Threat Definitions

A sample definition for a threat of workplace violence could be “an inappropriate behavior, verbal or nonverbal communication, or expression that would lead to the reasonable belief that an act has occurred or may occur which may lead to physical and/or psychological harm to the threatener, to others, or to property.” Alternative: “Any verbal or physical conduct that threatens property or personal safety or that reasonably could be interpreted as an intent to cause harm.”

 Identifying and Reporting Threats and Threatening Behavior:

The best plans for threat assessment and response will be useless if employers or those assigned to respond to workplace violence don’t know that a threat has been made.

Detecting threats depends in large measure on the workplace culture. If employees are too afraid or too alienated from management to report violent or threatening behavior by coworkers, no violence prevention program will be effective.

To encourage reporting, employers can create a climate in which safety is accepted as a common goal for workers and management and all employees – including management.

Feel free to report disturbing incidents or possible danger signs.

Along with encouraging employees to report violence or threats, employers also have to inform them where to report and what to report. A designated office or person to whom complaints are directed, and perhaps a hotline number or suggestion box for employees who prefer to remain anonymous, can provide a concrete and clear venue for reporting.

To the extent that employees feel comfortable in reporting incidents to their immediate supervisors, the information may come through the normal management channels. However, having additional reporting channels can facilitate reporting where an employee finds it difficult to report through a supervisor. Whatever reporting system is adopted, publicizing it on bulletin boards, employee newsletters, and notices distributed with paychecks, or other means, will help ensure that all workers know how to report any behavior they consider troubling.

To further facilitate the identification of threats, employees, supervisors, and manager can receive training to help them detect out-of-bounds behavior or other warning signs. Training can also help educate workers and supervisors on how to respond to someone who seems troubled or potentially dangerous and how to report that behavior to managers. Training can also include a very clear statement to all employees on what to do if they see or become aware of a weapon (in almost all circumstances, leave the location and call for help.) Any training program should be sensitive to cultural assumptions and stereotypes and emphasize focusing on an individual’s manner, conduct, and behavior rather than ethnic or other group identity or a “profile” of a dangerous person.