J. Michael Coleman, vice president of commercial real
estate at AlliedBarton Security Services in Conshohock-en, PA, says, “Common triggers that might precipitate
workplace violence include terminations, layoffs, bad
performance evaluations, and being passed over for
promotion.” He also mentions domestic violence spilling
over into the workplace and civil disturbances such as
demonstrations, strikes, or nearby robberies.
Building owners and managers can look for certain behavior patterns in order to prevent outbreaks of violence
(see the “Workplace Violence Continuum” below).
Develop a Plan Now
A comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan
will save you – in worry, in preparedness, in liability,
and, yes, in guilt. Too often, building owners with weak
violence plans are left reeling in the aftermath.
“Building owners and managers are often reactive, not
proactive, when dealing with these types of events,” says
In Potential: Workplace Violence Prevention and Your Organi- zational Success, Bill Whitmore, CEO at AlliedBarton Security
Services, discusses the range of behaviors that can often
predict more severe actions. The following is an excerpt.
“Building owners need to recognize that these behaviors fall
along a spectrum that, depending on their nature or severity,
significantly affect the workplace, generate a concern for personal safety, and can result in physical injury or even death. All
of the scenarios we and others in our industry have identified
occur frequently in workplaces across the country.
Any employee with one or more of the following indicators may be in need of assistance. Managers must be alert to
these indirect pleas for help and provide a positive and timely
THE WORKPLACE VIOLENCE CONTINUUM
response to ensure a safe and secure work environment.
■ Unusual Behavior: Can range from uncharacteristic excessive
absences or tardiness by a normally punctual employee to
changes in performance, work habits, or attitude.
■ Inappropriate Acting Out: Saying highly inappropriate things
to people, getting very upset at colleagues, pouting, refusing
to participate in meetings or work tasks, slamming doors,
throwing things, testing supervisors’ authority, etc.
■ Verbal Assault: Outbursts of anger/rage, insulting or shouting
at colleagues without provocation.
■ Harassment: Saying highly inappropriate things, aggressive
sexual behavior or harassment, stalking, etc.
■ Threatening Behavior: Actually making
threats verbally or with hands or objects.
Also includes threatening written communication and brandishing a weapon at the
■ Physical Assault: Lashing out physically or
actually attacking someone.
■ Deadly Encounter: Usually manifested as
an active shooter scenario, a most tragic
culmination of all that has come before.
Remember that just because someone
exhibits one of these behaviors does not
necessarily mean they are prone to acts of
violence. It is when someone has an uncharacteristic, noticeable change in demeanor, when
that conduct is displayed continually, or when
uncharacteristic behaviors are observed in
combination, that you should consider telling
someone in a position of authority about the
Coleman. “They need to develop preparedness plans that
encompass all areas of risk exposure and, perhaps more
Bruce T. Blythe, chairman at Crisis Management Inter-
national, details four components of a successful plan.
1) Have a policy about violence. “You need a policy
that clearly states what is considered unacceptable
behavior,” says Blythe. He encourages using this key
statement in the policy: “Any behavior that creates a
reasonable fear or intimidation response will not be
2) Have a threat notification system. This should be
a 24/7 call service with real people answering the
phone. Because most people hesitate to inform on
others – for their own safety or to avoid someone’s firing – it is vital to offer confidentiality and anonymity.
Employee orientation should mention the notification