Confident or Cocky?
Several years ago I met with an organization to discuss their workplace violence prevention program and threat management team. I asked a key stakeholder to identify who in the organization was responsible to assess and manage threats of violence. His response: “I assess all threats and decide what action we will take” surprised and concerned me. He was operating in a silo, not taking advantage of other internal resources necessary to mitigate threats.
This organization had over three-dozen facilities and thousands of employees. It had also experienced a fatal workplace shooting a year before our meeting. How could one person with dozens of other day-to-day responsibilities possibly receive, understand, assess, and manage all workplace threats? Why didn’t he solicit input from other key stakeholders and subject matter experts (HR, Legal, EAP, threat assessors)? What was the body of knowledge he relied on when assessing and managing threats?
Threat Management Teams
So what is a threat management team? A commonly accepted definition is “a cross functional, multidisciplinary team approach to assist in assessing threatening situations and developing threat management plans. The team meets regularly and when needed in crisis situations, to review potential and active threat cases”. (Deisinger, Randazzo, O’Neill, and Savage, 2008)
These teams are sometimes referred to as incident management teams or threat assessment teams. They provide a multi-disciplinary approach to assessing and managing potential threats of violence in the workplace. There is immense value in bringing together a cross section of professionals viewing and assessing threats through their own “unique lens”. Each member of the team brings a level of expertise and perspective. When combined with other members of the team this provides sound and well thought out analysis and solutions.
Structure threat management Team
Obviously the structure of the threat management team varies depending on the size and complexity of the organization. A small, family operated business with a couple of hundred employees may have a threat management team consisting of the owner, HR leader, and general counsel. Larger organizations with scores of locations and thousands of employees may have a more robust team, especially if they have business operations overseas where international travel and the threat of crime and terrorism are factors.
Role of the Team
What does a threat management team look like in an organization and what is its’ role? The American National Standard on Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention developed in 2011 by ASIS International and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends that executive leaders sanction and support the role of the team. Resident experts in Human Resources, Security, and Legal should be at the core of the threat management team, while HR may also invite a representative of the Employee Assistant Program (EAP) to the discussion when necessary. Security would do the same through their liaison with law enforcement when they are needed. Legal representation should have experience in employment law. The composition of the threat management team may vary from organization to organization. However, use of a threat assessment professional, e.g. certified threat manager ™ is critical for high risk threats. Other ad hoc members of the team may include someone from risk management, corporate communications, and crisis management.
Function of Threat management Team
A threat management team must understand as much as possible about the person making the threat (subject); the target/victim against whom the threat was communicated; and the environmental factors surrounding the relationship between the two and organizational factors impacting the risk. Team members need to keep in mind that:
- Many persons who make a threat do not pose a threat. Such threats, however, still require a timely response since the communication of a threat causes the target unnecessary concern and stress.
- Some persons who make a threat also pose a threat, and for obvious safety reasons there must be an immediate response.
- A subject may also pose a threat but does not openly make a threat.
The last of these scenarios is obviously the most challenging for a threat management team. It is heavily reliant on input received from supervisors and managers who have been trained to identify violence risk factors in the workplace. If your organization does not have a threat management ask yourself a few questions:
- Do top executives support the role of the team?
- Will the team be a cross section of subject matter experts from within the organization?
- Will the team receive training in threat assessments and threat management concepts and strategies?
- Will the team meet regularly to discuss cases and trends related to potential violence in the organization?
- Does the team have regular access to external consultants experienced and trained in conducting violence threat assessments?
Be Ready to Respond
Threats and acts of violence in the workplace can manifest themselves at any time in the workplace. Early intervention and a prompt response from management and the threat management team to such threats are (1) the right thing to do; (2) ensure compliance with OSHA and state requirements; and (3) provide for an affirmative defense from negligent security, negligent retention, and negligent hiring actions.
For more information on threat management teams and workplace violence prevention contact Seven Citadels Consulting.