Workplace Violence: Was That a Threat?
Threats in the workplace are becoming more and more common, and the lines of what is considered an actual threat have been blurred due to technology: Was that employee's angry Facebook post or an actual THREAT or was he or she just venting about a bad day on the job? Workplace bullies use various forms of threats, sometimes bosses use them, and while most are not carried out, they are very frightening and intimidating, even when initiated via technology.
It's important to know that there are different types of threats. Each should be taken seriously and addressed immediately. The three different types of threats are:
1. Direct Threat. This is a clear and specific threat such as “I’m going to kill you” or “I’ll get even with you.” This is the type of threat that law enforcement will investigate when there are witnesses or documented proof, and with more and more threats coming in via technology, there is now more concrete evidence other than one person's word against another.
2. Conditional Threat. This threat depends on your course of action, so it could be “Fire me and you'll pay” or “Go ahead and report me and see what happens.” Often the victim of this type of threat stays silent because they are afraid if they come forward, the threat will be carried out.
3. Veiled Threat. This threat is not as explicit and (in my opinion) is the creepiest of all threats. This is the type of threat that keeps the victim up at night wondering "What exactly did that mean? Am I in danger?" A Tweet that reads "Just got suspended from work. Cleaning my gun" could be considered a veiled threat.
These threats are often aimed at family members, such as “Your kids get home from school at 3 o'clock, don’t they? And they are there alone until you get home at 6 o'clock? I would hate to see something happen to them!” The veiled threat causes the most fear for the recipients, especially when aimed at family members.
Supervisors and managers must assess all threats, along with the risk, and if they don’t feel capable to handle the situation properly (maybe the person being accused of the threat is a friend of theirs), then they need to take the information to human resources, security, or an outside consultant. Regardless of the course of action, it is vital to carefully document all threats as any of these could be a warning sign of potential violence.