Workplace violence affects more than half of U.S. organizations. It doesn’t discriminate against anyone – it is just as likely to affect executives in the C-suite as it is front-lobby receptionists and factory workers on the line. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly two million American employees are victims of workplace violence every year. But the stakes get even higher when you consider the probability that these numbers are grossly underreported. But of course, the human cost of these violent acts is immeasurable.
Authoritative Origins, New Applications to Corporate Settings
But what can you do? As the former Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, I lead our team of threat assessors, clinical psychologists and workplace violence prevention experts in applying the Hillard Heintze approach to handling threats in a wide array of organizational environments – from offices, factories and data centers to government facilities, sporting venues, family offices and universities.
While our approach to threat assessment is uniquely ours – and developed based on our collective careers and experience, its core is rooted in the U.S. Secret Service threat methodology. On a daily basis, we intervene, train and provide advice to law enforcement, human resources and security directors on events in the workplace that could potentially result in an act of targeted violence.
A Focus on Awareness and Early Warning Signs
Our prevention-oriented approach to workplace violence prevention emphasizes educating our clients on the critical warning signs. Growing awareness of the connection between workplace violence and domestic violence has elevated priorities related to protective measures for employee victims of abuse. It is just one issue among a range of threats along the continuum of concerning behavior. An effective workplace violence prevention program should address them all.
We recently assisted a major manufacturing company in the case of a terminated employee. The case was quite serious as the employee legally purchased weapons immediately after his termination, not a violation of the law, but a clear behavioral warning sign that a potential violent attack was imminent. We assisted the employee’s family in obtaining court-ordered mental health treatment to ensure the weapons were seized by law enforcement and that he received proper care.
Timing Matters – As Does Cross-Functional Threat Assessment Team Training
The client above took the right actions: they noticed the concerning behavior, reported it and put their plan into action. I’ve learned throughout my career that timing is extremely important. When possible, we help our clients identify concerning behaviors in order to intervene as early as possible.
For years, we have set up workplace violence prevention programs throughout the United States in the private sector. Now we are expanding our expertise to the public sector. We were selected by the U.S. Social Security Administration in August to support its new national Workplace and Domestic Violence Prevention Program (WDVPP). We provide technical training in violence risk management, enhanced cognitive interviewing techniques and tailored consultation for behavioral threat assessments and analysis, as well as case strategy and management planning. We recently trained their Crisis Advisory Teams (CATs) as they intake and manage violence risk cases internal to an organization of approximately 65,000 personnel. CATs are comprised of approximately 180 individuals from the following disciplines: security, legal, employee relations and behavioral/mental health.
Profiling Is Harmful
When we conduct these types of training, we emphasize from the outset that the vast majority of subjects who come to a company or agency’s attention have not violated the law, nor do they fit any descriptive or useful profile. Security department leaders are often steeped in a law enforcement background with a keen eye towards detecting violations of the law, but are often ill-equipped to identify warning signs of behavior and developing mitigation strategies to thwart an attack before a crime has occurred. This is a crucial distinction – and a major reason why clients come to us.
In our role as trusted security advisors for the private and public sector entities charged with protecting their people and assets, we believe that our adaptation of the Secret Service methodology has, for years, clearly demonstrated the prevention of targeted violence acts including stalking, domestic violence, workplace violence and radicalization in the workplace.
To learn more about workplace violence prevention, click the link below.