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,

professional intervention.


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

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