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Understanding Warning Signs in the Workplace

When dissecting incidents of workplace violence, a consistent theme emerges from most studies: perpetrators exhibit clear and concerning behaviours before the actual violent acts occur. This includes making threats and displaying intimidating behaviours, which are frequently observable and precede the incidents. Unfortunately, these warning signs are sometimes not recognised or are dismissed until after the violence has occurred.

Those in the field consistently observe that those inclined towards workplace violence typically manifest signs of emotional instability, unusual behaviour, and openly unacceptable conduct. These indicators can be so pronounced that they arguably should prompt preventive actions but often do not. Key warning signs include an aggressive or threatening demeanour, frequent and bitter arguments over trivial matters, and a penchant for discussing or collecting weapons. Such individuals might also exhibit a dramatic shift in their personality—from being outgoing to becoming withdrawn, secretive, and cynical.

Additional red flags include a noticeable decline in personal grooming, frequent complaints about personal and professional issues, and an ego-centric attitude. They might express overt hostility, particularly towards authority figures, show an unusual interest in violent media, or engage in conversations about politically charged topics, including militias. Other troubling signs are a history of substance abuse, family problems, or job instability.

From an organisational perspective, these behaviours manifest as declining job performance, increased absenteeism, poor interpersonal relations, and a lack of cooperation with colleagues. In some cases, a recent job loss or disciplinary action could exacerbate these issues. Changes in behaviour, such as mood swings or becoming exceedingly neat or sloppy, can also indicate underlying problems.

The presence of these warning signs calls for a vigilant approach to workplace safety. It is crucial for supervisors and coworkers to not only be aware of these potential indicators of violence but also to take them seriously. By doing so, they can potentially prevent harmful incidents and promote a safer, more supportive work environment. Proximity is ultimately one of our most important influencers. We must maintain vigilance in not only regulating our own behaviour, also that of our colleagues, to prevent harmful incidents and promote a safer work environment.  From the author.

The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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