If your coworker threatens you or others with violence, don't ignore it and hope the problem will go away on its own. Smith, Gambrell and Russell, LLP, reporting on a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study, states that 41 percent of women who died from occupational injuries were due to workplace homicides. If you feel threatened by a coworker, learn what to do before it's too late.
According to the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, "I'll get you," "I'm going to kill you," "You'll be sorry," or "You'd better watch out" are all threats and should be taken seriously. If she was just reprimanded or fired and is angry, her threats may be real. Threats that may preclude physical violence can include thrown or destroyed property, shaking fists, rude gestures or shoving other people.
Smith, Gambrell and Russell, LLP, suggests that threats of violence are more likely in a workplace that lacks advancement opportunities, avoids dealing with employees' emotions or allows frequent disruptions and frustrations. Such disruptions may include personnel shortages, excess noise, little privacy, too much overtime or even an uncomfortable room temperature.
Immediate Action for Serious Threats
If you or your coworkers have just been threatened with violence, including bomb or arson threats, call your supervisor, the building security officers or the police. If the threatening person has a weapon, the Nonprofit Risk Management Center recommends that you contact the police immediately. The person should be removed from the building as soon as possible and not allowed reentry until the conclusion of an investigation. After the investigation, the person may be suspended, terminated or criminally prosecuted. According to attorney-at-law Amy Semmel in "Working World," you can file for a restraining order against the person for further protection.
Action for Less Severe Threats
If an employee threatened to sue you or the company, make a report of his statement and contact the company's insurance provider. Some providers want threats of lawsuits reported as incidents, while others only want reports of actual litigation.
If the employee is angry but hasn't made a serious threat, talk to him to calm him down. Don't, however, actually tell the employee to calm down, as that can make him more mad, according to a 2011 article from Incentive Magazine. Don't correct the coworker or employeee and tell him what he wants is against company policy. Do not say anything that would provoke him to violence. Instead, ask him for the facts of his problem and let him know you want to help. Your concern may be enough to defuse his anger.
Preventing Future Threats and Violence
If your company doesn't have a policy for handling threats and workplace violence, ask your supervisors to create one promptly. Review the policy with managers and employees, so they know what to do in case of a threat or violence. The policy might include numbers to call in case of emergency and routes employees can take to escape the building if an employee turns violent.
Learn how to recognize violence-prone workers. Smith, Gambrell and Russell, LLP, states that these are people who are hypersensitive to the smallest problems, impatient, suspicious of others, judgmental and unrealistic. Such people have dramatic mood swings, bully others or are bullied themselves. They feel entitled to break company rules and avoid consequences.
- Nonprofit Risk Management Center: Zero Tolerance for Workplace Violence
- Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP: Workplace Violence: Recognizing Risk Factors and Formulating Prevention Strategies
- Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment: Fact Sheet - What Employees Should Know and Do About Violence at Work
- Working World: I Was Threatened at Work. Can I Get a Restraining Order?
- Incentive: How to Defuse Angry Employees
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