As the techniques and tactics used to prevent targeted violence continue to evolve, new challenges will materialize in 2016 and the years ahead. Among the most prominent emerging risks this year is what many experts will increasingly refer to as “radicalization in the workplace.”

Radicalization: A Working Definition

Think of radicalization, first of all, as “a personal process in which individuals adopt extreme political, social, and/or religious ideals and aspirations, and where the attainment of particular goals justifies the use of indiscriminate violence.”[1] It is, in short, “a mental and emotional process that prepares and motivates an individual to pursue violent behavior.” Now apply this concept to the workplace – and begin to think through its implications for many disciplines: workplace violence prevention, active shooter planning, emergency preparedness and business continuity, to name a few.

A New Challenge for Directors of Corporate Security

Many security directors across the country are beginning to think through these issues. That’s not surprising. The 2015 massacre in San Bernardino, California brought a new element to preventing workplace violence as the shooter did not exhibit traditional employee behavior warning signs. The shooters, both slain by police in a wild gun battle four hours after the massacre, were husband and wife. They left their 6-month-old baby with a grandmother prior to the shooting spree.

Engaging Security Leaders

Today, security experts are beginning to talk about whether radicalization in the workforce is just a passing side-story at a time when ISIL is often in the day’s media headlines – or the beginning of a long-term trend. The conversation is addressing many issues we believe will define how this emerging priority will be examined in the months ahead. This week, we developed a presentation to a group of 50 security leaders on radicalization in the workforce. Topics include, for example: 

  1. Origins of this new threat – from recent incidents to media influence and political dynamics
  2. Overlapping responsibilities for various corporate departments – from Security to HR, law and IT
  3. Special topics such as the implications of privacy and religious expression
  4. Implications for related corporate HR issues, such as substance abuse, inappropriate behavior, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment countermeasures
  5. Various paths to radicalization and what this means for prevention and intervention
  6. Types of attackers – from violent extremists to domestic terrorists
  7. Fundamental principles of radicalization
  8. Factors that increase an individual’s vulnerability
  9. Mobilization and an emerging portfolio of indicators
  10. How to start the conversation with strategic industry – and internal – stakeholders

Strategic Contributors

As we move into new considerations for signs of radicalization in the workplace, major contributions to the discussion are – and will continue – to be made by organizations such as the U.S. National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) Domestic Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Team. NCTC’s Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning (DSOP) works directly with the White House, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security to help with the implementation of the U.S. government’s Domestic CVE Strategy. This includes coordination of policies at the federal level, as well as direct engagement with local law enforcement and communities across the country using a range of CVE tools.

Interested in viewing this presentation? Click here. We’ll be addressing additional issues in the coming weeks on radicalization in the workforce. If you’d like to receive this content, consider signing up to receive our blog.


[1] Source: A. S. Wilner and C. J. Dubouloz, “Homegrown terrorism and transformative learning: an interdisciplinary approach to understanding radicalization,” Global Change, Peace & Security (formerly Pacifica Review: Peace, Security & Global Change) 22:1 (2010): 38.
The New Challenge for HR + Security Leaders: Radicalization in the Workplace
View the Presentation