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Signs that Your Co-worker Might Become Violent

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Several years ago when my daughter was in college, she met a boy. Outwardly, he was the perfect boy. He received a full scholarship, graduated valedictorian from high school, and was super smart with a ton of potential. Yeah!! My daughter hadn’t always made good decisions regarding boys in the past so I was thrilled and relieved when she told me about Ken (not his real name).
Over the next year, something didn’t seem quite right with Ken.  My daughter shared a few things that triggered my gut instincts. Random things like an occasional angry text message to her or that he would go days without talking to her because of something very minor. Once she shared that he got angry at her for something minor and threw a brush across the room. Now, Ken never physically hit her but I couldn’t ignore my gut instincts that shouted, ”THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH KEN!!! ABORT ABORT!!!”
But of course, my daughter wouldn’t listen to me and justified his behaviors, even blamed herself (classic victim behavior).

My friend works in a domestic violence clinic and agreed to meet with my daughter to talk about Ken. She reminded me that anything my daughter said would remain confidential. But luckily, my girls tell me everything!
After talking for over an hour, they both recognized that Ken is a time bomb just waiting to explode. Ken demonstrated common patterns of behavior that typically escalate over time to physical violence.
My husband (not my daughter’s father) is a detective specializing in crime and violence prevention. He also shared my concerns about Ken’s behavior and corroborated my friend’s information about domestic violence – that verbal assaults generally escalate to physical assaults.
But violence just doesn’t happen at home or on college campuses. Violence happens in the workplace too.
By understanding the escalation of violence, you can pay attention to signs that your co-worker might become violent:
FIRST SIGN – Verbal assaults. Assaults might start as openly criticizing, sending hostile emails or text messages, and angry comments in front of others OR when alone with this person.
I read some of Ken’s text messages to my daughter. Shocking!!!
SECOND SIGN – Throwing inanimate objects. Throwing things, kicking a chair, or punching a wall. Have you ever seen a co-worker (typically physicians) throw things?
Ken started throwing things – a brush across the dorm room, his books against the wall, etc.
WHAT COMES NEXT – This is when their anger escalates to physical violence towards people.
Luckily, my daughter broke up with Ken. As a mother, I can’t tell you how relieved I was. I was so afraid I would get THAT call – you know, the one every parent dreads.
If you are working with someone who triggers your gut instinct, start paying attention.  Remember, violence starts with verbal assaults, then assaults against inanimate objects, and then violence against people.
Intervene early. Don’t wait for someone to get violent and then have regrets that you didn’t take action.
Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to read your comments about this topic below.
Renee
About the author: Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, click here.

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1 thought on “Signs that Your Co-worker Might Become Violent”

  1. Forensic Notes

    I really respect how Dr. Renee Thompson is willing to open up this article with a real life story showing that we all have struggles with family and the decisions they sometimes make. As she states, physical violence normally has warning signs, but those warning signs can be hard to see in the moment unless you know what to look for. She provides some good examples of things to watch out for in not only your personal life but also within the workplace. As with any incidents of bullying in the workplace, be sure to document all actions of the bully in case things escalate to a level that becomes unsafe to yourself or others.

    Thank you for another great article Dr. Thompson.

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