PINS: Pre-Incident Indicators - Red Flags for Workplace Violence and Predicting Violent Behavior
The following passage is excerpted, with permission, from Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear.
Pre-incident indicators (PINS) typically manifest themselves in several ways. Close scrutiny in the workplace is essential when dealing with a difficult or concerning employee. While the use of check-lists is no replacement for professional assessments, arming supervisors with this information empowers them to watch for red flags.
There are no short-cuts for high-stakes predictions. Adults typically do not communicate their violent intentions as often as teenagers who act out similarly. Adults are more likely to ‘hold their cards close to their chest’. With adults, there may only be the utterance of a threat, even a veiled or indirect threat or what appear to be merely passing comments. All threats and concerning comments should be taken seriously.
According to Gavin de Becker, PINS fall into the following main categories:
- Inflexibility – The employee resists change, is rigid and unwilling to discuss ideas contrary to his/her own.
- Weapons – S/he has recently obtained a weapon, has a weapons collection or makes jokes or frequent comments about weapons.
- Sadness – S/he is sullen, angry or depressed. Chronic anger is an important predictor of violence. Accordingly, chronic anger should never be ignored. Signs of depression include changes in weight, irritability, suicidal thoughts and references, hopelessness, sadness and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Hopelessness – S/he has made statements like "What’s the use?", "Nothing ever changes anyway", "I’ve got no future". S/he makes suicidal references or threats, or s/he makes or describes plans consistent with committing suicide (gets affairs in order, sells off or gives away possessions). Pessimism is an important predictor of problems just as optimism is an important predictor of success.
- Identification – S/he identifies with or praises other perpetrators of workplace violence. S/he refers to, jokes about, or is fascinated with news stories about major acts of violence. S/he is attracted to violent films, magazines (Soldier of Fortune), violent books or gruesome news events.
- Co-worker Fear – Co-workers are afraid of or apprehensive about him/her (whether or not they can articulate their reasons). This PIN seeks to capture the intuition of co-workers.
- Time – S/he has used Threats, Intimidations, Manipulations or Escalations towards management or co-workers.
- Paranoia – S/he feels others are "out to get" him/her, that unconnected events are related, that other people are conspiring against him/her.
- Criticism – S/he reacts adversely to criticism, shows suspicion of those who criticize him/her and refuses to consider the merits of any critical observations about his/her performance or behavior.
- Blame – S/he blames others for the results of his/her own actions and refuses to accept responsibility.
- Crusades – S/he has undertaken or attached him/herself to crusades or missions at work. This is particularly significant if s/he has waged what s/he might characterize as a "one-person war".
- Unreasonable Expectations – S/he expects elevation (promotion), long-term retention (job security), an apology (for some perceived slight), being pronounced the winner in some dispute, or found to be ‘right’.
- Grievance – S/he has a grievance pending or s/he has a history of filing unreasonable grievances.
- Police Encounters – S/he has had recent police encounters (including arrests) or s/he has a history that includes assaultive or behavioral offenses.
- Media – There have recently been news stories about workplace violence or other major acts of violence. Media reports on these subjects often stimulate others who identify with the perpetrators and the attention they got for their acts.
- Focus – S/he has monitored the behavior, activities, performance, or comings and goings of other employees, though it is not his/her job to do so. It is statistically significant that nearly half of all stalkers show up where their victims work and companies would be wise to understand this dynamic.
- Contact – If s/he was fired, s/he has instigated and maintained contact with current employees, s/he refuses to let go and appears more focused on the job s/he just lost than in finding other employment.
4731 E. Greenway Rd Suite 10
Phoenix, Arizona 85032