Welcome to EssayHotline!

We take care of your tight deadline essay for you! Place your order today and enjoy convenience.

What is the effectiveness of training programs for reporting suspicious behavior and targeted violence prevention at the workplace?

Chapter I

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”-                                                                                                                   Barak Obama, 2008


“Most of the time when a violent incident shatters a workplace and ends lives, experts learn too late about the information that someone knew – somewhere – that could have been used to prevent the attack” (Doherty, 2015, para. 1). Violent workplace incidents such as homicides account for 25- 30% of the annual number of workplace incidents (Meloy, White, & Hart, 2013). Between 1992 and 2012, all workplace homicides in the United States accounted for the deaths of 14,770 individuals (NIOSH, 2014). But incidents such as the 2015 massacre in San Bernardino, CA or the 2014 Fort Hood, TX shooting are permanently marked in our consciousness. Parfitt (2014) writes that “mass casualty shootings …continue to make news and to some extent each of these events happened because the actions and behaviors of those who perpetrated these crimes were not recognized for the risk they presented” (p.29).

Meloy et al. (2013) refers to these violent targeted acts as “tail risk” events; events that have a low probability but are foreseeable (p.1354). Although rare, these violent have catastrophic consequences and high behavioral health risk factors (Crimando, 2013). They are devastating to the survivors and the community surrounding the incident.  In the past few years, the annual average of incidents tripled in comparison to previous years. Mass casualty active shooter events at the workplace account for 45.6 % of all incidents studied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between years 2000 and 2013. These attacks are well planned, emotionless and offensive, where an attacker rarely “snaps”. Going in, he/she knows that the intent is to “kill or physically harm identified or symbolic target” (White, 2014, p. 84).

Targeted violence at the workplace is not an epidemic, but it accounts for 34% of homicides in the workplace (White, 2014). Numerous studies suggest (Meloy et al., 2013, O’Tool, 2000, Broum, Fein, Vossekuil, & Berglund, 1999) that a targeted homicide “begins with a deeply felt personal grievance, often the loss of a job or a significant career setback, at times with parallel personal losses, especially financial stress” (White, 2014, p.84). The buildup of these difficulties may contribute to momentum toward violence and put the subject on a “path” to violence. White (2014) writes that these violent outbursts may be clinically understood as rooted in an extreme sensitivity to “narcissistic injury”. Attackers feel that their wounds are so deep that they are willing to sacrifice their own life to gain back a sense of pride and self-importance (White, 2014). “For the workplace avenger, violent action is often an acceptable and final solution to his or her own assessment of the current circumstances, if not a dark reflection on a life unrealized” (White, 2014, p.84).

The emergence of workplace mass murders and targeted-violence events has been on the rise since the 1980’s, when prevention and risk mitigation started to be recognized as occupations (Meloy et al., 2013). In the past few decades, security professionals developed a new approach to deal with violent incident – the interdisciplinary workplace violence risk assessment and management process that allows for potential identification and assessment of individuals before they commit an act of violence (ASIS, 2016). Typically, security programs focus on diversion, delay and response, but when it comes to workplace-violence incidents, these steps should be considered last. Instead, behavioral recognition, notification, assessment and intervention should take place (ASIS, 2016). The mitigating factor lies in understanding the mental state of the aggressor and diverting him/her from violence by early awareness and intervention.

According to Winer and Halgin (2016), the assessment of targeted violence threats rest on two key ideas:  not all threats are of equal risk; and most of the subjects “who make threats are unlikely to carry out their threats, but all threats must be taken seriously and evaluated with efficient and thoughtful judgment” (p. 252). In the past, violence prevention techniques focused on individual assessment and creation of a specific perpetrator profile. However, at present, current best practices move beyond this approach. Understanding and recognizing “warning behaviors” is a typology that is proposed by threat assessors as their means to prevent targeted violence. “Warning behaviors” are defined “as any behavior that precedes an act of targeted violence, is related to it, and may, in certain cases, predict it” (Meloy and O’Toole, 2011, p. 514).  Meloy, Hoffmann, Guldimann and James (2012) identify these behaviors as factors that accelerate the risk of targeted violence and propose eight categories that we should look at: pathway, fixation, identification, novel aggression, energy bust, leakage, last resort and directly communicated threat.  Although, not all are conceptually equivalent, “leakage” is the behavior that allows us to get insight into a possible threat.

The term “leakage” was offered by O’Toole (2000) in her study of school violence and is a communication of the perpetrator to the third party of intent to do harm and attack their victim(s). It is important to understand leakage-warning behaviors as many studies (Exceptional Case Study Project and Safe School Initiative) show that around 80% of all subjects have communicated either verbally or in writing before their attack. “A person may intentionally or unintentionally reveal clues to feelings, thoughts, fantasies, attitudes, or intentions that can signal an impending violent attack” (O’Toole, 2008, p.16). This type of behavior from the attacker gives an opportunity for intervention.

We (employers/employees, law enforcement, and the community as whole) might never be able to stop all the targeted violent attacks. However, we can change the way we train and educate employees at the workplace to report on suspicious behavior. Information sharing is the key component to indentifying a problematic situation. “Many of the task force reports published after the Virginia Tech shootings have said that identifying students who pose a risk, improving information sharing and recognizing early warning signs of emotional crisis are extremely important in preventing this violence” (Parfitt, 2014, p.29). Parfitt (2014) argues that we need a cultural shift in recognizing and reporting suspicious behavior.

There are different schools of thoughts concerning mitigation of targeted violence incidents. Two primary positions emerged as result of studies done by law enforcement and federal agencies: prevention/preemption, and tactical intervention (Ergenbright, & Hubbard, 2012). When it comes to prevention and tactical intervention, law enforcement agencies are trained to recognize suspicious behavior, can make reliable decisions based on risk assessment and are experts on incident response. However, we cannot rely on this expertise at the workplace. But we can learn from law enforcement how to recognize early signs. Since employees can aid in recognizing behaviors that may show some escalation towards violence, we could incorporate the “if see something, say something” methodology into workplace prevention programs.

Although, the “if see something, say something” program was created to raise awareness of the indicators of terrorism and the importance of reporting suspicious activity to local authorities, the idea of the program can be introduced in workplace prevention programs. Most of the current trainings on mass shooter incidents at the workplace follow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “Run, Hide, Fight” training that focuses on response to an on-going incident but since many violent acts are preceded by a threat, it is important to recognize and report problematic behaviors ahead of the violent act. It can be a crucial component in saving lives.

Statement of the Problem


            This study seeks to improve the effectiveness of training programs for reporting suspicious behavior and targeted violence prevention at the workplace. The field of workplace violence emerged about four decades ago and has been widely practiced across organizations. However, a number of high-profile workplace mass murders reported in “media created public awareness and concern about a relatively new perpetrator of violence: the disgruntled homicidal-suicidal employee” (White, 2014, p.84). While numerous case studies tackled the “warning behaviors” methodology to aid the threat assessment process, the “empirical evidence for the effectiveness of workplace-specific interventions to prevent targeted violence is … lacking” (White, 2014, p.84). This stems from the shortage of perpetrators (who are dead), their unwillingness to participate in the studies, or the reluctance of the organizations to release information about incidents.

Over the last few years, several mass shooting have occurred at the workplace, prompting organizations to reevaluate their workplace violence and security training. Most courses focus on actions to respond when the event occurs. They are based on the principles of “Avoid, Deny, Defend” or “Hide, Run, Fight” but rarely cover the importance of reporting on suspicious behavior. “Many times a violent act is preceded by a threat…but in many instances, behavior might be observed by other that might suggest the potential for some type of violence to occur” (Parfitt, 2014, p.32). Threat assessors look for “warning behaviors” or “red flags” to determine if the subject is on the “path” to violence. If we engage workplace employees to in the specific intervention training programs, we could potentially prevent some incidents of workplace violence.

Although, many programs have been implemented and employees have been trained on how to respond to workplace threats and violence, the organizations need to do a better job in engaging employees when it comes to reporting of suspicious behavior.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of training programs for reporting suspicious behavior and targeted-violence prevention at the workplace. As organization confront targeted violence mass-shooter scenarios, they train employees to face the lethal threat. In the state of Arkansas, several employers have a mandatory program to prepare employees for acts of targeted violence. Those employees, who have a license to carry a firearm, are being taught to react with lethal force. For those who don’t, like Energy’s Electric Utility company employees, are required to undergo a computer-based training.

The basic instructions are simple: run, hide, fight, in that order. Most programs for businesses are based on recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security, which advises people to follow a planned escape route and immediately evacuate. If escape is impossible, it suggests hiding out of the shooter’s view, locking doors or barricading entry points and staying silent (Massey, 2016, para. 8-9).

The same type of training is held across other states. The New York Police Department in their 2012 study “Active Shooter: Recommendation for Risk Mitigation” provide recommendations for training that was outlined by the Department of Homeland Security in “Active Shooter: How to Respond”. Once more, three simple steps are provided to follow: evacuate, hide and take action.

None of the training techniques require employees to be a part of the prevention program and to take steps to possibly mitigate the act of violence. The process of comprehensive emergency management runs through a “life cycle” that includes: preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. There is a need to evaluate current training programs to assess their effectives and to possibly be a part of the preparedness and mitigation emergency management cycle, rather than only response and recovery. The preparedness mission seeks to reduce the loss of life and property and protect communities through training, threat assessment, and exercises. The mitigation mission seeks to reduce or eliminate long-term risks to people and property from hazards and their effects through risk assessment, development of policies, plans and procedures. Where response mission seeks to conduct emergency operations to save lives (“Run, Hide Fight” training, crisis communication, liaison with law enforcement) and property, and the recovery mission seeks to support communities in rebuilding (business continuity, investigation, trauma management) (FEMA, 2010).

Organizations need to learn on how to be proactive vs. reactive, as workplace violence costs employers more than 36 billion a year as reported by Federal Bureau of Investigation (2011).  In addition, shootings account for 78 percent of all workplace homicides, where 83 percent occurs in a private sector (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). Through sound preparedness and mitigation strategy, organizations can possibly reduce violent acts.

Research Question

What is the effectiveness of training programs for reporting suspicious behavior and targeted violence prevention at the workplace?

Subsidiary Questions

  1. Why do employees at the workplace with direct knowledge about a possible attack not report the information, nor report on the suspicious behavior?
  2. How do we encourage employees to report suspicious activity more effectively?
  3. Do bystanders play a role in the prevention of targeted violent act?

Null Hypothesis

There is no impact on the effectiveness of training programs for reporting suspicious behavior and targeted violence prevention at the workplace.

 Significance of the Study

            It is important to continue to modify and implement effective programs for mitigating targeted violence at the workplace. In a public sector study conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), it was discovered that little research existed on the motivation and barriers that affected whether or not individuals report information to law enforcement. To close this gap, they conducted a study to understand people’s perception of what “suspicious activity” meant to the public, what were the motivators to report suspicious activity, what are the barriers that prevent reporting, and what methods worked to report suspicious activity. The results allowed for law enforcement and community partners to better “develop and adapt strategies to improve community outreach and education efforts that enhance the public’s awareness and reporting of suspicious activity” (FEMA, 2012, p.19).

In the private sector the empirical evidence for the effectiveness of workplace-specific interventions programs to prevent targeted violence is also lacking (White, 2014). This study is intended to provide answers as to how effective training programs are to report suspicious activity. With mass-shootings and, targeted violence incidents tripling every year, this researcher hopes to provide that insight to the private sector, as FEMA and IACP provided to law enforcement and community partners.

Definition of Terms

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 established comprehensive legislation covering civil rights for people with disabilities. It is published in the United States Code and is often referred to by the titles and chapters of the code that contain the law. (cite)

Attack: Carrying out (or attempting to carry out) the intended violence against the target (Calhoun & Weston, 2003).


Behaviors of Concern: Behaviors of concern are the observable, identifiable behaviors that an individual

exhibits while he or she is progressing on the pathway of violence (Calhoun & Weston, 2003).


Duty to Warn and Duty to Protect: Legal directive to mental health professionals in most states: If they have knowledge of a possible act of harm by someone in their care directed at a third party, they are

required to act reasonably to protect the potential victim from the threat. This stems from a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 1970’s (Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California) that established the professional’s duty to provide warning as a way to protect the third party from danger (White, 2014).


HIPAA: Acronym for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The HIPAA Privacy

Rule requires covered entities to protect individuals’ health records and other identifiable health information. Of primary importance to threat assessment professionals are the security, accountability, and confidentiality of medical records covered by this act. The Privacy Rule permits use and disclosure of protected health information, without an individual’s authorization or permission, for national priority

purposes to law enforcement officials under specific circumstances (See 45 C.F.R. § 164.512). Disclosure must also be made to someone believed to be able to prevent or lessen a threat to law enforcement if the information is needed to identify or apprehend an escapee or violent criminal (OSHA, 2012).


Information Sharing: Information flowing down, across, and up an organization with management ensuring there are adequate means of communicating with, and obtaining information from, external stakeholders who may have a significant effect on the achievement of goals (DoD, 2015, (page).

Intended Violence: Violent acts that meet the following criteria: intent to commit the act; selecting an

attack mode that ensures injury, death, or property damage; and a motive that does not profit the attacker (Calhoun & Weston, 2003).


Leakage: Leakage is an accidental or gradual escape. In threat assessment it is used to describe when a subject shares information with a third party that reveals clues related to his or her thinking, planning, or execution of an act of targeted violence (O’Toole, 2000).


Tail Risk: Probabilities of risk at the extreme ends (tails) of a normal distribution. In threat assessment, this pertains because targeted violence has a very low rate of occurrence; however, the risk should not be underestimated based on statistical probability that it will or will not happen (Meloy, 2011).


Target: The general definition of a target is a person, object, or place that is the aim of an attack. In threat assessment and management, it is the point of fixation for intended violence. This can include people, buildings, or more general concepts (Calhoun & Weston, 2012).


Targeted Violence: Violent incidents involving an identifiable subject (perpetrator) who possesses the

intent and potential to cause harm to an identifiable target (Borum, Fein, Vossekuil,

& Berglund, 1999; Fein & Vossekuil, 1998; Fein, Vossekuil, & Holden, 1995; Reddy et al., 2001).


Threat Assessment: A fact-based method of assessment/investigation that focuses on an individual’s

patterns of thinking and behavior to determine whether, and to what extent, he or she is moving toward an attack on an identifiable target (Borumet al., 1999).


Workplace Violence: Targeted violence, threats, bullying, harassment, intimidation, etc. that occurs in the workplace – by someone within the organization (e.g., disgruntled employee) or outside the organization (may or may not be associated with an employee of the organization) (Rugala, 2004).


Limitation of the Study

The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of training programs for reporting suspicious behavior and targeted violence prevention at the workplace. Only employees who took security awareness and active shooter training at a Fortune 500 Financial Company located in Essex County, NJ, were considered for this study.

Delimitation of the Study

This research did not conduct a survey on effectives of training programs in any other organization than a Fortune 500 Financial Company located in Essex County, NJ. This research was limited to one location of this organization, located in Newark, NJ.  Only one organization was examined in this study.


© 2024 EssayHotline.com. All Rights Reserved. | Disclaimer: for assistance purposes only. These custom papers should be used with proper reference.