Workplace violence is a serious problem in the United States. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, roughly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year with many cases likely going unreported. Violence in the workplace creates a toxic atmosphere that can dismantle culture, decrease productivity, increase turnover, and a tarnish reputation.
Unfortunately, identifying employees with violent tendencies is easier said than done. Violence often stems from an individual’s internal battles, making the signs of a violent employee harder to spot from afar. A sharp attention to detail and an understanding of employee habits is usually required to combat violent behavior before it arises in the workplace.
Here are 5 potential signs of a violent employee you should look out for:
- Need for Constant Supervision. Supervision is usually required during the first couple of days of an employee’s on boarding to ensure they have the tools needed to hit the ground running. This is normal. However, employees who need constant or regular supervision due to unprofessional behavior is a different story, and can be one of the more obvious signs of a violent employee. Employees that fall under this category are usually loud, offensive, disruptive, and aggressive. These employees often make other employees feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Employee complaints can help identify which employees are causing trouble in the workplace. Regardless, managers should be trained to watch out for such behavioral changes and intervene if they feel the need to.
- Poor Work Performance. If a productive and efficient worker suddenly experiences a drop in performance, it may be a cause for concern. The employee may be dissatisfied with work or may be experiencing issues outside the office that are starting to impact the employee’s work quality. Whatever the case, there is a chance that the employee may take out those frustrations out on a coworker in a harmful or violent way. In cases where an employee performance suddenly drops in quality, it’s important to address it immediately to discover the root causes. If it is a problem with their role in the company, that complaint can be addressed internally. If it is a more personal issue that has arisen from home, lending support and offering time off to take care of things may revive the employee’s performance.
- Drastic Changes in Work Habits. One of the more noticeable signs of a violent employee is dramatic, negative changes in work habits. If an employee who is always on time, typically social with coworkers, and dresses nicely suddenly starts showing up late, being quiet, and dressing unprofessionally, it’s clear that there is an issue. This change in attitude and work habits could lead to dangerous altercations with coworkers. Like a drop in work performance, a sudden change in work habits should be addressed by a manager. If not, work habits may continue to worsen and impact others in the office in a harmful way. Early management intervention could potentially prevent employees from getting involved in a violent altercation.
- Drug and Alcohol Use. Drug use and excessive alcohol consumption during work hours is almost always prohibited and outlined in an employer’s handbook. While many tech startups and software companies are adopting beer fridges and tapped kegs, most companies require their employees to stay sober at work, holding them to a zero-tolerance standard. With that said, EHS Today states that employee drug use is the highest it’s been in 14 years. If an employee has slurred speech, glassy eyes, or is showing one of the many signs of intoxication, it is important that they are sent home immediately and escorted out by security, with the issue being addressed at a later date. Reprimanding and punishing someone who is under the influence can be a dangerous situation for everyone involved, as the individual is showing a major sign of a violent employee. To prevent situations like this from arising, managers can also invest in Drug and Alcohol Abuse In the Workplace training and require it for their employees.
- Paranoid Behavior. It’s hard to find an office these days that are void of office drama. Gossip, pranks, theft, and deceit are unfortunately still common in today’s offices. This can lead to some employees becoming paranoid, and accusing their coworkers of unfriendly behavior. In some rare cases, truly paranoid employees may even accuse their colleagues of poisoning their lunch, stalking them, or tapping their phones.
These types of scenarios rarely end well for anyone involved, and can create tension among coworkers. As an employee’s ‘fears’ increase, so does their tendency for violence. Creating a culture of honesty and camaraderie, and properly vetting candidates during the interview process, are a couple ways to minimize the likelihood of this type of behavior occurring.
What Can You Do?
Take action before it is too late. Each year, workplace violence costs employers roughly $120 billion in legal fees, hospital bills, employee absences, and other related expenses. One way to minimize the impact of workplace violence, is to maximize employee knowledge, creating a workforce that understands the signs of a violent employee and the steps needed to prevent a harmful situation from arising.
Short, comprehensive workplace violence prevention courses can be purchased online for an entire workforce, and employers can require all employees to complete the course in order to continue their employment. Also, employers can also create their own Workplace Violence Prevention Programs, or WVPP’s, to foster a culture of continued education and safety in the workplace.