The threat of violence whether it emanates from a disgruntled employee, or the threat of terrorism require both a concerted and an individual response. In this edition, I attempt to draw a correlation between the Disgruntled Employee Homicidal Threat and the Terrorist. Terrorism in any form is terrorism. Having been exposed to the daily taunts, acts of intimidation, verbal threats of bodily harm are as debilitating psychologically as the blunt strike or the piercing bullet.
Vigilance and security awareness makes for a good prescription. The process starts with an understanding of what constitutes workplace violence and your understanding of what is workplace violence prevention. Having the right mindset, can empower even the non-security manager to ask tough questions.
In my previous writings on the topic of workplace security, I’ve attempted to draw a correlation between the disgruntled employee and the terrorist from within by suggesting similar patterns of behavior, traits and characteristics coupled with freedom of access and possession of the company’s secrets. My observations clearly implied a volatile ingredient worthy of skeptical assessment. Your workforce can unintentionally create opportunities for criminals or the disgruntled employee. Making personnel assignments based on a business metric and operational decisions devoid of security considerations are opportunities the opportunistic criminal and terrorist exploits.
Following a recent article written by Louis Rovner, Ph. D, entitled “Protecting Your Company from Terrorism Within”, I interviewed him regarding the article. Dr. Rovner is a psychologist in LA who consults to businesses, government agencies and law enforcement agencies, one of a handful of polygraphs – psychologist nationwide. He believes that the potential for disaster is at every employer’s doorstep, and I agree with the assessment. He said, “Thousands of Terrorists call the United States home…hundreds of terrorist sleeper cells scattered throughout the U.S. awaiting orders and instructions need to assimilate in order to survive”. What do they do?
The thrust of this edition is a testimonial to the existing synergy between Dr. Rovner and I on the topic of workplace security as a legitimate discussion. I believe the solution to the minimization of any potential exposure is an aggressive but practical security plan which addresses workplace security issues in greater detail incorporating training and security awareness.
Now I would like to draw that necessary correlation between the seamless similarities existing between the “event driven” explosive conduct of the “disgruntled employee”, “opportunistic criminal”, and “the Terrorist from within”. In an investigation I conducted several years ago an otherwise hard-working employee with a diagnosed personality disorder was reassigned from his regular letter carrier duties due to a medical determination. It was to have been a temporary change.
However, during the ensuing assignment he was exposed to constant abusive taunting and harassment by co-workers. In response he began retaliating in his own way, initially innocuously and eventually more aggressively. The verbal threats directed at co-workers and supervisors escalated to more hostile conduct by the employee. It was clear he was sending a message of his displeasure.
While left alone on the office computer terminal he began browsing the Internet for bomb making sites. Apparently, he had been engaged in this clandestine operation for several days before being caught by a sharp supervisor who noticed his strange behavior at the terminal. To protect the evidence, he used a ruse to get the employee away from the terminal until my arrival.
The subsequent interview of the employee disclosed a pattern of hostile retaliatory intentions and conduct in response to a lack of confidence in management and his co-workers’ desire or interest to protect him from the ongoing verbal abuse and harassment. He was at his wits end. His aggression escalated from the verbal to the near physical threats involving his privately owned vehicle as he sought ways to avenge his tormentors and getting them to stop. I share this story because all to often senior managers are aloof in their thinking when it comes to workplace security and safety. Their management preference is to confirm it and “terminate” rather than taking corrective actions in identifying causation.
Are You Really Safe…?
Before we get into a technical discussion about the potential Terror from within, we need to answer a few questions and remind you that the problem lies well within senior management’s ability to manage, CEOs in the case of midsize and smaller business operations. Often management dismisses the duty to provide for a safe and secure workplace because they do not believe the sources or believe too much is made of workplace violence.
So, I ask senior management, do you know what to look for? Do you have a mechanism in place to address breeches of safety or security? Are you conducting training? Who is conducting the training? What is the focus of the training? Are you conducting worksite inspections? Are you asking employees for their input? Are your employees properly screened during the hiring process? Is there a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy and Program and lastly, are employees allowed to have input into their safety and security concerns?
If we acknowledge NO to any of these questions, we have the ability to take corrective action NOW. I know how resource intensive the process might appear, but you don’t have to go at it alone. Start with small chunks, process by process. Like the disgruntled employee who is “event driven” the Opportunistic Criminal and Terrorist waits for the event or gap in security himself. In these examples, they are the classic “sleepers” willing to hide their intentions until they are ready to act out.
Linda Lockwood, PhD at the Metropolitan State College, Denver, Colorado reminds us that workplace violence is obviously a serious problem that must be better understood to prevent its occurrences. There, I did not initially say this, Linda Lockwood said it. All I ask is that employers consider the threat from within a bit more seriously by developing your security policy and plans to minimize your exposure to the hostile intruder or the armed assailant.
Protecting Your Company from Terrorism from Within…
In the article by Dr. Rovner, he writes that the Employee-Terrorist is “calculated” and will wait for the opportunity to strike, while using the employer to survive beyond the stipends provided by their terrorist group, the unwitting employer is the potential target depending on the type of business or government agency or the disgruntled employee’s perception of who the real culprit might be. But even if the companies are not specifically targeted says, Dr. Rovner, they are indirectly and unknowingly supporting the Employee Terrorist by providing a source of income that sustains them until ready to act out.
Like the Terrorist who awaits the call to action, the disgruntled employee is “event driven” by the circumstances in their personal lives. When the funds run out, the thoughts of homicidal retaliation increase. Both the “Terrorist” and the “Disgruntled Employee” share some other common qualities and characteristics addressed under the mindset of the active shooter. As current or former “employee” they have access to the company through personnel, human resources, and other separation activities. These employees are familiar with the landscape, weak points, vulnerabilities in visitor management and access controls and company secrets.
The Potential Threat…
Driving home a clear and evident example of the potential terrorist’s ability to penetrate even a secure environment, I am reminded of the British Daily Mirror Reporter, Ryan Parry who compromised the Buckingham Palace’s hiring and recruitment procedures by providing false credentials and gaining precarious access to the President of the United and his wife while staying at the palace. Even though the palace had an elaborate security system and employed the most stringent security measures to guarantee the safety of President Bush, Parry successfully breeched security by falsifying his references.
According to security officials they were satisfied that both the security and criminal records check were robust and done correctly. The response may have satisfied some political end but didn’t answer the question of what type of employee background check was done to authenticate and validate the hiring during the screening process. Such access was a breach at the hiring phase when likely, the responsibility fell on the lonely shoulders of a lowly paid clerk who merely followed the checklist.
What To Look For…?
I believe the collaborative process of the Threat Assessment Team concept enhances the essentials and promotes shared awareness in the identification of the potential threatening applicant during the hiring process as well in identifying and monitoring ad risk employee behaviors. The same collaborative process can be used to ensure the right individual passes the hiring and recruitment process early on before permanent employment and that the wrong employee is identified before the minor nonfatal behaviors increase towards the fatal type.
Dr. Rovner says that companies, agencies, and organizations can take preventive measures. He suggests that the Human Resource Department be a bit more aggressive during the hiring phases by instilling the essential skills of the investigator. Verification of all data at the hiring process is critical. He said, “One of the scariest things about the Terrorist is that they look just like you and me”. While psychologist have not developed a foolproof terrorist profile, he suggests that most Terrorists possess a few the same traits your employees possess. Tactfully worded questions during the interview process will alert the interviewer. Dr. Rovner further suggest that since the Terrorist possess common traits the use of properly designed questions will tell whether the applicant has most or all the traits.
He Suggest They Are:
Dissatisfied with their lives
Have low self-esteem
Are true believers
Lack pity or remorse
Have grievances against our country and our allies. Are tremendously loyal to their terrorist group.
Anyone intimately familiar with the Threat Assessment Process would quickly understand that some of the Terrorist’s traits and characteristics are common to the disgruntled employee. If you would like a copy of Dr. Rovner’s article, I’d be happy to forward you a copy. Please request it via email.