An employee confides in you that they overheard a co-worker talking about wanting to harm another colleague. What should you do? A client threatens a staff member publicly, shouting “If you do that, I’ll kill you!” How should you respond? If you ever found yourself in work and a terrorist attack took place, how would you react and manage the situation?
Many of us wouldn’t know how we would respond in these situations, which means that we would REACT instead of ACT. This isn’t always bad, as if these actions were effective, they could have a profound impact on the outcome of a threatening situation. However, reacting to a situation is often harmful and the wrong responses could escalate it.
To ensure that staff are prepared for any potential threat and that they respond effectively, it is imperative that the workplace has policies and procedures that ensure this. In fact, organisations are coming under pressure to assess and respond to threats of workplace violence, so preparation and management of these cases has never been more necessary.
From threats of workplace violence, homicidal ideations and stalking to other situations of targeted violence such as terrorism, having threat management training at hand will ensure you react appropriately. To help with basic threat responses, we’ve put together essential tips that you should start with.
Workplace violence is more often than not carried out by a disgruntled employee, therefore it is important that employers and staff alike are alert to situations and resulting behaviour that could lead to violence. Situations to be aware of include:
- Personality Conflicts
- Mishandled Termination
- A Known Grudge
- A Promotion in the Company
- Drug or Alcohol Use
- Bringing Weapons into Work
What to Look out For
As well as the obvious potential links to violence, such as an employee being ‘passed over’ for a promotion, risks can also stem from personal factors. These can be more difficult to handle however, as you may not be aware of these personal issues, so you need to know what behavioural changes to look out for. Violence can manifest in many other ways, but these are the main changes that you can keep an eye on:
- Noticeable Changes in Behaviour – tense muscles, bulging or darting eye movements, staring or avoiding eye contact, defensive body posture, twitching muscles, disheveled appearance
- Extreme Disorganisation
- Hypersensitivity to Criticism
- Increasing Belligerence or Outbursts of Anger
- Apparent Obsession with a Supervisor or Coworker
- Passing Threats or Homicidal/suicidal Comments
- Specific Threats
- Interest in Recently Publicised Violent Events or Violence in General
- Recent Acquisition and/or Fascination with Weapons
- People Who Look Like They are Scouting the Area
- Unsupervised Packages
The Best Action to Take
Often, the best action to take in these situations is to be vigilant and prevent them all together. However, that isn’t always possible. When a violent situation does occur, employees should be prepared to take action. In any situation, the most important thing is to remain calm and carry out one of the following steps:
- Evacuate the Area Immediately – only take this step if you know this option is 100% safe!
- Help Others Escape if Possible – again only do this if you’re sure it is safe and do not attempt to move any injured persons
- Lock Down the Area – this will prevent others from getting involved in this potentially harmful situation
- Find a Safe Place to Hide – if you are unable to evacuate, you need to find an appropriate place to hide and ring for help
- Contact the Emergency Services
- Turn Off Sources of Noise – this includes everything from televisions and radios to mobiles
- Attempt to Disrupt or Incapacitate the Violent Person – this should be your absolute last resort and should only be necessary if your life or someone else’s life is in imminent danger. Security workers should be trained in self-defense and should know how to “take-down” a person if necessary, so it would be rare that you would be in this position.
The most important action to take initially is to handle every potential threat seriously. If staff are naturally vigilant and learn the importance of threat preparedness and management, only then will the workplace be safe.
When workplace violence or a terrorist attack is reported, it is always unexpected. Many times, people even comment that they’d never have expected that person to react in that way. This might be the case some of the time, but by simply observing people, being cautious and aware of your surroundings, we could potentially recognise the beginnings of a situation and prevent it.
What we can do for you:
At RGM, our goal is to prevent threat situations from happening all together to ensure the safety of all staff on site. If you’re interested in knowing more about threat awareness training for your staff, we are offering training courses developed by Counter Terrorism and Threat Specialists. If you need training or just advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us.