Thursday, April 13, 2023

Do you know how to spot an employee at risk for mass violence?

Before Connor Sturgeon left his home with gun to travel to his place of employment, Old National Bank, to open fire in an assault that that killed five and injured eight others, he wrote a note to loved ones. He had also apparently told others that he was suicidal. This was just the most recent in a string of never-ending workplace tragedies.

Prior to Monday, were there any signals to anyone at Old National Bank that Sturgeon was about to be a major problem, that he could kill those with whom he worked in spectacular and tragic fashion?

Sturgeon was a banker with no criminal history. Still, even without a history of criminal violence in one's background (which isn't necessarily a predictor of future violence) there are certain warning signs for which an employer can look to help determine whether an employee is at risk for potential violence.

The Department of Homeland Security lists nine of them:
  • Increasingly erratic, unsafe, or aggressive behaviors.
  • Hostile behavior based on claims of injustice or perceived wrongdoing.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Claims of marginalization or distancing from friends and colleagues.
  • Changes in performance at work.
  • Sudden and dramatic changes in home life or in personality.
  • Financial difficulties.
  • Pending civil or criminal litigation.
  • Observable grievances and making statements of retribution. 

If any red flag is observed, DHS recommends that you take note of any escalations in behavior and note any information that may help facilitate intervention and mitigate potential risks. It is also recommended that you refer the employee to an employee assistance program for assessment and treatment, or a fitness for duty exam if you reasonably believe that the behavior indicates an underlying mental health issue. 

It's far better to be safe and err on the side of caution than to do nothing and end up a headline and a statistic.