It’s our one-hundredth episode!
In this episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & Chief Executive Bryan Strawser, we discuss a common employee comment about someone in the workplace they may find threatening, which is “But, they are weird!”. How can we evolve our assessment behind simply reporting that someone is “weird” and focus on actual behaviors, threat risk factors, and proper assessment practices?
Topics discussed include workplace violence, threat management, threat assessment, threat management teams, threat severity levels, and more.
Related Blog Posts & Episodes
- Episode #41: Threat Incident Risk Factors
- Episode #42: Threat Severity Levels
- Episode #43: Threat Management Framework
- Episode #68: Reductions in Force
- Blog Post: Helping employees recognize and report suspicious or threatening behavior
Bryghtpath Workplace Violence Prevention Resources
- FREE Masterclass: Four steps to managing threats of workplace violence in your business or school
- Bryghtpath’s Insights on Workplace Violence & Threat Management
- Bryghtpath’s FREE webinars, including “Shots Fired! Leading in an active shooter incident”
- Whitepaper / Special Report: Notable Workplace Violence Incidents
Hello and welcome to the Managing Uncertainty podcast.
This is Bryan Strawser, principal and chief executive here at Bryghtpath. And today I want to talk about one of the things that we hear a lot related to workplace violence, and that is some variation on the statement that, “But they’re weird and people are scared, and doesn’t that mean that this person is dangerous.” And what we’re talking about here is really evaluating a threat or threat assessment when it comes to unusual behavior or threatening behavior in your workplace, and I want to put all this in context.
Because the answer to that statement, and again, the statement is, “But they’re weird and people are scared and doesn’t that mean that they’re dangerous.” And the answer is, “Maybe, but maybe not.” Why are they weird and why exactly are people scared? And I want to steer us away from this whole conversation about people being weird because I think that takes us to a strange and inappropriate place that doesn’t value the differences in individuals.
What I want to focus on are their specific behaviors and the presence of risk factors that we know are precursors to violence.
So again, I want to focus on the behavior first. What is the behavior that they’re exhibiting that makes people think that they’re weird, so to speak? What is that … ? What is the behavior that they’re engaged in? And if you want to just be really factual about what are the things that they are doing that is making people feel uncomfortable about their presence?
Once we’ve identified what that behavior is, then we can start thinking about the threat risk factors that are present. And when we’re talking about threat risk factors, we’re really talking about what are the written verbal or veiled threats that a person is engaged in that could be a precursor to violence, and then what risk factors might be present there?
And it’s important as we think about these risk factors that I’m going to walk through in a moment, that the presence of just one risk factor doesn’t mean that the individual is dangerous. Most of us, including myself, probably have some one or two or three of these risk factors present because of how I live my life.
For example, one of the risk factors is having access to weapons. Well, I have access to weapons. I’m a gun owner. I own knives. I shoot competitively. So those are risk factors that I have access to these weapons, but that presence of that risk factor does not make me a dangerous individual. What we’re looking for here is the combination of their behavior that we see as threatening and the presence of risk factors to understand whether or not this individual is dangerous. And this is just part of what your threat assessment process should look like.
Let’s talk a little bit about what those threat incident factors look like, just some of them. And then you can download for free our workplace violence and threat management toolkit and get our full list of threat incident risk factors.
And we’ve also done an episode just on this topic that you can listen to or read the transcript of and get some more detail. But some of the threat risk factors are when we’re talking about employee on employee or student on student violence. We’re talking about access to weapons.
An individual who’s making direct threats or making threats to the subject of the threat instead of doing it indirectly, which is really common. Individuals that have a history of violence that we can see in the record or our research. Individuals who have engaged in physical violence that we’ve documented. Maybe they had a violent incident at work or individuals that have had employment problems or a decline in their work performance.
This is a common precursor to violence. Again, when multiple risk factors are present. When we’re talking about a domestic violence incident that has spilled over into the workplace, and you’re evaluating that. Things like harassing communications, phone calls, emails, text messages, a recent relationship issue, a breakup, an increase in frequency or type of violent behavior that has gone on, substance abuse or a previous track record of violating protection orders, orders for protection or what we might call a restraining order in some jurisdictions.
So these are the kinds of risk factors that you’re evaluating as you think about an individual’s behavior. And so again, we’re focusing on what is their behavior that we find threatening or disconcerting that’s making coworkers and others uncomfortable.
And then we’re evaluating that behavior against this set of risk factors to understand you know, is it dangerous or not? I think one of the most important things to leave here in terms of messaging as we think about this topic, is that lots of people are a little strange and unique. And certainly, my own personality, if you knew me in real life, beyond the confines of this podcast, I’m a little different. I’ve got a different way of thinking. I’ve got my own work style. I’m pretty nerdy. To some people, that’s weird.
But to others like myself, this is just the way that I am. So it’s important I think in this work context as we think about the behavior that makes individuals uncomfortable, there’s a long road between being unique and weird and different, and actually being dangerous in the workplace.
And we want to use these tools like a threat management team or a threat assessment team, a workplace violence program, threat incident, risk factors. We want to use tools like this to put some objectivity into this discussion and making sure that what we’re looking at in individuals is their behavior, their actions that are making people uncomfortable and the risk factors that might be present and evaluate that in the context of a threat assessment team or a threat management team, so that we are looking at this through the right lens, through what we’ve learned about threat management and threat assessment, and then making the right assessment in terms of the approach that we want to take moving forward in terms of determining whether or not this individual is actually dangerous or not.
If you want to learn more about managing threats, we have two options for you beyond the podcast episodes. We have a free masterclass, which is a video presentation that you can take any time.
We offer it several times a week, where you can learn many lessons about a threat management process and building that within your organization and evaluating threats for severity and risk. That is completely free.
And we also have a paid course on managing threats of workplace violence.
It’s called the Managing Threats Workshop. You learn more about that through our masterclass, or you can go directly to the Managing Threats Workshop and learn more about what that course offers and what you can get out of that and how to enroll.
Either of those are great options for you if you want to learn more about the topic of workplace violence and threat and risk factors.
That’s it for this edition of the Managing Uncertainty podcast. We’ll be back next week with another new episode.