Identifying and Preventing Workplace Violence

Mass homicides and a surge of workplace violence in the 1980s prompted aggressive research into methods of identifying and preventing such catastrophes. Employees who threaten others are referred for a forensic psychiatry assessment of whether they are likely to become dangerous, and under what circumstances. Sometimes, expert assessment is sought because stalkers from outside a company endanger an employee or the place of business.

Threat assessment forensic examinations are particularly sensitive – for an employee or other individual deemed dangerous gains a frightening distinction that may follow him. Nevertheless, potential real danger ignored can give rise to tragedy later. Dramatic consequences mean that the chance of such an outcome is not worth taking. Out of respect for the individual concerned, these expert evaluations should involve a face-to-face examination. Forensic examinations that do not include in-person interviewing fall short of the humanism expected of forensic psychiatry.

Questions of future workplace violence are delicate and require exceptional caution and discretion in order to avoid creating panic or provoking catastrophe. For this reason, risk assessment is also accompanied by recommendations for reducing any risk, even if that risk is minor, from escalating. Forensic psychiatrists work closely with corporate security officials to tailor interventions to the unique features of the workplace, and the employee’s personality.

In our experience examining workplace threat assessment cases, The Forensic Panel has found the examination to be a beneficial leverage to prompt an examinee to consider how he might improve, and choose an alternative interpersonal approach. Even when a person is not dangerous, referral often heralds emotional problems that the employee is not managing well. At the same time, we have also encountered instances where employers called someone dangerous in order to summarily fire that person – even though the employee may be no more than contrarian, or even politically unpopular.

The Forensic Panel forensic psychiatrists have the savvy to embark on fact-finding in cases of workplace risk with openness, and the clinical skills to engage a fragile and potentially explosive individual at eye level. The peer reviewed oversight The Forensic Panel employs contributes to conclusions that reflect standards of risk assessment, objectivity, and threat reduction.