|What is a “Lone Wolf” Situation in the Workplace|
|By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ|
You read about it every day in the newspaper or it is talked about in length on the television news and inserted in TV criminal justice series shows. Everybody talks about a ‘lone wolf’ situation or scenario in the work place and it is often misunderstood because it has certain features or traits that must be identified before it is called an act of violence in the workplace by someone related to an employee or someone hired there and who commits a crime.
In turn, every employer has a certain level of liability in such matters and it’s important to recognize or be able to assess such a situation as it develops and with hopes of intervention taking priority over everything else. One cannot over-emphasize the importance of the cognizant skills involved to prevent or intervene in such situations and not have to wonder if something could have been done to prevent it from happening.
Most of us understands the concept of a lone wolf – a person who is responsible for committing an act of violence or who is a perpetrator of violence and who acts alone. What this translates into is a person who plans and carries out a repulsive plan to harm someone, a target, without the assistance or help from anyone else in the workplace. This is a volatile situation aided by ability, proximity, opportunity and motive.
Lone wolves are not simplistic in nature; they are driven by various factors that include domestic situations at home, ideological causes or beliefs, mental illness issues or internal or external stressors such as disabilities, unemployment, finances, marriage problems, infidelity at work, etc.
The bottom line of any assessment is to as the question; will this person identified as a suspect, act violently? Hence the initial assessment must include the presence of a personal crisis either at home or at the workplace.
Digging deeper ask if they possess any perceived grievance(s) against anyone or the organization? Have they demonstrated recent anger at a co-worker or supervisor, perhaps feeling or inferring they were mistreated or unfairly handled or bullied by someone, including their supervisors or managers.
What is their demeanor and attitude? Are they depressed, quiet and withdrawn and are there any signs of mental health issues that may be of a huge concern to you or others? Have they expressed a desire or commented that they have nothing to lose and that some sort of retribution or punishment, (payback) will give them some sort of self-satisfaction for committing the crime?
Are they experiencing an emotional setback or personal crisis such as a difficult divorce, child custody issues, drinking or substance abuse, financial troubles, and many other personal crisis types of scenarios. As an employer and employee, you are liable to do something if such signs appear within the workplace.
Hopefully, your organization has a good training program in place to recognize warning signs. Supervisors should document any incidents, including witnesses, to minimize your liability exposure. In addition to training and observation, the workplace should for all practical purposes, implemented or installed sufficient security measures to minimize threat levels e.g. metal detectors, CCTV surveillance cameras, contraband checkpoints, etc. designed to minimize liabilities and the exposure to violence.
Make note if you have employees or co-workers who are behaving out of their normal characteristics or acting strangely, or are experiencing a growing or more intense anger or frustration which is becoming a problem for them. Develop a workplace violence prevention plan, which involves performing an assessment of the lone wolf scenario. If you don’t know how to do that, hire an expert to do that for you to protect the employees and the organization from any future harm.
In responding to these types of situations, never take anything for granted. It is always best to err on the side of caution and prioritize the safety of employees, visitors or bystanders, and the public, keeping in mind that once you realize you have a problem, you may never get a second chance to address it.
Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."
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