Indicators for Managers
In addition to the behavioral warning signs which are so often associated with a potentially violent employee, there are other
indicators available to supervisors and managers. These indicators are oriented to a manager’s view of employee behavior and
may be more easily utilized than some of the specific behavioral warning signs discussed previously.
An employee exhibiting these indicators is not necessarily an individual who is prone to violence; however, violence is always a
possibility when these warning signs are evident. These indicators are typical of an employee in difficulty; they strongly suggest
that some kind of immediate intervention is needed:
1. Excessive tardiness or absences. Beyond simply missing work, an employee may also reduce his or her workday by leaving
early, departing the work site without authorization, or presenting numerous excuses for otherwise shortening the workday. This
is a particularly significant indicator if it occurs in an individual who has been typically prompt and committed to a full work day.
2. Increased need for supervision. An employee typically requires less supervision as he or she becomes more proficient at
their work. An employee who exhibits an increased need for supervision, or with whom the supervisor must spend an inordinate
amount of time, may be an individual who is signaling a need for help. Managers should be alert to such a change and consider
offering professional intervention if the situation so warrants.
3. Reduced productivity. If a previously efficient and productive employee experiences a sudden or sustained drop in
performance, there is reason for concern. This is a classic warning sign of dissatisfaction and the manager should meet with the
employee to determine a mutually beneficial course of action.
4. Inconsistency. As in the case of reduced productivity, an employee exhibiting inconsistent work habits may be in need of
intervention. Employees are typically quite consistent in their work habits and, should this change, the manager has reason to
suspect the individual is in need of assistance.
5. Strained workplace relationships. Many of the classic behavioral warning signs may be identified under this category. Should
a worker begin to display disruptive behavior in the workplace it is imperative that the manager intervene as quickly as possible to
diffuse a potentially violent situation. This indicator should be taken quite seriously. A worker who exhibits disruptive behavior is in
need of immediate counseling and, if appropriate, professional employee assistance.
6. Inability to concentrate. This may indicate a worker who is distracted and in trouble. Employee counseling is indicated.
7. Violation of safety procedures. This behavior may be due to carelessness, insufficient training or stress. If an employee who
has traditionally adhered to safety procedures is suddenly involved in accidents or safety violations, stress may be indicated. This
may be a serious situation which requires the intervention of professional employee assistance personnel. Stress is a
significant contributor to workplace violence; it is of sufficient magnitude that the topic has been given special attention elsewhere
in this study.
8. Changes in health or hygiene. An employee who suddenly disregards personal health or grooming may be signaling for help.
9. Unusual behavior. As mentioned previously, a sustained change in behavior is often an indication of an employee in difficulty.
Common sense is the best judge of this issue. Workers are typically quite familiar with the personalities of their peers and are
often quick to notice significant changes. The work environment should be managed in such a way as to ensure trust and open
communication so that workers undergoing a difficult period may be offered prompt assistance.
10. Fascination with weapons. This is a classic behavioral warning sign that should be easily recognized by coworkers and
11. Substance abuse. This is such a prevalent problem in the American workplace that it has been given separate consideration
in this study. It is important that every organization have some methodology in place to identify and assist an employee who has
become the victim of drug or alcohol abuse.
12. Stress. As discussed elsewhere in this study, stress is a serious and widespread problem in the workplace. As with
substance abuse, an organization should have procedures in place to identify workers who are victims of stress and provide an
effective intervention program. The implementation of stress mitigation and personal wellness programs should also be
considered by employers.
13. Excuses and blaming. This is a classic behavioral warning sign that is often easy to identify but just as often ignored by
managers. A worker who engages in this behavior is often signaling for assistance, requires counseling and, possibly,
14. Depression. Depression is a common ailment in America but not all individuals suffering from depression are prone to
violence. If, however, the depression is evident for a sustained period of time, professional intervention is recommended
because a violent outcome is always a possibility.
Many of these indicators for managers are alternative ways of interpreting the key behavioral warning signs associated with
potential violence. They are almost always warning signs of an employee who requires help. An astute manager will often be
quite aware of these indicators through experience and instinct. These tools--experience and instinct--are valuable components
of good management and should never be ignored. Any employee who exhibits one or more of these indicators must be
assumed to be in need of assistance or intervention. Managers must be alert to these indirect pleas for help and provide a
positive, timely response to ensure a safe and secure work environment.
New Arenas for Violence is now available from the Greenwood Publishing Group. This is a definitive study of workplace violence
that includes causal factors, intervention, prevention, and case studies of the issue. Read the synopsis. (ISBN 0-275-9 5652-0)