Let’s say that your business found it necessary to terminate a 62-year old line manager who had been with the company for more than twenty years and was close to retirement.  Let’s say this individual – a quiet, private man whose wife had been battling a chronic condition at home for year – had, over the last 18 months, consistently failed to address increasingly serious quality deficits for a new $100 million product line.  The next morning, the man comes to work as the night shift is standing down. He runs over a supervisor with his vehicle, fires a shotgun at the security guard, killing him, and then takes his own life.

A Threat Assessment Team Fail

In the aftermath of this tragedy, your entire leadership team as well as your top people across multiple departments wonder why – since the company has had a threat assessment team now for a few years – this event could not have been prevented. Within two days, experts in workplace violence prevention are on premises.  And within the first 45 minutes of questions, it’s clear that they’ve uncovered a critical key finding. “You’ve got the makings of an excellent threat assessment team in place,” the expert’s Project Lead explains. “But you haven’t filled all the seats at this table.”

Sample Drivers of Threat Assessment Team Membership

Many different disciplines must be represented in the composition of your threat assessment team.  A multi-disciplinary threat assessment team that draws its members from many facets of the workplace and community is enriched by diverse perspectives, as well as access to many more sources of information.  But every business and key facility has different requirements.

  • Some requirements depend on factors such as the industry, business model, size of location, number of employees, type of skillsets on premises, history of labor relations, and economic conditions at both national and the local level.
  • Other requirements depend on a host of hard-to-measure influences such as shop-floor culture, attitudes toward management, and employee beliefs related to privacy, communications and personal hardships at work or at home.

Threat Assessment Teams Require Input from Many Perspectives

At minimum, membership of your threat assessment team should include representatives from the following :

  1. Security Department – Security personnel play a key role at many phases.
  2. Human Resources – Especially helpful if an employee displays behaviors of concern.
  3. Legal Services – Legal relations representation is critical to ensuring that you properly define all legal issues during a case management.  In some circumstances, legal services staff can lead efforts to obtain protective orders or engage in other legal procedures related to the team’s activities.
  4. Supervisors: Often times the “first line of defense” in detecting and monitoring “behaviors of concern” within a workforce.
  5. Local Mental Health Liaison – If not included as regular members of the team, they should be notified of its existence and included as ad hoc members when needed for information sharing.
  6. Labor Unions – In organizations that have labor unions, corporate leadership should recognize that both management and union leaders have a mutual responsibility to ensure a safe workplace environment for employees. Unions can play a key role in preventing acts of workplace violence.
  7. Local Law Enforcement – A memorandum of agreement should be developed with the police department so its representatives are able to fully participate as members of the threat assessment team when deemed as necessary.
  8. Outsourced Entities – Any other external partners with whom members of your community regularly interact.  Can also include human resources from relevant outsourced service providers only upon request from the standing team. 

A Good Team Can Save Lives – and Also the $100 Million Product Line

Go back over the details I’ve provided on the incident above. It’s not hard to see where insights – even snippets of critical information – from any of the six representatives above could have resulted in a different outcome. It’s hard to measure prevention.  But one of these days, it would be nice to prove what my team of specialists and I  have learned over the years: that in spite of the rising number of workplace violence incidents in the United States – and the many acts that were never discovered in time – threat assessment teams with the right people in place have and continue to save hundreds, and maybe thousands, of lives every year.