angry man

Workplace Violence: What is a Threat Assessment?

Tasha Dyson, CFEWorkplace Violence

angry manWhat is a threat assessment?

One of the things clients frequently ask us has to do with workplace violence. Usually it goes something like this. We get a call from a company. They’re going to fire someone fairly soon, and they’re not sure how he’s going to react. They’re contacting us to see what sort of support we can provide.

One of the first things we’re going to do is a threat assessment. We’re going to try to get a feel for that subject and what’s going on in their life right now. Our first questions are going to go to the person who called us. Why are we concerned? Why are we worried? What has he done before? Is there information that gives us cause for concern? Why is this individual’s employment being terminated?

What’s going on in this person’s life right now? Are there criminal problems? Drug or alcohol problems? Divorce or domestic violence issues? Financial trouble? These are all things we’re going to look for when we do a criminal record search, a civil records search, and a federal record search. Most of these are usually done at a pre-employment background investigation, but it may have been a while since that was last done for this individual. We’re looking for stressful events that have happened recently.

Often the person who contacts us isn’t the person who knows the individual best. Usually that’s a co-worker or a supervisor. If possible, we want to get information from them. Has our subject made any threats before? Do they have a temper? Have they mouthed off at other co-workers? Do they talk about weapons? Active Shooters? Mass attacks? Anything of that nature? Do they have access to weapons? Have they talked about violence being a way to solve problems?

We’re also going to take a look at social media. Now let me be clear. In all the years I’ve done this, I’ve never seen anybody say on social media I’m going to go kill somebody at work. That’s not what we’re looking for. We’re trying to get a general picture of what’s going on in this person’s life right now. Is there evidence of a strong support structure, like friends, family, or church? We’re going to make sure we look at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, or any other social media platform that’s likely based on the individual’s age and gender.

Only after all of this information is gathered can we make a good recommendation for what security needs to be in place at termination. There are some basic guidelines that you’re going to follow for all terminations. There are certain precautions you’re always going to take. What the threat assessment helps us do is determine if we need any extra security measures.