Threat Assessment

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Learn practical strategies for combatting rage in the workplace:

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When conducting violence-prevention training, Larry J. Chavez asks participants if they've ever spotted signs of violence in the workplace, and almost everyone has a scary story, "things that are beyond just having a nervous feeling in your stomach," says Chavez, the founder of Critical Incident Associates. He describes the following as warning signs that someone may resort to violence:

• Committing an act that is clearly in violation of the company's workplace violence rules.

• Identifying people as targets.

• A past history of minor threats or violence.

• Direct threats or actual injury toward a targeted person.

• Multiple life/work stresses, ranging from a company merger to the loss of a pet.

• Lack of support from family or friends or an unwillingness to turn to them. Women talk; men retreat. "It just gets stored," says Chavez. "I think it's the reason why men are the predominant killer in the workplace."

• Indicators of suicide - express or implied, such as giving away personal, priceless possessions. Among workplace killers, 28% commit suicide at the scene, and 7.6% are killed by police in suicide missions, according to Chavez. "It's almost typical male logic: Everything's gone now, I have nothing to live for," he says. "Most men define themselves by their jobs."

• Domestic violence. Thirteen percent of fatal cases of workplace violence are related to domestic violence. A man comes into an office building to murder his estranged wife and also kills her co-workers. He may even target the people at work who, for example, introduced her to an employee assistance program.

• Marked changes in behavior.

• Any escalation of any of the aforementioned activities.

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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