.e. trips to personal vehicle).
• Communicate to all employees that threats or acts of violence of any kind will not be tolerated.
Once you have determined that the threats or acts of violence were made, take appropriate action immediately. Also, if you terminate an employee for threats or acts of violence in the workplace make sure that the employee is not allowed to return to the workplace for any reason, involve the local law enforcement if they do.
In today’s workplace employers cannot afford to be complacent about dealing with threats or acts of violence. Any time an employee reports such an act to their supervisor it needs to be dealt with immediately so that the situation does not escalate. Supervisors or managers who witness threats or acts of violence should intervene to defuse the situation. If employees are involved in an altercation you should not put yourself in the middle of the fighting but attempt to stop it with direction as a supervisor. If you try to get between the employees who are fighting you could end up injured in the process.
When you are dealing with an employee who is making threats of violence you should never deal with this employee by yelling at them or treating them like you do not take them seriously. You should talk with them about the situation using a calming voice and never raising your voice to be heard over them. If you maintain a steady calm voice while talking to them the employee will realize that they are the only one yelling and they will calm down so that you will be able to talk to them about the situation. Yelling back at the employee will only escalate the situation.
In order to assess the risk of violence in the workplace by a particular employee who has made threats or is suspected of possibly committing violence the FBI suggested in a study that supervisors should ask questions to get information from the employee concerning the following questions in order to get a clearer insight into the employees’ state of mind and predisposition for possibly committing violence.
What has the offender threatened or made comments about which have been perceived by others as threatening? What is happening in his/her own life that has prompted this?
What has been said to others, i.e. friends, colleagues, coworkers, etc… regarding what is troubling him/her?
How does the offender view him/herself in relation to everyone else?
Does he/she accept responsibility for his/her own actions?
How does the offender cope with disappointment, loss or failure?
Does he/she blame others for his/her failures?
How does the offender interact with coworkers?
Does he/she feel he/she is being treated fairly by the company?
Does he/she have problems with supervisors or management?
Is he/she concerned with job practices and responsibilities?
Has he/she received unfavorable performance reviews or been reprimanded by management?
Is he/she experiencing personal problems such as divorce, death in the family, health problems, or other personal losses or issues?
Is he/she experiencing financial problems, high personal debt or bankruptcy?
Is there evidence of substance abuse or mental illness/depression?
Has he/she shown an interest in violence through movies, games, books or magazines?
Is he/she preoccupied with violent themes; interested in publicized violent events; or fascinated with and/or recently acquired weapons?
Has the offender identified a specific target and communicated with other his/her thoughts or plans for violence?
Is he/she obsessed with others or engaged in any stalking or surveillance activities?
Has the offender spoken of homicide or suicide?
Does he/she have a past criminal history or history of past violent behavior?
Does the offender have a plan for what he/she would do?
Does the plan make sense, is it reasonable, is it specific?
Does the offender have means and knowledge to carry out his/her plan?
Your supervisors should know how to deal with a violent employee or how to access the tools or supervisor they need if someone is exhibiting signs of possibly becoming a violent employee. Supervisors should be trained on how to do handle a possibly violent or violent employee. In today’s society it is very important that every company be ready for violence to occur at any time, because this crime is one of the fastest growing ones in this country and there are no signs of it slowing down or stopping. So you need to ensure that your site and employees are safe by ensure that your supervisors are training on how to detect a potentially violent employee, customer, visitor, etc… By doing this you might save lives.
By: Vickie Blackwell, email@example.com